Defining Our Values
MacArthur President John Palfrey shares the values that drive how we work and discusses our commitment to be accountable to our values and to our community.
When I arrived at MacArthur in the fall of 2019, it was clear that values animate our Staff to carry out our mission. MacArthur’s core values are deeply ingrained principles that embody who we are, what we stand for, and how we work. Yet, few could articulate those values because we did not have a shared understanding.
We cannot claim to live our values if we cannot name them. So, we conducted a months-long series of conversations and internal surveys to identify the values we were trying to embody. Five core ideas emerged:
As individuals and as a community, we are committed to upholding these values. They motivate us to do more to better realize a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. Our values represent our shared set of beliefs that guide how we conduct ourselves and build trust-based relationships with our partners and grantees.
We turn new and imaginative ideas into reality. We recognize, celebrate, and support the creativity of individuals and organizations.
For 40 years MacArthur has supported exceptionally creative individuals through the MacArthur Fellows program, so it is no surprise that we continue to hold creativity in high regard. We think of creativity as encompassing innovative, imaginative, and ground-breaking ideas, thinking, and strategies as we endeavor to have a meaningful impact on complex challenges.
We support the creativity of others, and we strive to take creative approaches in the ways we work. We pursue and support creative innovation at a global scale.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
Through the Just Imperative, we ensure that our decisions and actions are rooted in the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion by embracing the unique attributes of all individuals; creating a fair playing field for all; and cultivating environments where everyone feels respected, valued, and a sense of belonging.
Our Just Imperative has called us to lead with justice and center racial and ethnic equity in all that we do. Creating a world where justice can thrive, means we must consider DEI, work to right historical and ongoing harms, and amplify the voices of individuals and communities we seek to serve.
We think of DEI holistically, but recognize the value inherent in all three elements. Diversity includes all the ways that people differ, encompassing the characteristics that make people distinct from another. Equity is the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while identifying and eliminating barriers that have prevented full participation of some individuals. Inclusion is the act of creating authentic environments in which all individuals feel welcomed, respected, valued, and feel a sense of belonging.
We recognize emotions in others and understand and acknowledge other people’s perspectives. We act with kindness and caring, which reflects our recognition and understanding.
We are an organization made up of people in relationship to one another. While it may seem odd to think of an institution as empathetic, we are part of a community of people who want to understand one another and one another’s struggles. Empathy is the ability to sense and understand what someone else might be thinking or feeling. Empathy is central to respectful and compassionate interpersonal interactions.
We hope our value of empathy infuses all our interactions, internally among our diverse Staff and externally with grantees, partners, and our global community.
We are honest and act with strong principles in all we do.
We always aim to hold ourselves accountable, through mechanisms like transparency, evaluation, and data sharing. Our value of integrity means that we also aim to make sure we are living our values, even when accountability is difficult. Day-to-day interactions and work that may never see the light of day should embody our core values, not just the work we share publicly.
Our value of integrity acknowledges just that. Integrity is the act of behaving honorably, even when no one is watching. It is our commitment to sound judgment, honesty, dependability, and accountability. It is acknowledging that when we get it wrong, we will endeavor to make it right.
We actively seek new understanding, knowledge, and skills.
From our earliest grantmaking supporting research to our commitments to evaluating and adjusting as we go, we hope it is clear that we value learning. We provide opportunities to our Staff that acknowledge and develop their unique talents and skills; we embrace and draw lessons from all our work and the expertise of our Staff, grantees, partners, peers, and communities; and we actively promote sharing knowledge and expertise.
We also have a profound commitment to learning from our mistakes. We seek to hold ourselves accountable for our progress as well as our failures. We are not perfect, and we will make mistakes as we aim to live our values. We value challenging ourselves to learn and change to be better partners, better colleagues, and better members of our communities.
Holding Ourselves Accountable
As we make these values explicit, we aim to hold ourselves accountable to the communities with which we engage.
These values are not just concepts; they are an ongoing commitment to action. In every aspect of our work, we are making room to consider where and how we are living these values. We are working to build them into everything we do: from performance reviews and hiring practices, to how we choose vendors and partners, and how we work with grantees to solicit their feedback.
The philanthropic sector is in a moment of flux, and as we do the deep work to reimagine and reconstruct philanthropy, our values will be our north star.