Lilly: A Model for Emergent Philanthropy

By Rob Smith, Senior Director of Corporate Responsibility
Jun 19, 2015 2:30 PM ET

We need more of our children graduating high school prepared and motivated to pursue some form of post-secondary education.  This will require many collective actions, including, as I discuss in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, greater investments in early childhood education.    

At Lilly, much of our philanthropic work has focused on improving K-12 education in our home city of Indianapolis.  Specifically, we are motivated by the belief that every child in our community deserves access to a great school.  While Indy is making progress, our efforts are impeded by the fact that far too many children show up for kindergarten unprepared—academically and socially.  And, unfortunately, sustainable sources of public funding to address this terrible problem have been in short supply. 

This prompted us to quickly seize the opportunity last year to place our political and financial support behind a bold plan introduced by Mayor Greg Ballard to invest $50 million over five years to dramatically increase access to high-quality pre-K for kids living in poverty.  Thanks to the work of Mayor Ballard and his team, Maggie Lewis, John Barth, and other legislative leaders, along with the invaluable leadership of United Way of Central Indiana, Indianapolis passed a multi-million plan that will allow over 1,000 vulnerable 3- and 4-year-olds to enroll in high-quality pre-K programs this fall.

As I explain in my Stanford article, Lilly’s leadership, which was predicated on decisive action in response to a unique political opening, along with a willingness to engage in the broader educational ecosystem, is a compelling example of an emergent strategy.

We are proud of what we, along with many great partners, helped our home city accomplish.  By deploying an emergent model of philanthropy, other companies can seize new opportunities to create positive change on issues that matter.

Eli Lilly and Company