Shaping Public Policy in Boston: The Rappaport Foundation Strategy

Jerome “Jerry” Rappaport, founder of the Rappaport Foundation, once said, “If academics and practitioners had a vehicle in which each could listen to the other and began to problem-solve the tough issues together, Boston and the commonwealth would be a better place to live and work.”

Public policy is a major concern for this Boston-focused foundation, which also focuses on medical research and art. And its grantmaking reflects Rappaport's idea that public policy solutions have the best opportunity to make an impact if policy leaders connect with academic researchers and other experts. In this way, the theory goes, policy will be informed by cutting edge, nonpartisan research in areas such as housing, crime, transportation and education. But rather than funding any of these causes directly, as many funders do, the Rappaport Foundation is banking on bolstering the caliber of Boston’s leaders and their ability to make effective public policy. 

Related: Read IP’s Profile of the Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport Foundation

The Rappaport Foundation recently solidified this commitment with a $7.53 million grant to Boston College in support of the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy. This money will help relocate the center from Suffolk University to Boston College and fund operations at BC when it opens in Spring 2015.

"The Rappaport Center is dedicated to change, and the way in which you achieve the maximum impact of change is by enabling emerging leaders to realize how effectively they can participate in policy and decision making," said Jerry Rappaport. "That was the beginning of our quest through the foundation, and it remains our hope for the future through our new association with BC Law."

The work of this center is focused on the Greater Boston area and the state of Massachusetts, further solidifying Rappaport’s commitment for change at the local policy level. The Rappaport Fellows Program and Law and Public Policy will be housed in this center, where 12 paid summer intern law students from seven law schools in the Greater Boston area will work in public service through scholarly research, lectures, debates, and discussions. This large gift will also fund the Jerome Lyle Rappaport Visiting Professorship in Law and Public Policy.

Again, the Rappaport Foundation isn’t a traditional foundation grantmaker, in that it prefers to fund fellowships, scholarships, and prizes over general operating support and program support grant awards. This is a foundation with a human capital grantmaking strategy that’s all about strengthening local leaders to handle issues rather than funding work on issues directly. 

To learn more about Rappaport’s public policy work in Boston, check out the foundation’s Public Policy Initiative page or reach out to Executive Director Stephen Johnson at 617-878-7773 or