25 April 2023

Learning from and learning with: Why now is the ideal time for a new PLP China-Europe

A personal encounter

‘The PLP programme was the best training I have attended during my work in philanthropy. Actually, it was more like a life experience which included gaining deep understanding of Chinese philanthropy, becoming friends with colleagues from different countries and sharing experiences in a warm and secure environment. I appreciate the openness of the participants and the commitment of the team which created this mutual learning and sharing experience. I returned with a feeling of gratitude, and I’m hopeful because I met a brilliant group of young people who are working to make the world a better place.’

These are the words of Rana Kotan, Secretary General of TÜSEV and 2018 alumni of the Philanthropy Leadership Platform: China-Europe. They perfectly sum up what the platform is all about: a secure environment for professionals working in philanthropy to gain a deeper understanding of each other’s environments and find ways to develop sustainable, global cooperative solutions. With so many complex, global challenges facing us all, this is an opportune moment to launch a new edition of the China-Europe programme and to bring best practices, solid experience and innovative ideas together.

A world full of challenges

‘Forge ahead with resilience and fortitude’, chin. 韧性发展,勇毅前行, was the leitmotiv of last year’s China Foundation Forum (CFF) annual meeting. Looking back at the previous years, marked by the pandemic, Wang Zhiyun, Member of CFF’s Board of Directors, explained that, rather than thematic issues as such, the sector’s resilience and capacity was a primary concern at the Forum.

Wang made it clear that the philanthropic sector cannot be separated from social and global trends. Accordingly, the relationship between fundraising and service delivery, between organisational capacities and global uncertainties, as well as keeping up the pace to find solutions, has been at the centre of the Forum’s discussions.

Similarly, the annual meeting of the China Donors Roundtable, chin. 中国资助者圆桌论坛, in March this year revolved around major shifts in the environment for social organisations in China and focussed on the fundamental question of the non-profit sector’s role in society, from rural development to basic education and care for the elderly.

In Europe, as the recent Philanthropy Environment in Europe report by Philea illustrates, the philanthropic sector is also faced with a variety of challenges. Different legal and tax frameworks, highlighted by administration-heavy cross-border donations, continue to create burdens for charitable work in Europe. Experts identified two major trends defining the future of philanthropy on the continent: more tools in funding and giving as well as increased intersectoral cooperation between the philanthropic, political, and business sector.

The platform philanthropy needs right now

The Philanthropic Leadership Platform: China-Europe provides a much needed space for dialogue at the intersection of different philanthropic traditions, to develop solutions for the greater public good. The platform focusses on where and how China and Europe can be partners in joint philanthropic action, but it does not shy away from addressing the tensions deriving from the fact that China and Europe are economic competitors and systemic rivals.

To this end, the platform offers participants detailed insights into the philanthropic landscapes of China and European countries; funding strategies to proactively cope with the aftermath of the pandemic; and strategies for solutions to today’s crises and collaboration mechanisms to achieve them. A great example would be philanthropic organisations in China and Europe working on approaches to solve the global climate crisis with local government actors through bottom-up civil society engagement and funding.

A vision for China-Europe relations in philanthropy

The problems we face are too great for anyone to solve them alone. Collaboration among the world’s philanthropic actors is a necessity if scarce resources are to be distributed effectively and sustainably for a better tomorrow. Moreover, truly global solutions for global crises and their local ramifications need Chinese perspectives and participation. Furthermore, there are similar challenges in China and Europe to be solved: from deforestation and draught to decarbonisation and energy transition, from top-down policy recommendations to bottom-up implementation in society.

The candid exchanges opened up by the platform strengthen the intercultural competence of philanthropic actors in China and Europe. Direct and personal encounters between China and Europe create moments of learning and reflection about philanthropic action under  different political conditions. This strengthens organisations’ cooperation competence through tolerance for ambivalence while not losing sight of one’s own interests and goals. It also increases the chance for China-Europe philanthropic cooperation in other countries.

Despite the severe political developments for civil society in China over the last decades, people in China are still pushing to influence policies that shape their living environments. The Philanthropic Leadership Platform: China-Europe offers participants a unique glimpse at the tenaciousness and creativity of Chinese civil society actors – an important force to create a better future for us all – while keeping a pathway open for Chinese participants to connect with peers in Europe working on similar issues.

From 18-23 September, Stiftung Mercator is co-designing along with Philea and the China Foundation Forum a new edition of the Philanthropic Leadership Platform: China-Europe.

This international peer-learning programme brings together a cohort of 20 philanthropy professionals – 10 from China, 10 from Europe – for a one-week gathering in Brussels where they will embark on a learning journey featuring:

  • Comparative discussions on philanthropic practice in China & Europe
  • Exchanges on key global challenges (climate, economy, digitalisation) to understand how philanthropy in Europe & China can bring about transformative change in a multi-polar world
  • Practice-focused discussions on grantmaking and impact investing
  • Talks on collaboration and cross-sectoral partnerships, zooming in on working with local government

Apply now


Zhang Yan
Head of the Beijing Office, Stiftung Mercator
Christian Straube
Project Manager, Stiftung Mercator