Leopards can change their spots…

I have just been reading the fantastic conference program for the recent European Foundation Centre Conference in Belfast. From 6-8 June 2012, more than 500 foundation professionals from Europe and around the world gathered for the 23rd EFC Annual General Assembly and Conference to learn about, share and debate issues surrounding peace and social justice and other pressing philanthropic topics, from education to the financial crisis.  Take a look….  Definitely one to think about for next year (30 May – 1 June in Copenhagen, Denmark)!!

One of the many fantastic concurrent sessions open to delegates was Shedding light on our own practice: the impact and effect of our own behaviour.  And it offers a nice follow-on from the Eggs’ most recent post,  The Never Changing World of Philanthropy .

Shedding Light is a research project supported by Adessium Foundation, FACT, Fondation Philanthropia Lombard Odier, Oak Foundation and Pears Foundation, and coordinated by European philanthro-gurus Judith Symonds, David Carrington and Karen Weisblatt.  It’s part of the European Philanthropy Learning Initiative, a relatively new initiative which aims to strengthen learning and knowledge about philanthropy in Europe, to help Foundations positively enhance what they do.*

Consultations with 26 Foundations of varying sizes, histories and priorities from across Europe were carried out, specifically in preparation for the EFC Conference.  Each Foundation was asked a series of detailed questions about their work, practises and performance, and the responses were used to formulate recommendations regarding the practical steps every Foundation could take to improve or change how they do their work, to help them achieve more.  The recommendations formed the basis of the session discussion.  Instant grant-making think-tank!

There were two major things that stood out from the consultations: the need to enhance opportunities for peer learning and the need to develop a community of practice. In fact, one of the key recommendations was that a group of foundations from across Europe should form a community of practice to lead by providing resources, working to a jointly agreed plan, celebrating and promoting learning initiatives, supporting new initiatives and encouraging other organisations to take action.  Session participants were invited to be creative and critical in response to the findings.  Wow.  I bet it was a very long, impassioned discussion!  It certainly would be here but it sounds like a conversation well-worth having if it helps us to improve what we do.

Discussions from the session will be fed into a final report which has an as yet unannounced publication date.  I’ll keep you posted!

*The European Philanthropy Learning Initiative is an informal collaboration of donors and consultants. The first stage of the initiative, which was launched in 2009, commissioned a report, The Application of Learning and Research to Philanthropy (David Carrington)

You can follow the musings of Claire Rimmer on Twitter via @ClaireMRimmer or the blog via @3eggphil

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