8 July 2020

Resourcing revival and resilience building

Over the past few months, the coronavirus crisis has mobilised an unprecedented emergency response from the European philanthropic community, clearly demonstrating its ability to adapt operations and show up as agile and innovative actors. A recent report by EFC noted that some 80% of respondents had launched new initiatives in response to the crisis, such as emergency funds and research projects. Between March and June, DAFNE curated a now-archived European Resource Hub document of relevant information and initiatives for philanthropy support organisations in Europe during this time of crisis, some of which were highlighted in our previous snapshot write-up and featured in the European Philanthropy and Social Investing Impact Hub “Unitus Europe”.

With the number of acute cases of Covid-19 decreasing and Europe slowly opening again, the question remains as to how philanthropy can maintain this newfound agility, support Europe’s revival through the looming economic and political crises emerging post-Covid-19, and build a resilient civil society, more equitable and better equipped for future points of crisis. With this in mind, DAFNE has created the European Resource Hub 2.0 “COVID-19 Revival & Philanthropy” where resources relevant to philanthropy infrastructure organisations during the resilience building phase will be collected. Herewith I would like to provide an updated snapshot of what is happening in the field as we transition to this revival phase.

Rethinking philanthropy

In an effort to better understand the crisis and the role of philanthropic entities in response, some writers looked to previous crises such as the Great Recession to offer insight and context into ‘disaster philanthropy’. McKinsey & Company took a different approach by studying the philanthropic sector’s response as a way of reflecting on philanthropy’s future role. The report, “Reimagining European Philanthropy”, calls on European foundations to remain flexible, fast, innovative, and bold. Similarly, in order for philanthropy to take informed decisions going forward, ERNOP is coordinating several research projects on the effects of COVID-19 for philanthropy. Within our own philanthropy networks, more than 20 people joined four consecutive workshops, hosted by DAFNE and ECFI in May and June, using scenario thinking to explore philanthropy’s role in building resilience within civil society.

Whatever the reimagined role for European philanthropy will be, it is clear that the current moment of crisis and widening societal gaps is a turning point, whereby philanthropy needs to step out of its reactive cycle of project funding and consider systemic alternatives that help establish more long-term solutions. The Grant Givers’ Movement report, for example, highlights that more than half of the surveyed UK foundations are trying to rebalance power in the sector. Ashoka and McKinsey addressed this in their annual collaboration, inviting additional partners to co-create a report “Embracing complexity: Towards a shared understanding of funding systems change”.

Resourcing an equitable and sustainable recovery

With economies across Europe starting up again, philanthropy needs to ask itself where to contribute its resources. Some suggestions include: supporting local community changemakers and strengthening minority voices; resourcing people to think through what the new normal should look like by introducing policies such as the UBI and Green Deal; or investing in shaping the public narrative, rooted in social and economic rights that protect human dignity. The UNDP identified 7 explicit tipping points on the “Pathway to recovery”:  human rights and multilateralism, peace, digital disruption, inclusion and diversity, climate and nature-based transition, capabilities, and the social contract.

Arundhati Roy described the pandemic as a portal, “a gateway between one world and the next”. As we emerge out of the crisis into unknown territories, we have an opportunity to choose what we bring with us and what we leave behind. In practice this will require a lot more urgent cross-sectoral collaboration and self-reflection than the image of stepping through a portal might suggest. Nonetheless, as the pandemic has shed light on and exacerbated pre-existing inequalities, voices are rising to offer solutions that could indeed turn this crisis into an opportunity for action on climate change, digitalisation, equity, and building a more resilient civil society. Involving those with lived experience of injustice in this revival phase is crucial in ensuring we know what the needs are in building a more equitable and just society. Philanthropic institutions are therefore being called on to be more intentional and accountable in their responses so as to avoid inadvertently perpetuating existing injustices, inequities and biases.