17 June 2019

Solidarity through Diversity

The blog below is based on the acceptance speech of Barrow Cadbury Trust’s CEO, Sara Llewellin, for the prestigious Compass Award at the 2019 European Foundation Centre (EFC) Annual General Assembly in May 2019, in Paris.

I am a great believer that awards and honours are symbolic of the achievements of many hands and not of one person alone. In our foundation we work on structural change for social justice ends across a variety of disciplines. Structural change can never be brought about without many hands working together over a sustained period of time augmented with hefty doses of savvy, luck and timing. So an award to me is an award to all those many hands we work with in our own foundation, in other foundations and in civil society and beyond.

As an award though, this also comes at an opportune time, showing solidarity with us in the UK who remain determinedly European in the face of our impending changing status in the European Union. Thank you to the many of you who have extended the hand of friendship to us. And, of course, this is an award for all us women who have contributed to philanthropy over time and to the EFC itself over the past 30 years.

My first EFC board meeting was the 20th anniversary nearly 10 years ago. I was shocked to find only 3 other women in a roomful of 30 or so men. I want to pay tribute to those women – Ingrid Hamm, first Vice Chair, Suzanne Siskel and Betsy Campbell, who looked after me that week and have been a source of inspiration since. And to the men who supported us over the intervening years and even at times stood aside.

EFC governance has changed dramatically since then. Our first woman Chair, Ewa Kulik-Bielińska, brought a freshness to the role as a central/eastern European. Many other women colleagues have stepped up and contributed greatly. This diversity is crucial as I passionately believe that no good things flow from poor governance, wherever or whatever we are doing.

We are living in difficult times and facing many challenges. As we have explored over the past couple of days, there are threats to liberté and egalité which we must all play our part in changing. We started the conference by equating “philanthropie” to fraternité and I will add sisterhood to that and frame them together as solidarity. Sisterhood is powerful! As Antti Arjarva reminded me we are a broad church working in a wide variety of fields: research, climate change, culture, medicine, education and much more. Yet the key European values of liberté, egalité and solidarity can and must run through them all.

So let us all go back to work next week seeking to work in a spirit of equality and solidarity, using all the assets at our disposal to protect liberty, to increase equality and to keep improving the governance of our own organisations and that of those we support.




Sara Llewellin

Chief Executive, Barrow Cadbury Trust