Numerous tools exist to help foundations that are committed to learning and improving. NCRP designed its new project called “Philamplify” to complement these tools and to break the “isolation bubble” in philanthropy that keeps foundation leaders from getting honest feedback about their strategies and practices. Philamplify combines expert assessments of individual foundations with an interactive website where people who care about philanthropy may be part of the discussion about what foundations are doing well and how they can be more impactful.
Because Philamplify includes a survey of grantees, some may wonder how our initiative differs from the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s Grantee Perception Report, a tool of which NCRP is a big fan. Here are my top five reasons why Philamplify is different from and complementary to the GPR.
Many forward-thinking grantmakers see the value in having CEP conduct a GPR, yet many other large grantmakers aren’t actively seeking feedback. Other sectors of society have built-in accountability mechanisms that philanthropy lacks. Without these feedback loops, even the most well-intentioned grantmaker is going to have blind spots.
NCRP invites and encourages foundations to participate in our assessment process but it is not a prerequisite for a Philamplify assessment. We want to know how our tool can be most useful for a particular foundation’s learning. We are open to adjusting the methodology and timing based on the foundation’s circumstances. If, after discussions with the foundation, we believe that our assessment may add value to what they already know, then we will proceed – even if the foundation would prefer that we not.
Our Philamplify reports are comprehensive and nuanced, examining foundation goals and strategies, outcomes and impact, partnership with grantees, and best practices in grants management and governance. Building on the aspirational benchmarks in Criteria for Philanthropy at its Best and the concept of strategic social justice philanthropy described in Real Results, NCRP’s assessment tool puts issues of equity and access front and center by asking the following questions:
And while GPRs offer comparative data that allow foundations to benchmark their progress against their peers, Philamplify does not. Instead, we assess each foundation against its stated goals, strategies and intended impacts. To help answer questions on these topics, NCRP’s methods include a grantee survey. However, if a foundation selected for assessment has recently conducted a GPR, NCRP may decide not to conduct its own grantee survey.
Grantee surveys are just one component of our methodology to collect candid, confidential insights about a foundation’s strengths and challenges. We also reach out to peers and others stakeholders knowledgeable about the foundation, such as media and government, former foundation staff and board, current staff (if the foundation permits) as well as selected grantees. These interviews are augmented by extensive reviews of publicly available information and news about the foundation and its grantmaking, and analysis of key Foundation Center data.
Many foundations are committed to learning, and they commission assessments and evaluations of various types, including GPRs. Not all of them share the findings of GPRs with the public; in fact, only 30 grantmakers have done so. Many do not share the complete results with grantees or even with their own staff. NCRP shares every Philamplify report first with the foundation being assessed, before the report is finalized, and then with the public. We believe that everyone in philanthropy can glean lessons from the reports’ findings and recommendations, and that everyone in the sector can play a role in holding each other accountable to high standards of philanthropic practice.
Foundations that commission GPRs and share them with the public are exemplars of transparency and demonstrate the value of collective learning. Yet, there are few forums in philanthropy to comment on, discuss and debate the lessons that come from such an assessment. That’s why NCRP combines our assessments with an interactive website, where anyone can agree or disagree with our recommendations, comment on them, and share their own opinions and stories about the role of philanthropy in their community and society at large.
When philanthropy is no longer isolated from honest, constructive feedback – whatever the vehicle – families, communities and causes that foundations care about will be the true beneficiaries.
There is a new financing paradigm for sectors that address societal challenges. Amongst many new innovations, one of the most promising are Social Impact Bond (SIB) that emerged from the UK and have the potential to transform the provision of social services by bringing in mainstream capital in a manner that has never been envisaged before.
SIBs are an innovative financing mechanism designed to raise private-sector capital for effective delivery of social sector programs.
They are a way to finance pay-for-success contracts that allow the Government to pay only for results. If a program funded by SIBs achieves successful outcomes, which are defined and agreed upon in advance by all parties to the contract, the Government repays investors their principal plus a rate of return based on the program’s success. On the other hand, if outcomes are not achieved, the Government is not obligated to repay investors.
Before we examine their relevance for India, let’s look into why the UK emerged at the fore-front of this innovation:
1. A significant shift in political and ideological climate over the past decade. As early as 2000, the Cabinet Office of UK recommended encouragement of private sector financing in the third sector.
2. Unprecedented cuts in public funding and the demand for more efficient use of scarce public money following the global financial crisis of 2008.
Thus, SIBs are an outcome of a decade long effort in building a more accountable Public Spending Plan that allows for new innovations to emerge and allows private sector to invest in social services that are more accountable and effective.
While India has been relatively insulated from the global financial crisis of 2008 and its fallout, the mounting pressure on public spending is no different here. The last financial year saw the most austere Union budget that aimed to cut public spending target by 15% (USD 14 Billion).
While size of the budget is important, how it is spent is perhaps more so. Budgetary allocations to social sectors have grown over the last several years but without commensurate increase in welfare benefits to the masses. There is a growing demand for change in the implementation modalities of budgeted schemes for better outcomes. For instance, in Education, rising budgetary allocations have increased the number of schools but the quality of education offered is still sub-standard. The introduction of schemes, such as Mid-day Meal Scheme (MDMS) and Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan (SSA) have helped in increasing enrolment but drop-out rates before completion of primary education remain high. In addition, the lack of evaluation and measurement of outcomes has led the Government to persist with ‘failed programs’.
However, Organizations outside the government have run innovative programs that have delivered social benefits. Pradan, one of the oldest and most respected NGOs in the country, has successfully trained 100,000 families in farm-based livelihoods with over 25% of them placed into forest and livestock based enterprises. Educate Girls, another NGO, has brought 48,000 girls back to school in Pali and Jalore districts of Rajasthan which have one of the highest gender-gaps when it comes to education. Yet another NGO, Pratham reaches 1.5 million children annually help them achieve tangible learning outcomes. However, organizations like these face challenges in scaling up their operations due to limited availability of funding.
The government is unsure if providing them budgetary support is the right way to go without clearly ascertaining the scalability of the impact made by these organizations, but are willing to fund them on the basis of ‘successful outcomes achieved’, if at all. On the other hand, the institutions find it very difficult to raise that amount of philanthropic money even for working with the government on the ‘pay-for-success’ model. SIBs have the potential to break this logjam with by tapping into alternative sources of financing (private sector and capital markets). In addition, given the nature of issues that need to be addressed in India (basic issues of shelter, education, health, water and sanitation, unemployment) where outcomes are more easily measurable, the country offers a ripe and attractive market for such an innovation to explode.
However, the initial success of SIBs in India will require someone to play the role of bringing key stakeholders together; Investors with the appropriate risk appetite, Government Bodies with the right understanding to participate, and willing and progressive Service Providers (NGO) who can see through the effort to make it work. This role should be played by a financial intermediary with a long-term commitment to development, a DNA of ‘innovation’ and a capability to structure such a complex transaction.
While it may take time initially to convince the Government, SIBs clearly have immense relevance in this country and India may well go on to become the lead issuer of such Bonds once the process is established. This disruptive innovation can be given a big thumbs-up though local adaption to reduce costs of launching the Bond will remain key for its success in India.
Vineet Rai is the Chairman of global advisory firm Intellecap. He leads innovative interventions in the development sector and brings a unique understanding of enterprise based development approach through many pioneering interventions.
Atreya Rayaprolu is the Director of Investment Banking at global advisory firm Intellecap. He works with double/ triple bottomline enterprises at growth stage to enable them to scale.
Over the last decade and a half, ‘hopeless’ Africa has become Africa rising – at least economically. Unfortunately, this rise has carried few Africans with it. One of the biggest culprits is illicit financial flows. Moreover, democratic culture is not sufficiently strongly entrenched to enable civil society to protest effectually. What can philanthropy do to change this? Though it might seem an overwhelming challenge, it has to adopt an approach which tackles the continent’s major problems holistically – what I call a systems-wide approach.
There is broad consensus that Africa’s major failings have been threefold; first inconsistent and unpredictable policies/strategies; second, inadequate institutional frameworks for deepening a rules-based democracy and for managing inclusive economic growth; and finally lack of a vibrant citizen culture. These things need to change urgently; in particular, the broader participation of citizens in nation-building processes needs to be secured. Such a process must go beyond waving the flag when an important dignitary is visiting, listening to speeches on national days such as Independence Day, and periodically participating in elections that simply recycle elites and make little difference to policy. Democracy needs to be embedded as an everyday practice and should include deepening the scope of participation on national issues, safeguarding not only the right to vote but also the right to a decent existence.
Limited benefits of economic growth
In the economic governance sphere, African countries urgently need to develop their own national savings accounts. Recently, there has been renewed optimism over Africa’s economic future. The Economist, which characterized Africa as ‘the hopeless continent’ in 2000, devoted an entire issue to ‘Africa Rising’ in 2013. Since 2000, there has been sustained growth, driven by a prolonged commodity boom, which was itself driven by increased demand, especially for oil.
However, despite the fact that Africa is rich in minerals and other natural resources, the majority of its people have not benefited from the exploitation of these resources. Recent economic performance has not generated enough economic diversification, job growth or social development to create wealth and lift millions of Africans out of poverty, maybe due to the lack of integration between downstream and upstream industries that can add value to the primary goods currently driving the boom.
Tendai Murisa is programme director at TrustAfrica. Email email@example.com
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A large part of the conversations at the 25th EFC Annual General Assembly and Conference in Sarajevo have drawn focus to the uneasy realities of the ‘European project’. Framed by the backdrop of Sarajevo – a city that knows much about conflict and peacebuilding, continuous rains and news of the worst floods in the Bosnia in 120 years, discussions at the conference have been hard-hitting, forcing a critical questioning of the role of philanthropy in Europe today.
The three plenary sessions in particular, which focused on Rethinking Europe in terms of Peace, Political Governance and Solidarity, and featured speakers from across the spectrum – politicians to youth activists, have highlighted an enormous disillusionment of the citizens of Europe with the European Union. Both plenaries on Day 1 and Day 2 asserted how the institutions of the European Union are becoming increasingly technocratic, the politicians and policy makers trapped in their own rhetoric, while the citizens are more and more disempowered and marginalized, facing increasing and perhaps even permanent inequalities. A speaker at the second plenary session pointed out that at the present moment the ‘European project’ was seen by its citizens not as part of the solution but as the problem itself. In a concurrent session later that day, amid conversations of European enlargement, one young conference participant from the Western Balkans remarked that she was glad that at this stage her country was not a member state of the European Union. During the plenary on Day 3, a panel of young activists, speaking on problems relating to enormous unemployment facing the youth of Europe, reasserted that they did not believe that Europe could help them.
Discussions at the plenaries have also drawn attention to how this disillusionment of the citizens with the ‘European project’ has allowed for populist, exclusionary, xenophobic agendas to appeal to the consciousness of the citizens. The threat of the rise of the right-wing and Euro-skeptic parties in the European elections next week is looming large.
In the last three days here in Sarajevo, we have been confronted with the reality that the founding social values of the ‘European project’ i.e. respect for human dignity, freedom, equality, solidarity, democracy and justice are now under threat. Certainly this is a grave concern for foundations in Europe advocating progressive social change! As the European Union fails its citizens, can Foundations provide a model to engage with people in ways that technocratic institutions of the European Union haven’t done? Can foundations ask the difficult questions that politicians trapped by their own rhetoric cannot ask? Can foundations model a vision for Europe that is led by citizens, is inclusive and upholds the social values that first attracted people to the idea of the ‘European project’?
Various conference sessions have explored ways in which foundations can play an effective role in a changing Europe: support new ideas of what Europe should be, promote vibrant debate about Europe which includes diverse perspectives from the people of Europe, and most importantly to support civil society and not give up on it…
However, the challenge for philanthropy is big and a deeper interrogation of how we can play an effective role is called for. What are the varieties of tools foundations have got in order to deal with the current challenges in Europe? How can foundations best use their special position of independence? What are the new tools, partnerships, spaces, strategies we need to explore and develop individally and collectively, locally and at a European level, in order to achieve greater impact?
At the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social justice and Peace we are interested in exploring answers to these and other questions about the role of foundations in today’s complex and changing Europe. We are not alone; a scan of the philanthropic sector in Europe reveals an emerging a constituency of practitioners in philanthropy, both individual foundations and groups/networks of foundations that are concerned with the lack of a positive vision and are seeking effective tools to deal with the current problems. We are exploring ways in which we can provide mutual support to these efforts within philanthropy and ensure that the impact of our work in cumulative.
Are you interested in joining in this conversation? If you are then please let us know by sending an email on the contact information provided below.
Contact for the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chandrika Sahai, Network Coordinator, Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice
Doug Miller opened the 2014 AVPN event with the mantra: reject can’t, embrace urgency, and drive system change. He hardly needed to. The energy, pace and system development shown by every participant was exceptional.
2013 was the first ever Asia venture philanthropy meeting, and was a powerful event. To move such a big step up in just one year was a triumph.
One session after another, speakers acknowledged that silo working, one social investor to one social entrepreneur, is just too slow and difficult to tackle the urgent challenges in Asia. Every discussion was about system working, capacity building, developing the intermediaries, recognising that different skills and capabilities need to be brought together to achieve impact at speed.
A particularly valuable event was led by Bethylle Missika of OECD’s netFWD. Chris West of the Shell Foundation described a 10 year journey from conventional grants to long term, engaged work with multiple types of support, which switched their success rate from 80% non sustainable to 80% sustainable. Stephen Nairne of Lundin Foundation described a broader ecosystem approach beyond individual investees, and the need to create a dividend for local people if any ecological interventions are to last. Harvey Koh introduced the thinking behind Monitor Inclusive Communities’ reports Blueprint to Scale and Beyond the Pioneers, seeing value chains, intermediaries, government engagement and systemic work as key to achievement. But he also noted the challenge in the foundation world – if there are so many contributions to success, it is much harder to claim the attribution which is so important to many boards.
This was a conference which championed support to intermediaries and to boost the core organisational capacity of social ventures. It was all about building the ecosystem, how we operate together to make it easier for us all to do better.
My reckoning is that it took the west 10 years to come around to that view. To see it recognised in just a year in the east is startling. But it’s not all rosy.
There are still far too few startups to feed through into any realistic pipeline for social investors and venture philanthropists. Some countries have strong cultural barriers to entrepreneurship let alone social entrepreneurship. Many have huge logistic and infrastructure challenges. Asia is more than half the world by population though nowhere near half the world by social economy. But that has to be followed by the word “yet”. At this pace, it won’t be long. There is a refreshing honesty and lack of competitive grandstanding, a hunger for what will work, and a willingness to get out there and try it for real.
Doug and the AVPN team deserve a lot of credit for this. They have created a culture which is can do, works at speed, and encourages purposeful collaboration. They got the right people in the room with the right attitude for success. Roll on 2015.
Cliff Prior, Chief Executive of UnLtd
The main topic of this year’s EFC Annual Assembly is a rather contemplative one: By “Rethinking Europe” the participants have been invited to step out of the daily business for three days, to debate a challenging, complicated and of course still unsolved puzzle – one could imagine a gathering of experts bigger but similar to the enthusiastic round of chess players under their umbrellas next to one of the conference venues in the pouring rain of Sarajevo.
But it turned out that for some of us just thinking is not enough. Was it the location of this year’s conference? The wonderful town of Sarajevo in the heart of Europe that suffered so much and – 20 years after the war – still waits for full recovery? Was it the never-ending rain that drowned the hosting country Bosnia and Herzegovina in the biggest flood since more than 120 years? The fact that so many people lost their homes or even lives during these days when Europe’s wealthiest foundations came together in the proximate neighbourhood, strangely uncoupled from this disaster? Did this contrasts create a little discomfort and made some of us more emotional than usually in a seminar environment?
Anyway, impatience was sometimes a visible sentiment in plenaries, sessions, and Q&As that spiced the discussions. You could, for example, hear a slight tone of anger in her voice when Timea Junghaus, director of Gallery 8 for Contemporary Roma Art – a term which by itself breaks already many stereotypes – said in the session on ‘Social Inclusion in Central and Eastern Europe: Myth or Reality’ that in the last 25 years the situation of the Roma minority didn’t only not have improved but has turned radically to the worse in all EU countries not only in Hungary. She accused public institutions all over Europe to still keep up racist systems that would exclude minorities from education and many other fields where more inclusion is necessary.
It was Janusz Reiter, Director of the Center for International Relations, who mentioned it explicitly for the first time at the opening plenary. Moderator Jackie Davis asked the panel what foundations could do to support peace in Europe. Janusz Reiter’s answer was not a strategic advice. Actually, he was urging the foundations: “Be in time! Hurry up! Be fast than the government if you want to reach out to people!” Whatever you want to do: do it now!
The current situation in Ukraine was a topic in many debates. The efc published a statement saying that the European Foundations express their solidarity with Ukraine. Haki Abazi from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation for the Western Balkans asked at the Opening Plenary, why anybody should believe that the European Union will take action in favour of the people of the Ukraine as they failed doing anything for Syria and in similar conflicts before. There are many declarations, but where is the action?
The Plenary on political governance investigated mainly the European Union and the threat of a remarkable success for populist parties in the upcoming elections. A strong populist wing in the EU parliament will be the result of the rise of inequalities all over the place, explained Ivan Vejvoda from the The German Marshall Fund of the United States. The former director of the Balkan Trust for Democracy identified the dissatisfaction of people of all nationalities with unjust societies as the main reason for the success of populist movements and parties that are so dangerous for democracy “who claim to know the truth with a big T”. The problem: mainstream politics doesn’t seem to have an answer to impatient citizens.
An obviously very impatient citizen was sharing the panel with him. Jeta Xharra, co-founder of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, was the angry woman of the debate who declared further European enlargement a simple necessity. “And it is coming much to late!“ To many of the present (Western) European foundations her analysis sounded probably provocative if not naïve or even bizarre. Statements such as “only by cutting all trade relations with Russia the EU countries can take a credible stand in the Ukraine conflict” might lack a realistic assessment of EU realities. But Jeta Xharra showed us that living and working for a long time under very difficult economic, political and social conditions makes you not only impatient but also more courageous, it makes you think in all possible directions. From this perspective, impatience can be a sometimes productive feeling for our work.
Maribel Königer, ERSTE Stiftung.
Goodbye the opening protocols and, no, we won’t miss you
Human beings are odd creatures, often rather slow to learn – none more so, perhaps, than those of us who, year in and year out, spend an unnatural amount of time at philanthropy conferences. How many times have we sat through long, four-presenter panels and when we weren’t dozing off, been very clear in our minds that long speeches followed by apologetic excuses that “unfortunately we have no time for audience participation”, do not make for an interesting experience. And then how many times have we found ourselves as speakers, moderators or audiences in exactly the same kinds of sessions?
So yesterday’s opening plenary at the EFC’s annual conference, “Rethinking Europe: Solidarity, Civil Society and Political Governance” held in a rather rainy Sarajevo, came as a refreshing change. There were no long prepared speeches by passing dignitaries or bureaucrats. Jacki Davis, who will be moderating all the conference plenaries, who is clearly something of an authority on the intricacies and complexities of the European debate, set a relaxed and curious tone for a lively conversation with her four panellists, Avila Kilmurray from the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, Mirsad Purivatra, from the Sarajevo Film Festival, Vesna Terselic from Documenta – Center for Dealing with the Past and Janusz Reiter, Director for the Center for International Relations (who is a front-runner for the prize for time spent travelling to vs. time spent attending the conference).
The open discussion format certainly made for a more accessible experience for conference participants. It also highlighted some of the deep disconnects and tensions – both intellectual and emotional – that are inspired by the European debate.
The rise of populism and xenophobia, the deep scepticism of publics towards European institutions that are perceived as lacking in transparency and highly technocratic, and the complacency and passivity of a generation of younger voters in many countries who are fortunate never to have experienced war were all mentioned by panellists as factors that are shaping the current narrative in many European member states.
But the conversation also turned to the larger, more inspirational vision of Europe as a construct which embraces certain key values and principles around diversity and inclusion, all of which have a particular importance and urgency in young, fragile democracies. Unsurprisingly, the current crisis in Ukraine came up as well as did the question of EU expansion, particularly in the context of countries such as Bosnia which are emerging from conflict. And Avila Kilmurray lamented the loss of the EU’s “subtlety” as narrative had gradually changed from emphasizing a culture of peace to one around defence and security. In Northern Ireland, she observed, the EU had played an important role in supporting the Northern Ireland peace process by providing a platform in which Great Britain and Ireland were treated as equals.
Jenny Hodgson, Global Fund for Community Foundations.
Sara Llewellin from the Barrow Cadbury Trust, talks to Menno Weijs from the European Cultural Foundation (replacing Ruben Díaz López from Zemos 98, who due to the weather conditions got stuck in Vienna airport) and Annette Dorothea Weber from the Community Art Center in Mannheim. Unfortunately, Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez from the Dreamers Movement had to excuse himself as his undocumented status didn’t allow him to travel from the US to Sarajevo. So we start this session with the filmed interview of Carlos Saavedra from the Dreamers Movement, carried out by Paul Hamlyn Foundation in 2013, which is focusing on how the Dreamers Movement started. The movement is about gathering the stories of undocumented people all throughout the US so that they can hear each other’s stories, feel empowered, get connected to each other and be ’ready for the battle’. It is interesting to know that the Dreamers Movement bases their methodologies on the Gay Pride movement. To the Dreamers Movement, undocumented person also need to have their “coming out”.
Dorothea Weber talked about how storytelling can help community building. As a theatre director, Dorothea specialized in the genre of ‘narrative theatre’. She is now artistic director of Community Arts Centre Mannheim (CAC), which has as an objective to break down prejudices within the community groups living in the area where the center is located. Storytelling enables us to describe and tell our story – it’s an opportunity to share emotions, actions and thoughts. It’s also offering an opportunity to re-experience the story with a certain distance. Dorothea offers us some examples of storytelling in the CAC. Among others she highlights a documentary about displaced people; a story about a Turkish family ‘on the move’; and a play called “Heroes” which was created with young people on the subject of death in relation to the manifestation of faith in the different religions. Following discussions about angels, paradise, heaven (etc.), they wondered what it takes nowadays to be a hero. Dorotea finally focuses on a project called “Home” – a collaboration between Mannheim and Madrid. Central focus was on the sense of “rootlessness” that the many immigrants have living in the Madrid area of Lavapiés.Maite Garcia-Lechner, Networked Programme at European Cultural Foundation. – See more at: http://philanthropynews.alliancemagazine.org/#sthash.3m00Ph68.dpuf
(Im)migration also plays a central role in the case presented by Menno Weijs from the European Cultural Foundation (ECF). He starts however by sharing his present feeling of awkwardness on the idea of having such a great group of philanthropic organizations currently gathering in Bosnia-Herzegovina while at the same time the country is over-flooding due to the heavy rainfall. He wonders what will be the stories of the people from the Western Balkans whose houses are over-flooded as this blog-post is being written? What do people who are usually not able to have their voices heard, actually have to say? This was also the starting point with which ECF’s Youth and Media Programme initiated the DocNext Network a few years ago. Together with Creative Initiatives ę from Poland, The British Film Institute from the UK, Mode Istanbul from Turkey and Zemos 98 from Spain a network of organizations was established with the ambition of showing the stories of all Europeans. And given the fact that migrants are one of the largest group of people living in Europe about whom much is said yet their own (individual) stories are often unheard, this became the focus point of DocNext. And so the project Re-Mapping Europe was created: audio-visually portraying Europe from the migrant perspective in a style of remix. During a series of remix-workshops a collection of films was created highlighting stories from all across (wider) Europe. Additionally, DocNext created the publication Remixing Europe – migrants, media, representation, imagery which is all about unveiling the imagery of migrants in Europe. Four media incidents taking place in Spain, the UK, Turkey and Poland about how mainstream media portrays migrants, serve as the starting point of the publication. These incidents are reflected on and (re)mixed with stories of collected through previous workshops organized by the various members of the DocNext Network. Additionally, an artistic performance has been created about the topic of crossing the border into the EU. This performance, called European Souvenirs, consists of a live cinema remix of archive material from all countries being part of the Doc Next Network. The next performance, called €uroVisions, will take place next week (May 20th) in the EYE Film museum in Amsterdam. After this Dutch performance, it will tour throughout Europe.
Following these presentations, the audience raised a few interesting questions such as the lexicon of migration vs. immigration; we should be mindful of the terminology because a migrant is someone passing through whereas an immigrant arrives somewhere with the ambition to stay. DocNext Network was very aware of these language matters so when they started, they created a shared lexicon (assisted by organizations from outside of the cultural sector) in order to avoid getting lost in translation. However, they realized soon that it’s a struggle to create the best possible definition as in different countries the meaning varies. The audience also wondered if it’s possible to measure the impact of both the CAC’s as well as the DocNext Network’s work. The CAC knows there are results, yet it’s challenging to prove it. One should be aware that in the Mannheim-area where the CAC operates, there are various communities living in parallel to each other and CAC observes how these different groups start dialoguing with each other. This already is a strong result of their work. For DocNext Network it’s hard to provide hard facts and figures because they are still in the middle of the process. However, like with CAC’s observation of an “unexpected” impact of cross-dialogue between different groups, the impact being part of the DocNext Network has had on the organizations involved in it, has had great positive effect. Staff of the various DocNext members learned to change their views and working trans-nationally with like-minded organizations has certainly been a valuable experience. Finally, someone asks how can we scale up the important work that CAC and DocNext are doing beyond the “in-crowd”. For ECF scaling-up is a crucial element to increase both the impact and sustainability. DocNext has had already some successes with bringing their work within mainstream media, such as the renown International Documentary Festival (IDFA). Furthermore it part of ECF’s strategy to connect policy and practice – bringing these very concrete cases of new European narratives also into the European policy discourse. It is not easy, but definitively worth the effort!
PS: shortly after taking part in this workshop I learned through the grapevine that this EFC’s Next Generation group, as well as some foundations, have taken the initiative to do something about the floods. They are gathering money, food and blankets and distributing these among others through Kriterion Sarajevo.
Maite Garcia-Lechner, Networked Programme at European Cultural Foundation.
After a copious lunch at Hotel Europe, quite a number of people gathered in room 4 of Sarajevo University to hear Vesna Bajsanski-Agic from Mozaik Foundation, Markus Lux from Robert Bosch Foundation, Joao de Almeida from Gulbenkian Foundation and Amina Ben Fadhl from FIKRA engage into an animated conversation with each other, the audience and the moderator Benjamin Bellegy from Fondation de France.
Whether working in North Africa, Southern- or Eastern Europe, it seems like all European societies are currently in transition. But transition to what? New democratic practices? New models of engagement? New ownership and responsibilities? Essentially, all panelists agree that in order to positively contribute to (the improvement of) democratic societies, it is important to look at individual values and attitudes. To both learn from the (often unheard!) voices of the communities these foundations work with, as well as empower them by acknowledging their change-potential. This means that aside from giving financial capital, foundations should invest in enhancing the levels of trust; offer professional development opportunities and encourage entrepreneurship; and sometimes even (temporarily) take over the role of the government such as offering basic needs (the example of giving water to a remote Tunesian community was mentioned). All this requires a solid, genuine interest and connection to the communities; the courage to admit failures and learn from these (as Joao de Almeida put it, ‘like in the medical world, where the failed experiments are vectors towards the successful ones, we should start doing evidence-based-philanthropy too’); and finally the creativity to bring forward solutions when the current urgency requires so. In other words: listening, experimenting and improvising are crucial. Furthermore, the idea of collaboration between foundations was mentioned. Why not bundle forces rather than create competing philanthropic organizations? There are some successful examples, such as the European Fund for the Balkans (a consortium of various foundations) – yet there is much more that can be done. And perhaps the EFC AGA should be the moment when these kind of collaborations, synergies and strategies are made between foundations sharing similar ambitions and whose modus operandii could complement each other.
Maite Garcia-Lechner, Networked Programme at European Cultural Foundation.
In an effort to show I could be a good blogger, I attended two unrelated, but actually interrelated sessions on the first full day of EFC. Full disclosure. They were each organized by friends. What else did they have in common? I suspect – no, I know – both want to change or at least ask European foundations to examine the way we do our work.
My early morning meeting was with the new “Thematic Network on gender equality,” launched in February in Brussels. Twelve of us attended. Some people were missing. They might have been on planes that couldn’t land in Sarajevo. Two of us were brave men, even though we all believe gender does not = women. We are going to: collect case studies; do action learning; go on study visits; creat a database of good gender grantmaking practices; explore providing professional development support; and try to convene joint sessions with other EFC networks to show that grantmaking with a gender lens is more effective. However, we will proceed more slowly than some would like because we do understand that we mostly work among “men in suits.”
Right after lunch, off I ran, through the rain, to “Sea Change or Hard to See Change? Are Foundations Making Enough of a Difference?” In their 4th episode in four years, questionnaires, hats, skits and unfortunately blank slides made what was obviously a carefully organized session appear chaotic. Still, most of us had fun finding out how we really do our work, by analyzing the
“The Do Good Foundation on the Island of Trouble.”
Ask yourself these questions. Are we agents of change? What is our attitude toward being agents of change? We were told the results of a “BS” Survey with 54 respondents at the highest levels in European foundations. Only four of those funders feature the word “change” in their mission statement, but 54.55% embrace change. Barry Knight, with characteristic humor, said there was a “left leaning distribution…”
We heard, not unexpectedly, about, “social impact, the next frontier,” and “lasting sustainable change.” We understand we are all so virtuous, whatever our attitudes (which predict our behavior) or our styles.
The best aspect of both sessions is that we took time to listen and talk with each other. Bravo to the organizers.Terry Odendahl, Global Greengrants Fund.
Social media = direct democracy
Chris Worman from Techsoup together with Catherine Lennon from EFC moderate this meeting in which the panel looks at the influence social media can have, should have or has on foundations, at the level of both sending, as well as receiving information. Social media is a form of direct democracy, which has many positive, but also some negative (side-)effects.
Does the amount of “likes” overshadow our actual work?
Haris Buljubasic from Mozaik Foundation says nowadays many organizations, seem to be obsessed with the social media attention they get, losing sight of the actual contact with their constituencies. Foundations all keep track of the number of likes, followers and comments they get on social media, and even buy “likes”. But the quantity of online contact doesn’t beat the quality of it. Foundations should and can use social media for good purposes, among others to make their process transparent. For example, at Mozaik colleagues are immediately encouraged to get a LinkedIn profile, so that an actual face is attached to a role and people can get to know their interlocutors.
The fast square: strategy and setting the rules
Facebook and Twitter are fast-reaction spaces and since your face is connected to these social media outlets, your opinion becomes really quickly part of the public space and is therefore political. According to Darko Brkan from Zasto Ne it is important to note that the people using the social media set the rules of the game and make the standards of usage themselves. So you need to adapt to the ones that the mass have created. In the past people would go out on the streets and gather on the central square to make their voices heard. Nowadays the “square” in Bosnia is Facebook. Because the square is a digital space, movements can develop much faster. From a “trigger” to a full-blown movement, you might have a few hours whereas in the past, people would gather, develop a strategy on how to change the public opinion and then implement it by physically going out on the streets with physical banners and flyers. People often approach Darko to develop a social media strategy for their organizations. According to Darko, one should ask oneself ‘why do I need to do this?’ and develop the overall communication strategy answering this question. Once this is clear, one can develop a social media strategy accordingly. The technicalities are secondary, the strategic thinking should precede the development of the communication (whether an online platform, a new digital movement, or any other kind of media activity). In developing this strategy, it is pivotal to develop a social media strategy adapting to the existing rules. After all, it’s “social” media, so the people have the power to set the rules of the game.
The (side-)effects of social media
The next speaker Leila Bicakcic from the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN), coming from the field of journalism, also re-affirms that social media allows a quicker response and thus action. As a journalist this is very important. Moreover, the response of the audience allows a quick input from the audience (the so called “vox-populi”) and thus creates a broad barometer of the public opinion. At the same time, one still needs to employ traditional investigative tools such as carefully checking the facts. Oftentimes people take over input from social media without critically looking at it and since the medium is so quick, false information can very rapidly enter into the digital space and create confusion or even conflict. This is the case presented by Maribel Königer from Erste foundation. She highlights an example of a negative effect occurred with one of their projects that got unsolicited, negative involvement from the ultra-nationalistic Serbian Dveri political movement. They were targeting a project involving kids and their teachers which they thought focused on “gay-lobbying”. In protest, they showed photos and the names of the teachers on their website, which is pretty scary for such a homophobic and aggressive group as Dveri (who were directly involved in literally beating down a Gay Pride in Belgrade a few years ago). So the question was what to do. Ignore? Take legal action? Make direct protest? They finally send an official letter to the Serbian Ministry of Education asking them to reassure their support for this project, to reject false accusations and to encourage Dveri to remove the photos from their website. To date, there is no positive ending to this situation but in the meantime, many stakeholders from ERSTE are trying to work with their political stakeholders in order to have the government take action. Let’s hope for a “happy ending”.
Maite Garcia-Lechner, Networked Programme at European Cultural Foundation.
Entering the social entrepreneurship sector needs to be far more accessible for talent. The number of established pathways such as Ashoka—which has focused on identifying, selecting, and supporting promising social entrepreneurs since 1980—or spatial opt-in communities such as the Impact Hub network—where social entrepreneurs can collaborate with one another in co-working spaces—need to be broadened. By 2014, Ashoka fellows numbered nearly 3000, and the Impact Hub community included over 7000 members around the world. These and other organizations have made valuable and pioneering contributions to building the field, but their throughput is a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed now—additional channels are required for enabling innovators to get started.
The next logical step is to harness the power of the information revolution to remove the barriers to entry that talent currently faces. The business of social entrepreneurship is booming and the world is in need of smart solutions now more than ever before. In order to achieve this, a few significant issues need to be addressed.
One of these is the need to build a much larger pipeline of innovators. Given the multitude and scale of global problems that need solving, greater alignment and coordination needs to occur if future generations are to look back on social entrepreneurship as the game changer for solving social problems in the early twenty-first century. Put another way, we need to make it easier for social enterprises to attain critical mass. But since not every idea works in practice, we also need a lot more people to join the quest. Meeting this need was the motivator at my foundation Impact Pledge behind the creation of Impact Starter, which is being officially launched today. Impact Starter is an online platform, initially focused on Switzerland, which provides new social entrepreneurs convenient access to relevant information that they need to master during the start-up phase, such as which legal form to best choose. The platform also provides budding social entrepreneurs a mechanism to interact with experts and engage in networking with each other via the platform’s LinkedIn connectivity, using a visual representation of user interests called tag cloud to facilitate locating likeminded entrepreneurs for collaboration.
The goal is simple: to boost the movement of talent into the sector by facilitating market entry of entrepreneurs, irrespective of their pre-existing access to networks. “We believe there is a need to find new ways for all talents in the field of social entrepreneurship in Switzerland to become active in a simple and professional way,” said Sibylle Feltrin, Director of AVINA Stiftung (Switzerland), a supporter of Impact Starter. According to Benoît Merkt, Partner at Swiss law firm Lenz & Staehelin, “Having been active in the field for more than a decade, I believe that there still is a gap in legal advice for social entrepreneurs in Switzerland. Impact Starter should lead to significant welfare gains as social enterprises can be established more efficiently and thus professionalization of the social entrepreneurship scene can be accelerated.”
Members of the social entrepreneurship generation are more technologically savvy than the Generation Xers or Baby Boomers that precede them. “With Impact Starter, a remaining gap in the innovation chain can now be closed,” argued Dr Pascale Vonmont, Deputy Director of the Gebert Rüf Stiftung, Switzerland, and another supporter of Impact Starter. These entrepreneurs appear more detached from institutions, as well as more networked with friends than previous generations around the world, regardless of their location and ethnicity. Time will tell whether their contribution to history will be mainly civic, helping to build the strong communities at both the local and global levels now needed, or whether they will be remembered as “Generation Me,” characterized by narcissism and a sense of entitlement, navigating the Titanic closer to the iceberg.
Our goal with Impact Starter is to inform and encourage social entrepreneurs in Switzerland (and around the world) who want to build high-performing ventures to consider how best to translate their socially entrepreneurial ideas into actual ventures that systematically align making profit with the creation of positive social and environmental impact. Albert Einstein famously remarked, “If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.” We have made great progress with defining the problems facing the world, but we now need to better leverage the information revolution so we can actually put more time into getting the job done. Getting talent in and pulling barriers out is first on the agenda, a topic which we will also explore at the upcoming 4th Impact Economy Symposium & Retreat to be held from June 13-15, 2014 at the shores of Lake Constance in Switzerland.
Maximilian Martin, Ph.D. is the founder and global managing director of Impact Economy, an impact investment and strategy firm based in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the founder and president of the Impact Pledge Foundation.
The plane arriving safely isn’t usually worthy of comment, and if it hadn’t I wouldn’t have been around to report it. But in this case the future of European philanthropy was at stake.
Travelling to a conference, you don’t expect to arrive at the departure gate and find yourself in the midst of a major networking event. Foundation leaders were everywhere, Francis Charhon, Luc Tayart de Borms, Nicholas Borsinger, Goran Blomqvist, Boudewijn de Blij, Nicky McIntyre, the place was thronging with them. Hello, Wendy! Hello, Chris!
The same on the plane – Colin McCrea behind me, Diana Leat just over the aisle, Barry Gaberman behind her, Alina Serban from ERSTE Stiftung sitting next to me – who I didn’t know and was happy to meet, my first real bit of networking! The EFC had allowed a few outsiders onto their flight, but not many.
Imagine the consequences if the flight had gone down – as more than one person said to me! Leaving aside the personal losses, the flower of European philanthropy would have been wiped out all at a stroke. A good thing or a bad thing? The question hung in the air. Expressions like ‘a clean slate’ and thoughts of phoenixes rising from the ashes come to mind.
Sarajevo has been the scene for world-changing events in the past; today’s calamity was averted. We all arrived safely in cold, rainy Sarajevo, looking forward to discussion and networking in its proper place.
Caroline Hartnell, is editor of Alliance magazine.
As we have done for the last few years, Alliance has put together a team of bloggers to report from the European Foundation Centre’s 25th Annual General Meeting and Conference, to be held 15-17 May in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The theme of the conference is ‘Rethinking Europe: Solidarity, civil society and political governance’, and we plan to share the topics and themes from the conference with those who are unable to attend.
Our team this year includes some seasoned Alliance bloggers and some who haven’t blogged for us before:
Andrew Ho, Council on Foundations
Jenny Hodgson, Global Fund for Community Foundations
Maribel Königer, ERSTE Foundation
Terry Odendahl, Global Greengrants Fund
Chandrika Sahai, Peace and Social Justice Philanthropy Network
Chris Worman, TechSoup Global
Caroline Hartnell, Alliance magazine
We are also delighted to have three people from the European Cultural Foundation joining the team, all members of this year’s or previous years’ NextGen group:
• Maite Garcia Lechner,
• Menno Weijs
• Jeske van Vossen
Finally, we are excited to have a great group from the Sarajevo-based Mozaik Foundation, one of the conference host organizations:
• Leila Kusturica
• Haris Buljubašić
• Kristina Šešlija
• Belma Mizdrak
• Vesna Bajsanski-Agic
We look forward to sharing our impressions with you over the next few days and in the days following the conference. Follow all of our EFC content here>