2017 is a special year for us at the Case Foundation. It marks the 20th anniversary of an idea that has continued to drive and inspire us in all that we do—investing in people and ideas that can change the world. Over the last two decades, with this vision, and in collaboration with a vast array of parties, we have been proud to contribute to, inspire and champion the incredible progress that has moved people and organizations from intention to action. From clean water and the digital divide, to increased opportunities for service and civic participation, to impact investing and inclusive entrepreneurship, we have worked with others to catalyze efforts to create transformative change.
Over the past 20 years, philanthropy and the social sector has witnessed incredible progress. We believe that leveraging the power of the entrepreneurial spirit and technology to help solve the world’s most challenging problems is a key ingredient to this progress, and, as we kickoff our 20th year, we remain committed to ensuring this focus is at the center of all our work. At the same time, our experience over the past 20 years has taught us that addressing these challenges through true collaboration amongst diverse actors and smart partnerships is much more effective than fighting alone, and therefore we commit that collaboration will continue to be a hallmark of our work in the days ahead.
Through all of these experiences we have learned a great deal and recognize that the lessons learned will both inspire and inform our future. As we look back, it’s hard not to see that the common key to all of our efforts has been pushing ourselves and others to challenge assumptions and take risks. We have challenged ourselves and others to get off the sidelines and “get into the arena” to address our most pressing challenges.
This is not a new idea of course, but it resonates more in the context of today’s world than perhaps ever before. Citizen engagement has been a hallmark of successful democracies for centuries and is core to our mission. In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech known as, “The Man In The Arena” that captures this fundamental belief in citizen engagement:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
As we welcome 2017, Teddy Roosevelt’s words still ring true. And we can think of no better time than now for each of us to identify ways we, personally, can heed his call and “get in the arena” to make a positive impact in our communities. That is why we are dedicating our 20th Anniversary year to calling on all to “Get in the Arena.”
Throughout 2017, we will be bringing forward ideas, stories and events that highlight people and ideas that can change the world using the hashtag #GetInTheArena. We hope you will join us and share with us your own vision of what it means to take action on the issues and challenges that matter the most to you and your community. For those wondering when it is the right time to jump in, the answer is now. For those already in the arena, we hope you’ll engage in new ways and inspire others to jump in as well.