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The think tank’s director of domestic-policy studies talks to Craig Kennedy about the changing nature of philanthropy, different ways of thinking about grantmaking to better society, and think tanks.

In addition to being a genuinely nice person, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) director of domestic-policy studies Ryan Streeter is an astute observer of social, cultural, economic, political, and philanthropic trends in America and a rigorous analyst about those public policies which help or hinder those trends from going in the right directions.

Streeter oversees AEI’s research in education, technology, housing, poverty studies, workforce development, and public opinion. He has worked as an advisor to Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and President George W. Bush, including in the heyday of “compassionate conservatism.”

He’s also been a fellow at the Legatum Institute, the Sagamore Institute, and the Hudson Institute. I first met him when he was at Legatum, which was doing a joint project with the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), which I led at the time. He was later a GMF Transatlantic Fellow, as well.

Streeter is the author of Transforming Charity: Toward a Results-Oriented Social Sector, co-author (with Don Eberly) of The Soul of Civil Society: Voluntary Associations and the Public Value of Moral Habits, a contributor to Goldsmith’s Putting Faith in Neighborhoods: Making Cities Work Through Grassroots Citizenship, and editor of Religion and the Public Square in the 21st Century.

Streeter was kind enough to have a conversation with me and The Giving Review co-editor Mike Hartmann last week. In the first of two parts, which is here, Hartmann introduces the discussion and we talk about state and local government, “compassionate conservatism,” and what philanthropy can do to replace stagnation with dynamism in our society.

The second part is below. We talk about the changing nature of philanthropy, different ways of thinking about grantmaking to better society, and think tanks during the almost 16-minute video.

Kennedy and Hartmann (top row) and Streeter (bottom)

“Civic engagement on the left in America has always been very political,” Streeter said. On the right, “because of, I guess, a more-profound attachment to the notion that civil society is broader than politics—it involves private actors and involves private organizations—that just is reflected in the way” they give.


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