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Practising philanthropy across generations

Practising philanthropy across generations
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First Published: Sun, Mar 13 2011. 11 16 PM IST

Updated: Sun, Mar 13 2011. 11 16 PM IST
The Packard foundation was launched by my parents more than 45 years ago. My father, David Packard, had prospered in business, and wanted this success to have a further, even greater, impact on the world. So, he and my mother built a foundation that would reflect their core values.
One approach they pioneered, and which we have followed, is to focus intensely on a small number of important areas, and become a serious force in those realms. The Packard foundation is thus focused on conservation and science; children, families and communities; and population and reproductive health.
My parents were concerned with the rapid deterioration of the world’s oceans, coasts, and atmosphere, and so the foundation helped launch world-leading ocean science institutions—such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium and its affiliate, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. In addition, the Packard foundation supports organizations across the Pacific Ocean working to restore fisheries and protect ocean life.
We are similarly concerned about the devastating effect of climate change on the oceans, on ecosystems across the world, and on the ability of people to develop and prosper. The science on this front comes from hundreds of independent sources, and all of it is sobering.
Fortunately, there are practical solutions: reducing energy waste, developing inexpensive renewable energy technologies, and reducing the rate of deforestation. Because the climate change threat must be dealt with in the next decade—after which may be the world locks into irreversible damage—we joined other foundations, including the Hewlett foundation, to support clean energy development strategies in the big nations across the world. In India, this effort includes support to the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation.
Taking on these big subjects has welded together three generations of my family in two important ways. First, we all take seriously the need to be informed on the big issues of our time. We have great opportunities, individually and together as trustees, to get briefings, consider possible strategies, and build a conscience that transcends our individual lives.
Second, when we commit to strategies to help solve these problems, we all develop a responsibility to understand the dynamics of the society. What motivates a nation’s policymakers to protect fisheries? How can the tragedy of the commons be avoided in natural resource management? What are the dynamics between women’s reproductive rights and education?
Three generations, now, of the Packard family, have been deeply engaged in these questions—and that animates our individual careers, and informs our lives with deep sense of responsibility and togetherness.
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First Published: Sun, Mar 13 2011. 11 16 PM IST