Resourcing Resilience: Shaping a New Strategic Framework

April 3, 2023 By Terry Adamson, Debra Knopman, and Mariko Silver
Resourcing Resilience: Shaping a New Strategic Framework
The On Being Project. Photo © Bethany Birnie / Aqua Fox Photography.

Almost 90 years ago, Henry R. Luce created the Foundation that bears his name. Its earliest work honored his parents, missionaries and educators in China. Henry Luce embraced their legacy; at the same time, he faced himself toward the future, recalling a note from his father: “We need the ardor of discovery, the forward look.” We, who are entrusted with his legacy, seek to do the same, balancing steadfast commitment to core interests with openness to new ideas and opportunities.

It is in this spirit that the Board of Directors and staff of the Henry Luce Foundation recently completed a year-long process of reexamining organizational priorities and values and shaping a new strategic framework. Together, we have articulated new statements of our:

  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Values & Commitments

Inspired by our history, these refreshed statements better reflect the goals and aspirations of the Foundation as it seeks to advance a vision of excellence and innovation while responding to dramatic changes in the world and in the institutions with which we work.

Their release coincides with the three-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 era. The timing is unintentional but seems fitting: these affirmations were informed by the cascading political, economic, and cultural crises precipitated by the pandemic. The unveiled fragility of many of our bedrock systems and institutions underscored the acute need for reform and, more importantly, for fresh ideas.

Henry Luce himself confronted such moments of crisis with a clarion call to action: in February 1941, he pointed toward “...the contrast ...between the reasonable hopes of our age and the actual facts of failure and frustration.” He called on Americans to recognize their responsibility to the world, urging the nation to enter the Second World War on the side of the Allies.

Our moment is different: the challenges we face are not those of 1941; and we may not share Henry Luce’s confidence in the capacity of one nation to address them. Still, we believe, as our founder did, that crisis, that conflict, require engagement and demand a response. The animating force behind the Foundation’s refreshed statements — of mission, of vision, and of values & commitments — is our aspiration and determination to strive continually to meet future challenges head on.

Our Mission
The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to deepen knowledge and understanding in pursuit of a more democratic and just world.

We do so by nurturing knowledge communities and institutions, fostering dialogue across divides, enriching public discourse, amplifying diverse voices, and investing in leadership development.

Our mission recognizes the interdependency of knowledge and understanding on the one hand and justice and democratic culture on the other. Since the Foundation’s first grant to Beijing’s Yenching University in 1936, we have supported research and education in the service of individual and communal development. More than 85 years later, we have expanded our idea of what constitutes knowledge and how it is made; we have also challenged ourselves to think more broadly about how knowledge can contribute to meaningful change.

Today, we focus on how civic engagement is practiced, lived, and experienced by individuals from every walk of life. We aid communities and institutions in their pursuit of just, equitable, and inclusive societies. We prioritize funding that supports traditional knowledges, information ecosystems that amplify a range of voices, and initiatives that encourage the cultivation of emerging leaders. We also continue our commitments to advancing scholarly practice, public culture, and cross-cultural connections.

Our Vision
We envision a world in which diverse people and communities thrive—determining their own best futures and working together in pursuit of knowledge and shared understanding.

Our guiding vision acknowledges the paramount importance of all people being able to participate in decisions that affect their lives, their communities, and future generations. As a foundation, we believe that knowledge and its dissemination are the critical underpinnings of just and equitable societies.

Values & Commitments
For nearly a century, the Henry Luce Foundation has honored and been inspired by the lives and work of Henry R. Luce and of his parents, Henry Winters Luce and Elizabeth Root Luce. The Foundation recognizes that deepening human understanding is essential to advancing justice, democratic values, peace in the world, and a sustainable environment.

We believe that ideas, stories, data, creative expression, and scholarship are the tools that communities of all kinds and scales use to define themselves and their aspirations, to assert their rights, and to live and collaborate with others. Therefore, the Foundation invests in organizations, networks, and individuals who create, care for, and share knowledge for the benefit of their communities and the wider human community.

We recognize that knowledge takes many forms and that knowledge makers pursue their work in many different ways, and so we cast a wide net, looking both to established and emerging or under-recognized thinkers. We also understand that change in the world of ideas can be slow, and so we commit to fields and questions for many years. At the same time, we know that new ways of thinking are always emerging—often from unexpected directions—and so we must be attentive to what is new and innovative.

Finally, we understand that our knowledge and judgment are limited and imperfect. Therefore, we approach our work in the spirit of partnership and humility, in pursuit of a better world.

Established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the cofounder and editor in chief of Time Inc., the Foundation has a rich legacy of learning, leadership, and philanthropy to build upon. From our earliest grants supporting higher education in Asia to our landmark Luce professorships supporting interdisciplinary research to our newest work supporting Indigenous studies, the Luce Foundation has continually innovated while remaining true to its founder’s core commitments.

Our newly articulated statements of mission, vision, and values & commitments honor this organization’s proud history for a new age by adapting — and strengthening — its longstanding work in building knowledge (in its many forms), its fiercely held belief in free and creative expression, and its allegiance to the open exchange of people and ideas.

Looking Forward

The implementation of the new strategic framework is a work in progress, and we anticipate that these guiding statements will help shape our grantmaking and program strategies in the weeks and months ahead. As always, we are grateful to our partners for their role in inspiring this Foundation’s exciting evolution while it continues to work with an eye on the future.

Learn More About Our History


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