3 July 2023

Future Chair

Read Carola Carazzone’s opinion piece on this initiative

Future Chair is one of Assifero’s flagship initiatives for its 20th anniversary. The project looks to the future by focusing on intergenerational dialogue and the participation and involvement of young people in the decision-making processes of foundations and philanthropic organisations. It is no coincidence that the first tangible and immediately implementable act in the process is to leave an empty chair, called the ‘Future chair’, at board meetings and panels, to symbolise the absence of young people at the decision-making tables and the importance of taking into account the impact that each decision can have on the younger and future generations. It is not only meant to be a campaign that talks about young people or with young people, but also a pathway for young people to become part of the decision-making processes themselves. 

It consists of six principles that the foundations and philanthropic bodies adhering to it undertake to pursue and promote in the months and years to come, with the support and accompaniment of Assifero. Briefly, these are:

  • Promote and create spaces for dialogue and debate
  • Removing obstacles and ensuring enabling conditions  
  • Promoting a culture of active listening at all levels
  • Taking into account and following up 
  • Communicating achievements 
  • Promoting the principles

Why intergenerational justice and intergenerational dialogue? 

In 15 November 2022, the world population reached 8 billion. While there has certainly been an increase in the birth rate in one part of the planet, this growth is due to the incredible increase in lifespan, thanks to advances in public health, nutrition, hygiene, and medicine. We are therefore faced with a generational imbalance, which is particularly strong in Italy, one of the oldest populations in Europe and the world. The decisions taken at the political and institutional level, which are increasingly emergency, contingent, consensus-oriented in the short term, take little account of the impact they will have on future generations. In this context, young people have much to say, new perspectives and proposals, but most of the time they are not given the tools, spaces, and opportunities to intervene and make a difference in decision-making processes. They have no say in their present and future.

The 2030 Agenda, the most powerful framework for the sustainable development of our society, focuses on the famous 5 Ps: planet, prosperity, peace, partnerships, and people. The people not only of today but also of tomorrow. In his keynote speech during the conference ‘Philanthropy and Human Rights: a horizon of impact for all’, organised by Assifero at the United World College, Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the European Human Rights Agency, invited the young people and foundations present to be ‘intergenerational’, to work together for a common future.

Why Italy?

The 14th edition of the report of the European Security Observatory by Fondazione Unipolis and Demos&Pi (2022) notes that 59% of young Italians (against a European average of 52%) are convinced that today the only hope for a career is to go abroad and 62% (compared to 50% of Europeans) think that older workers block the careers of young people, reflecting the idea of a problematic world of work in the perceptions of the new generations. A certain resignation also transpires on the subject of pensions: while 10% of young residents in the five countries analysed believe that those in their twenties will not receive a pension, the figure for Italians almost doubles to 18%. Eight out of ten young people expect to have a lower pension tomorrow than they do today (72%). 

According to the OECD report ‘Governance for Youth, Trust and Intergenerational Justice: Adequate for All Generations?’ in Italy only 24% of the population aged 15-29 expressed trust in the national government compared to an average of 46% of young people in OECD countries. In terms of integrating young people’s needs and interests into public policy, 39% of OECD countries, including Italy, do not systematically assess the impact on young people of proposed laws and regulations. One third of youth policy ministries in OECD countries use general RIAs (Regulatory Impact Assessments) providing specific information on the impact of new legislation on young people. Austria, France, Germany and New Zealand apply ex-ante youth impact assessments of legislation (‘youth checks’) to include youth issues more systematically in the decision-making process.

Where did this initiative come from and what was the process?

This initiative was born in 2021, following the first survey on the governance of Italian foundations and philanthropic bodies, which highlighted a strong generational imbalance in the composition of boards. Later, in 2022, the awareness of working in this direction in the philanthropic landscape was reinforced by the work of international networks of which Assifero is part, such as the Philea Child and Youth Participation in Philanthropy survey and the report Weaving a collective tapestry. A funders’ toolkit for child and youth participation by Elevate Children Funders Group

The process of co-creating and drafting the declaration took the form of the following points:

  • Philanthropy and Human Rights Meeting, hosted at the United World College of the Adriatic which involved 200 students aged 15-17 in dialogue with Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the European Human Rights Agency and Assifero member foundations.
  • Series of workshops with young people aged 16 to 25, then developed through focus groups also with foundations and philanthropic bodies associated with Assifero

The reasoning behind the commitment and the principles is built incrementally on the ideas that emerged and the proposals made by the 18 young people involved in the two workshops held in collaboration with Print Club Torino and on what was highlighted in the two existing publications on the subject: Child and Youth Participation in Philanthropy by Philea and the toolkit for the participation of children and young people developed by Elevating Children Funders’ Group.

It was therefore planned to act as a matrix by intersecting the following dimensions:

  • Laura Lundy’s four dimensions of participation (Voice, Audience, Influence and Space) identified as the most relevant by workshop participants
  • The phases and decision-making processes of foundations: we started by taking inspiration from the work done by Philea in analysing the 13 case studies in the research, which, among the proposed dimensions, highlights in which organisational phase young people are involved

Philea identifies 9 of them: Planning; Research; Design; Grant Attribution; Implementation; Evaluation; Follow up; Staff; Board. 

To make it easier to subscribe to and express the principles, Assifero decided to condense these dimensions and consider:

 1. Governance and strategic approach of the organisation

 2. Funding strategy 

 3. Evaluation phase of results and impact assessment

Download the Future Chair Commitment

For more information, visit the Assifero website