Wallace President: Helping Those We Fund and “the Thousands We Can’t”


In an interview with the Funder’s Forum, Wallace Foundation President Will Miller explains the “unified approach” that underlies the foundation’s initiatives and describes how a focus on continuous improvement fits into this.

Wallace’s approach is grounded in the notion of “working in and through” the marketplace of ideas to find workable solutions to complex problems, such as how to effectively train and support public school principals, Miller says. The foundation identifies “stubborn and important” questions in its fields of interest (public schools, youth development and the arts), works with selected grantees to test strategies that could answer them, and then shares what it learns to inform policy and practice. The aim is not only to help grantees, but also, by generating knowledge, to benefit fields as a whole, he says.

A focus on continuous improvement helps the foundation and its grantees as they move together in this uncharted territory of new ideas, Miller adds. He lays out a four-step cycle of planning, implementation, evaluation and refinement to help the foundation’s efforts adapt to new information and improve.

The Funder’s Forum, a monthly Q&A with a figure in the world of philanthropy, is produced by the Foundation Center, a research, education and training organization to advance knowledge of philanthropy.