In the two internships I’ve had since my first year of college, working in the Colorado state legislature and now at El Pomar Foundation, improving Colorado’s well-being has been the foremost objective of both institutions. Both work toward the betterment of Colorado, although they utilize extremely different means. When I first came to El Pomar I had a question in the back of my mind: who’s better at it?
We all know the arguments leveled against the government in this regard: partisan bickering leads to gridlock, spending can become inefficient in a bloated bureaucracy, and corruption can funnel taxpayer money to less than ethical people and causes. All of these are valid criticisms and problems that must be addressed. After working at the State Capitol, I now have a very different perspective of how government works. While there were heated arguments over a few high profile issues, more often than not, I saw cooperation and hard work on policy. A bill would come to committee, and experts, businessmen, lawyers, and everyday citizens, would work on crafting the most beneficial policy possible, regardless of partisanship. I believe that the ability to solicit input from a multitude of stakeholders and produce well-informed policy is one of the greatest strengths the government has.
Foundations, on the other hand, are unable to build the infrastructure necessary to understand every issue Colorado faces at one time. Furthermore, they do not have the power to enact broad-reaching policy to accomplish their goals. Nevertheless, their organization and defined, specific goals lead to a speed and focus of action that would be impossible in the public sector. Without the chains of bureaucracy, foundation work can outpace government policy and provide immediate relief that government consistently struggles to implement.
My original question, therefore, might be flawed: the dichotomy of “better” and “worse” does not apply, because each sector has its strengths and weaknesses. Both institutions complement each other by succeeding where the other is challenged. El Pomar Foundation, as is true of most organizations, has areas for improvement, but I feel lucky to be able to see its powerful impact firsthand through the Internship.