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Guiding Principles

How will the Barton Institute for Philanthropy and Social Enterprise take action and choose which projects to take on?

Pass the “but for” test

“Would this have happened if the Institute didn’t exist?” If the answer is yes, it’s probably not the right project to undertake.

Address major social issues

The Institute seeks to maximize its positive impact on the community and the world. Therefore, the Institute will tackle major social issues.

The selection of specific issues will be determined by many factors, including community need, expertise at DU, and congruence with DU Impact 2025, the university’s strategic plan. The Institute may choose to focus on one or more of the Rocky Mountain Grand Challenges.

Create definable impact

The Institute strives to engage work that has a measurable impact, acknowledging that some projects impacts will reach maturity in years or decades, and that some work is more qualitative. At a minimum, all work of the Institute should have a definable, if not quantifiable, impact.

Use expertise and resources from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors

Progress in addressing major social issues can best—and often only-- be achieved if all three sectors work together.

Employ and amplify expertise and resources from the University of Denver

The resources and expertise – faculty, staff, students, and infrastructure -- at DU are deep and vast. The Institute will seek to leverage these to their full potential.

Contribute to and build on Impact 2025, DU’s strategic plan

In early 2016, Chancellor Rebecca Chopp released DU Impact 2025, an exciting blueprint of new directions to transform DU’s future. The Institute will be a part of making DU a “modern urban global university dedicated to the public good.”

  • The Institute’s Evaluation and Action Lab will work closely with the Impact 2025 Initiative on Social Policy Research.
  • The Institute will cooperate with Project X-ITE on social enterprise and social entrepreneurship programs. It will also engage DU’s other institutes, centers, schools, colleges, and programs.
  • The Institute will be an example of Impact 2025’s strategic initiatives of collaboration for the public good, DU as an anchor institution, DU as an open door to engagement and vitality, and DU as a partner in innovation and entrepreneurship in Denver.
  • The Institute will foster interdisciplinary work and enhance DU’s legacy of experiential education.
Focus initially on metro Denver and Colorado with the possibility that this work will inform other parts of the U.S. and the world

The best way for the Institute at DU to add value and to avoid duplicating the efforts of other organizations is to concentrate first on the Denver metro region.

These efforts will then inform broader geographic regions, most notably the urbanizing Rocky Mountain region where Denver, Colorado, and DU are important leaders.

Practice servant leadership and community-based approaches

Overwhelming evidence shows that the most successful social programs listen carefully to and learn from the people most impacted by those programs. Top down efforts rarely work.

The Institute will approach its work with humility and with respect for diverse voices and opinions. The Institute will give particular attention and weight to voices from underrepresented populations.

Strike a balance between working deeply and working broadly

Philanthropy and social enterprise are very broad fields, crossing many different disciplines. Therefore, the Institute to be broad in its work and to attempt to handle many projects simultaneously.

On the other hand, the early years of the Institute must focus on developing deep expertise in one or two areas to establish competency and leadership. The Institute will strive to strike a balance between the two poles.

Assist vulnerable populations

In view of limited dollars, time, and human capacity, the Institute should devote most of its efforts to projects that assist local people most in need.