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Thoughtbook 2015

"The perfect journey is never finished, the goal is always just across the next river, round the shoulder of the next mountain. There is always one more track to follow, one more mirage to explore." - Rosita Forbes

Mapping Our Future: The Exciting Road Ahead

by Janice Kreamer, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Wendy Guillies, President and CEO, Kauffman Foundation

Janice Kreamer
Wendy Guillies

Leo Tolstoy famously said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” At the Kauffman Foundation, we know that if our work is to make any difference, we must start by looking within.

So during the first half of 2014 our trustees and senior staff re-assessed every aspect of the Foundation’s activities and drafted a template for the future. What we came up with was not a tightly scripted master plan, but a platform for ongoing, evolutionary change.

In short, we have an exciting road ahead.

We chose this approach for the same reason that prompted us to re-think our strategies in the first place. The fields in which we work—education and entrepreneurship—are changing; the landscapes for each are quite different than they were in the 1990s when Ewing Kauffman endowed the Foundation, and different still from even a few years ago. To continue doing the kind of philanthropy our donor intended, we must move (and keep moving) to where the edges have moved—to where the opportunities for impact are greatest.

The challenge now—while staying true to Mr. Kauffman’s intent—is to take our work to the next level.

Our Strategic Direction

After a comprehensive exploration of changes in the local and national education and entrepreneurship landscapes, the Foundation in 2014 adopted a new strategic plan to better serve its mission. These goals and strategies will shape the Foundation’s work, including how its acclaimed research and policy capabilities will be leveraged to support program area goals.


Goal: Increase the percentage of students in Kansas City reaching academic and life outcomes that prepare them for postsecondary success.

  • Promote access to quality public school options in Kansas City by supporting new and expanding schools, as well as school turnaround initiatives, with proven or promising approaches for improving student academic outcomes
  • Support existing individual schools demonstrating strong academic outcomes for students qualifying for free/reduced priced lunch in Kansas City
  • Provide postsecondary completion incentives for more students in the Kansas City area, building on experiences from Project Choice and Kauffman Scholars
  • Support the recruitment, development, and retention of high-quality teachers and leaders in Kansas City’s urban schools

Research and Policy in Education

Goal: Enhance the environment for entrepreneurship and innovation in education, and help create the human capital necessary for an entrepreneurial economy.

  • Support and conduct research on the intersection of technology, public policy, and the economics of education
  • Focus on specific areas of public policy that affect Kauffman’s education investments and the national movement toward higher-quality education


Goal: Reach U.S. entrepreneurs by providing educational resources and supporting organizations that assist entrepreneurs.

  • Manage Kauffman’s entrepreneurship education resources
  • Scale proven models of exemplar entrepreneurship support organizations
  • Seed innovations (new platforms, infrastructure) that enable firm creation

Goal: Accelerate entrepreneurship hubs in selected metropolitan areas.

  • Establish metropolitan demonstration sites, including Kansas City, to test and elevate models that increase regional entrepreneurial growth
  • Manage a competitive metro challenge program to help regions develop entrepreneurial economies

Research and Policy in Entrepreneurship

Goal: Foster more, and more successful, entrepreneurs by creating useful knowledge for entrepreneurs, policymakers, and others.

  • Support high-quality research on entrepreneurship, including emerging scholars and data
  • Improve the policy environment for entrepreneurship by translating research into policy ideas and guidance
  • Determine the effectiveness of entrepreneurship education and training programs, and build the field of programmatic research as a vehicle for entrepreneurship research and policy work

Kansas City

Goal: Contribute to Kansas City’s efforts to improving the quality of life and to accelerating positive change in targeted areas.

  • Support institutions and organizations that are important to the economic and cultural well-being of Kansas City
  • Cultivate innovative capacity in Kansas City for experimentation with new ways of creating cultural, social, and economic value

The challenge—while staying true to Mr. Kauffman’s intent—is to take the Foundation’s work to the next level.

Wendy Guillies

Education That Works

Collaboration and integration of efforts are core principles of our new education strategies. The Foundation is forging new working relationships in the education community—in Kansas City and beyond. Our college preparatory public charter school, the Ewing Marion Kauffman School, now in its fourth year, is spinning off transferable ideas, while school-reform movements across the country have vastly grown the knowledge base we can draw upon.

We will try many promising approaches to promote access to quality public school options in Kansas City, including supporting new and expanding schools, school turnaround initiatives, and existing individual schools with proven or promising approaches for improving student outcomes. We’ll also provide postsecondary completion incentives, including scholarships, for more students in the Kansas City area, building on experiences from Project Choice and Kauffman Scholars. Finally, we will invest in programs that attract and retain great teachers in our community.

Shifting Entrepreneurship Into High Gear

Today the landscape is teeming with efforts to foster entrepreneurship. Nearly all colleges and universities now teach the subject and many have on-campus centers. State and regional startup initiatives have proliferated, as have business plan competitions, investor groups, and related ventures.

The critical next step is channeling all of this action into optimum results. Given so many different programs for entrepreneurs, questions arise, such as: What works best and in which circumstances? How can diverse efforts be integrated? We see the Kauffman Foundation playing several lead roles. By rigorously evaluating what is out there, we can identify efforts that are worth supporting, replicating, adapting, or combining. Our aim is to vastly increase the number of entrepreneurs we help in the United States by investing in proven models that can scale.

Another area of emphasis will be entrepreneurial communities. Since starting an enterprise is complex work, entrepreneurs need communities in which they can get multiple forms of input and assistance. As part of our metro strategy, we’ll develop a competitive challenge to spur entrepreneurial activity in select metropolitan areas.

Ripples and Convergence

The new strategies we are implementing ripple through every part of our own operations—including our renowned research and policy work, which we’ll continue to build upon to further understanding and inform policy in our fields. In our home region, we will continue to support important institutions and efforts that contribute to a better quality of life for those who call Kansas City home.

Saying that these are exciting times may seem a cliché, but they are. We appear to be moving toward a set of convergence phenomena, in which many strands of our work converge. When events of this type occur, new horizons open up.

Ewing Kauffman wanted his philanthropy to have profound impact. His goal was to fundamentally improve human lives by enabling people to do more for themselves and society. We thank him for putting us on this course years ago, and we will keep taking the next steps. Stay tuned. 

Follow Wendy Guillies on Twitter: @DubGkc

Throughout his life Ewing Kauffman sought to stay true to his word. “Your actions mean much more than your words,” he reminded his associates at Marion Labs, the Kansas City Royals, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

From students to business owners, Mr. Kauffman set high expectations and inspired those around him to achieve more.
Mr. K reflected on his life and times during a series of interviews, and he talked about his ideals in public appearances on behalf of the Foundation. Video and audio recordings of Ewing Kauffman are valuable resources for those seeking to act on his legacy and stay true to his words.

These recordings set our expectations here at the Kauffman Foundation. They inspire us to do more. They provide the words that guide our actions.

Quotes from Ewing Kauffman

“I think the greatest satisfaction I have had, personally, is helping others, doing something that either inspires them or aids them to develop themselves in their future lives so they’ll not only be a better person but be a better productive citizen of the United States.” 

Every individual that we can inspire, that we can guide, that we can help to start a new company, is vital to the future of our economic welfare.”

“It’s your right to be uncommon if you can. You seek opportunity to compete. You desire to take the calculated risk, to dream, to build, yes, even to fail, and to succeed.”

“All of the money in the world cannot solve problems unless we work together. And, if we work together, there is no problem in the world that can stop us, as we seek to develop people to their highest and best potential.”

Our Guiding Principles

Our Vision

A society of economically independent individuals who are engaged citizens, contributing to the improvement of their communities.

Our Mission

To help individuals attain economic independence by advancing educational achievement and entrepreneurial success, consistent with the aspirations of our founder, Ewing Marion Kauffman.

Our Approach

In pursuit of this mission, we will abide by key principles espoused by our founder:

  • Identify opportunities where application of the Foundation’s people, ideas, and capital can benefit society in significant and measurable ways.
  • Develop innovative, research-based programs leading to practical, sustainable solutions that are widely accepted and implemented.
  • Treat the Kansas City region as a program incubator where feasible, in which new approaches can be tried and tested before being disseminated nationally.
  • Partner with others to leverage our resources and capabilities while avoiding the creation of dependency.