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The Fearless Principles
Case Foundation
February 2012

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When we look at the state of the world today, we see a mixed picture. Rapid innovation in an increasingly connected society is transforming the way we work, play, and live. But we also see global economic woes, civic unrest, and political stalemates. As a result, social issues that challenge communities are becoming more urgent and interconnected.

Meanwhile, those of us charged with finding or funding solutions to chronic social challenges—philanthropy, government, nonprofits—seem to be moving too slowly and are often operating with the same set of tools, concepts, and cautions of the generations before us. If we're going to keep up with the rapid pace of change and the daunting volume and complexities of these challenges, we must rethink traditional models. The old way of doing things is simply no longer effective in this new world. It's time for us to be bold, act with urgency, and resist the tendency to let caution be our guide. It's time for us to Be Fearless.

What Does It Mean to 'Be Fearless'?

The Case Foundation turns 15 this year, and as we approach that milestone we've been taking a hard look at our own evolution and the world around us. Looking back over the years, we found that we were most successful when we were fearless—when we explored and experimented—and the least successful when fear or caution somehow became a dominant driver of decision-making. But what exactly does it mean to Be Fearless?

To us, being fearless means setting audacious goals, acting urgently and boldly, being unafraid of risk, being willing to strike unlikely alliances, and accepting the possibility of failure while still pressing forward. We also define being fearless by what it's not: it's not reckless abandon, foolhardiness or arrogance, or presuming we have all the answers.

Earlier this year, we made a commitment to Be Fearless in all that we do at the Case Foundation—but we knew that we couldn't go it alone, or without exploring what this concept of being fearless truly means. We began with some basic assumptions, based on our work with our partners and looking at the landscape of some of the most effective social movements and philanthropic achievements of our time. We then asked Cynthia Gibson and Brad Rourke to test those assumptions, to scour the landscape and explore the characteristics of fearlessness so they could be discussed, debated and put into practice.

As a result we have identified five principles that go hand-in-hand with our definition of being fearless. It's important to note that these principles aren't "rules," but rather, a set of indicators we've found to be at play when operating with a fearless mindset. They don't always operate in tandem or sequentially, and one is not more important than another. We think of them as a set of markers that can help identify when decisions are being made fearlessly. Together, we believe they form a powerful way of thinking about effective philanthropy and change-making—one that we think will be important in meeting the challenges that confront us.

It is our hope that this effort will spark a dialogue about how other institutions, philanthropic investors, and individuals trying to drive social change view fearlessness; whether and how they're applying that concept to their work; and what they have learned in the process.

We're putting forward these principles in the hope that others can benefit from them. And we're not just talking about them; we're incorporating these principles into everything we do at every level of our organization. We believe that doing so will only increase our ability to be innovative and effective social investors. We look forward to being part of a conversation about what it means for our community to Be Fearless. We invite you to join us.

Together, let's Be Fearless.

Jean Case, CEO, the Case Foundation

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