Memorandum from Alan Gregg on reorganization of the Rockefeller Foundation
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1926-07-24 (July 24, 1926)
Original Repository: Rockefeller Archive Center. Rockefeller Foundation Archives
Reproduced with permission of the Rockefeller Foundation.
"Notes on Giving"
July 24th, 1926.
Memorandum of Reorganisation
When many of the undertakings, past and present, to which the Rockefeller Foundation has given aid are examined, it is evident
that, neither in theory nor in practice, can they be divided along lines corresponding to the different Boards and
divisions of the Rockefeller Foundation. In my opinion it is futile to lay such emphasis on the policies and prerogatives
of the Divisions of the Rockefeller Foundation that specific undertakings in Field work must usually be dismembered into arbitary
and artificial parts, not only for the purposes of administration but even before they can be given official consideration.
Divisional identity has been emphasised to the point of isolation. Rather than adjust our organisation to cope with problems
as they occur (and, be it noted that our field is the World and the variety very great), we cut and trim opportunities to
fit the narrow and apparently inelastic limits of Divisional or Board policy.
Now, it is clear that for getting work done, assignment and designation of responsibility are necessary. But our difficulties
have not come in this phase of work; they have come rather in the selection of programmes, the definition of spheres of work
and the determination of policies. The President of the Foundation, in the task of co-ordinating and controlling the activities
experienced and eager Division chiefs, has let the study of new opportunities, the selection of programmes, the determination
of policy and the assignment of responsibility be taken away from his office - to become the cause of uncertainty, contention
and irritation among the chiefs of Boards and Divisions. Executive
heads of Divisions constitute good counsellors for the President and good advocates of their cause before him and the Trustees,
but only within certain limits can they be good judges of each other's claims. Under the present organisation, the greater
the tension between Boards the more numerous, intricate and formal
becomes the machinery for maintaining cooperation. If the President is to continue largely as a moderator between different
Divisions, I can suggest no reorganisation which would serve any better than the present arrangement to stave off suspicion
So far as the public is concerned, we might just as well have the Rockefeller Boards incorporated under the title of the "Rockefeller
people". Divisional autonomy within the Foundation is equally mysterious and incomprehensible to the public. We are credited
with a unity which we spend hours denying, but the lack of it is a continual hindrance and irritation.
The only reorganisation which I believe would be worth making would have these two objects:-
(1) The guarantee, through a larger concentration of authority in the President's office, that choice of programmes and
policies and their assignment for administration shall have the maximum of consistency and adaptability. This would involve
the reduction of all present Boards and Divisions to the same status in relation to the President and Trustees. It would also
mean that investigation of new fields of work and the adoption of new policies would be a function, not of component Divisions
of the Foundation but the President's office. I would further question the validity of the independence of some of the
Rockefeller Boards not at present within the Rockefeller Foundation.
(2) The other object of reorganisation should be to assure a far greater concern in the choice and training of officers and
their assistants. If I make no other point I would ask attention to the selection and training of officers and representatives
of these Boards. Only a small part of our work is independently administered by us; we are almost continually dependent upon
the co-operation of the recipient, and therefore upon the intelligence, tact and wisdom of our officers. Inevitably we are
considered as specialists and consulted as advisors. I have seen, not once but several times, representatives of the constituent
Boards of the R.F. chosen by persons ignorant of the intended work, or assigned to it in haste and inexperience, ultimately
to create distress and discredit of the Foundation, themselves, and even the ideas which the Foundation was backing. This
is not fair and it is not wise; an organisation depends on men, and a reorganisation should not overlook the constant importance
of their selection and further training.