Trust Article

75 Years of Solutions

From healthcare to broadband access, Pew has studied the problems that hold people back—and helped fix them

April 18, 2023 Read time:

In this Issue:

  • Spring 2023
  • The Pursuit of a Better Future
  • 75 Years of Solutions
  • A History of Service
  • The Big Picture
  • The Lessons of Optimism
  • Noteworthy
  • A Global Agreement for Conservation
  • Far More Americans See U.S. Influence Getting Weaker
  • Pew's CEO Reflects on the Values That Produce Results
  • With Partners, Creating Lasting Change
  • Return on Investment
  • Parenting in America Today
  • View All Other Issues
75 Years of Solutions

For 75 years, The Pew Charitable Trusts has studied the problems that hold people back—and helped fix them. Whether it is making government more responsive, protecting the ocean and public lands, or improving people’s health and economic well-being, Pew’s work is always nonpartisan, based on facts, and guided by a commitment to use data to help individuals and communities thrive. We ask challenging questions, we strive to create common ground, and we run ambitious projects designed to make a difference.

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How do we make government more responsive?

Pew strives to ensure that the people’s voices are heard by policymakers and that governments are responsive and effective. The organization spent a decade helping states expand prekindergarten based on research showing how essential early education is to children’s development. By the time the work concluded, the states where Pew worked most intensively accounted for 81% of the national growth in 4-year-olds’ enrollment in pre-K. Seeing a surge in prison construction draining state budgets with little impact on crime, Pew worked in more than 30 states to develop policies to reduce recidivism and find alternatives to incarceration, saving taxpayers’ money and more effectively maintaining public safety. In 2010, Pew identified a trillion-dollar gap between the money states had set aside for pensions for their employees and what had been promised. The organization provided assistance to more than 20 state and local governments to reform their systems and ensure strong retirements for workers. Pew’s analysis of credit cards offered online helped prompt Congress to pass legislation to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive practices. And today Pew is offering states assistance in extending broadband internet service to unserved people, finding ways for Americans to expand their retirement savings, working with courts and judges to modernize the civil legal system, and developing data-based recommendations on student debt aimed at helping those at greatest risk of default.

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How can we help citizens’ voices be heard?

In 1995, Pew began funding the polling organization Center for People & the Press. Over time that work grew, and Pew helped launch research projects on journalism, religion and public life, and other contemporary topics. In 2004, these information initiatives were brought together as the Pew Research Center, which became a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Today, the Center produces expansive and authoritative survey research and other analysis on a range of topics, including politics, technology, science, religion, and social attitudes in the United States and around the world. As the demographics of the U.S. grow more diverse, the Center has put a spotlight on the lives and views of Hispanic, Black, and Asian Americans.

How can we help people get healthier?

Over the decades, Pew has focused on health and science, seeking to improve the education of health professionals and advance health policy. In the 1980s, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Pew created the Health Care for the Homeless Program, which led to some of the first federal legislation to address homelessness. Other projects have led to expanding dental care and raising awareness of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Pew’s advocacy led to passage of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011, the first overhaul of the nation’s food safety laws since the Great Depression. In another partnership with RWJF, Pew has encouraged state, local, and national organizations to include health considerations across multiple sectors, including housing, transportation, and education. Amid the current opioid crisis, Pew has sought better access to care and treatment for those with substance use disorders. And more recently, Pew has been working to address suicide risk and to encourage appropriate services for those with mental health concerns so that police, jails, and emergency rooms are not the default response for those in crisis.

How do we encourage scientists to innovate?

For nearly four decades, Pew has encouraged and supported promising young biomedical scholars and marine scientists to come up with thoughtful solutions to global problems and to create new ways of seeing the world. These programs recognize that often the best approach to meeting societal challenges is to invest in talented individuals and give them the resources to experiment and succeed in their fields. The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences includes more than 1,000 scholars, six of whom went on to win the Nobel Prize. The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation has recognized more than 200 fellows from 42 countries whose accomplishments include helping establish some of the world’s largest marine reserves. More than just offering financial support, these programs create communities of scholars who produce unexpected collaborations and lasting relationships that continue to foster new talent and discover new solutions to help make the world a better place.

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How do we strengthen democracy?

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Pew funded education programs in Eastern Europe and helped establish centers on constitutional government in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. More recently, in the United States, Pew has focused on voting: analyzing election performance data on all 50 states and the District of Columbia and evaluating management of elections that included wait time at polls, voter registration or absentee ballot problems, and voter turnout. Pew partnered with leading technology companies, including Google, Facebook, AT&T, and Microsoft, to provide millions of voters with information on candidates and polling place locations. And the institution promoted federal legislation that ensures that military personnel and other Americans living abroad have their votes counted. This year, Pew and its partners launched the Election Trust Initiative, a new subsidiary to increase capacity and innovation in America’s election administration systems. It will strengthen nonpartisan research and the organizations that help local and state officials run secure, transparent, accurate, and convenient elections, focusing on improvements that can be sustained over the long term.

How can we protect the ocean?

In 1974, Pew made its first environmental grant to the renowned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. It was the beginning of an ongoing devotion to improving the health of the ocean that has marked Pew’s mission for half a century. With its partners, Pew in 2000 established Oceana—one of the first environmental organizations to work at a global scale on ocean conservation and which has protected nearly 4 million square miles of waters. Pew helped pioneer the creation of large marine protected areas, starting in Hawaii with the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, established in 2006. That began the work of Global Ocean Legacy, a Pew project supported by nearly a dozen philanthropic partners that continues now as the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project, a partnership with philanthropist and ocean advocate Dona Bertarelli. The two efforts have led to designations or commitments to safeguard 4.8 million square miles of ocean. With plastic now entering the ocean at the rate of a garbage truckload every minute, Pew also has developed a tool for countries to analyze and reduce the flow of these harmful plastics. Along with partners, Pew helped found the Blue Nature Alliance, which is seeking protection of nearly 7 million square miles of ocean. And last year, after Pew-sponsored research showed how government subsidies to fishers increased overfishing, the World Trade Organization voted to reduce the payments.

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How can we best conserve public land?

Pew seeks to conserve public lands in the United States, recognizing their vital role for the communities and wildlife that rely on them and in maintaining biodiversity on the planet. With these areas fragmented by some 2.6 million miles of roads, and with dams and rivers disrupting other critical habitat, Pew focuses on conserving large-scale landscapes. More recently, the organization has assisted several Western states in developing wildlife corridors for large migrating herds, safeguards for the animals and the thousands of drivers involved in collisions with them each year. Pew’s international land conservation efforts began two decades ago in Canada’s boreal forest. Since then, the international work has expanded to Australia’s Outback and Chile’s Patagonia region, which are some of the world’s last large, intact wildernesses. Pew supports Indigenous communities, scientists, conservation organizations, and governmental leaders to ensure that these regions support healthy ecosystems and the people who rely on them. And last year, a new partnership called Enduring Earth was launched, aspiring to protect 1.5 billion acres around the world by 2030, contributing to the global ambition among the scientific community of protecting 30% of the Earth’s land and water by 2030, an effort known as “30 by 30.”

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How do we shape Philadelphia’s future?

Philadelphia is Pew’s hometown—and the birthplace of American democracy. In its earliest days, Pew provided funding for new hospitals, schools, and civic activities in the region. More recently, the support and activities that Pew provides are as varied as the city itself. Pew helped create what is now called Visit Philadelphia, the city’s main tourism agency. Pew’s Philadelphia research and policy initiative conducts original research on the city’s governing challenges and urban issues. The Pew Fund for Health and Human Services in Philadelphia provides grants to local social service organizations, helping them expand their reach and impact. The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage has made more than 1,900 grants in its continuing support of arts and cultural organizations in the city and surrounding counties. Since 1992, The Pew Fellowship in the Arts has recognized nearly 400 artists in Philadelphia, including four who have won Pulitzer Prizes in music or drama. Pew has provided key funding for the rejuvenation of such city landmarks as the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Independence Mall. And the institution played a central role in the relocation of the famed Barnes Foundation from the remote suburbs to the city center, making one of the world’s leading art collections accessible to more people.

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