2 December 2019

The 4th Annual Disability Funders’ Forum explores the EU Agenda for Disability Rights, the SDGs, impact measurement and more

The EFC’s Disability Thematic Network organised the 4th Annual Disability Funders’ Forum on 19-20 November, in Philanthropy House, Brussels, enabling foundations working on issues related to disability to connect with one other, explore potential synergies and get an update about what others are currently working on.

New participants had the chance to introduce themselves, their projects and learn more about the disability inclusion strategies funders are using with the 5×5 challenge. The challenge saw first time joiners of the forum; Michael Lorz, MyHandicap, Marjo Heinonen, Abilis Foundation and Niccolo Romano, Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena, presenting their work around disability inclusion using 5 slides in 5 minutes.

Following the 5×5 introductions the first policy session of the Annual Disability Funders’ Forum was kicked off with a keynote speech by Nicolas Schmit, the Commissioner-designate for Jobs and Social Rights. His intervention focused on the action plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, and Mr Schmit stressed that one of the priorities of the new commission will be to promote equality in the labour market for more inclusive growth. Mr Schmit stated that “the economy should work for people, not the other way around; and this should not remain as a nice expression but become the reality of our societies”. This renewed commitment to advance the rights of persons with disabilities to work and live in dignity was welcomed by the audience.

Mr Schmit’s keynote speech was followed by a panel exploring the European Disability Strategy, moderated by Lourdes Márquez de la Calleja, Head of Unit Social and International Relations, Fundación ONCE. In this panel, policymakers and sector representatives shared their views on the lessons learned from the previous strategy and offered insights on what to expect from the new one. Ms Katrin Langensiepen, German Member of the European Parliament, explained the key challenges in the fight for human rights, women and disability while Ms Inmaculada Placencia-Porrero, Senior Expert in Disability and Inclusion the European Commission, explored the main achievements of the strategy in the past ten years, along with stressing the need to reinforce the monitoring system and follow-up capabilities from member states. The Director of the European Disability Forum, Ms Catherine Naughton confirmed that the EDF will seek institutional compromise to promote the new strategy and highlighted the financial issues as one of the challenges to overcome. Mr Stelios Kympouropoulos, Greek Member of European Parliament rounded of the panel with a video message, echoing many of the points already raised, including the ever present need to mainstream disability in all EU policies.

The good practices session, moderated by Alicia Goya de Anca, Disability Hub Europe Secretariat, Fundación ONCE, shined a light onto how funders promote the disability-rights agenda through the SDGs. The inclusion of persons with disabilities in the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs offers a great opportunity for promoting the rights of persons with disabilities as for the first time, a global sustainability agenda includes the disability dimension. The speakers for this session, Andrew Griffiths, Head of Advocacy, Sightsavers and Jorge Manhique, former Programme Officer, Disability Rights Fund presented the challenges and opportunities that come with using the SDGs as a framework for philanthropic activities.

In regards to opportunities, the SDG framework provides a helpful point of reference for advocacy activities. Philanthropic actors can advocate at the national level for the effective, inclusive and participatory implementation of the 2030 Agenda, can support partnerships at the international level to share lessons and learn about successful strategies; and can hold governments accountable at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development for their Voluntary National Review. The SDG framework can also be used as a hook for key policy changes though, in terms of the challenges in applying an SDG framework, for projects in rural areas of developing countries they may be hard to follow. Furthermore, the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs aim to measure impact, yet no mechanisms for measuring the impact have yet been established.

The speakers suggested that to achieve the disability-related SDGs, overcome challenges and take advantage of the opportunities, persons with disabilities need to be included at every level of decision making when dealing with the sustainability global challenges, multi-stakeholder alliances and partnerships.

The ‘’Learning something new’’ session focused on measurement issues and was facilitated by Anna Cesari and Veronika Horvath, consultants for Organisational Development Support, who aimed to garner new ideas on how disability funders can describe the difference they make with their funding, and how they can support their grantees to improve their impact measurement.

The session first discussed the principles for responsible and effective monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL). The identified issues included ensuring proportionality of reporting and avoiding undue burden, prioritising questions according to real information needs, including user feedback, providing adequate MEL support to grantees, clarity in communicating about expectations, and encouraging the reporting of problems and learnings. The session then saw the participants split up into breakout groups to discuss one of three topics; developing indicators, theory of change and strengthening grantee capacity, guided by a set of questions, from which they would then report back with their findings to the group.

Finally a funders’ workshop provided participants with the opportunity to reflect about their learning experience and discuss how to build on these new learnings and insights.

For more information on the Disability Thematic Network or the Annual Disability Funders’ Forum, contact Sevda Kilicalp.


The EFC’s Disability Thematic Network is in the process of recruiting new members. If you wish to know more about disability inclusion strategies or want to discuss how to address specific challenges you are facing in the field of disability inclusion, do not hesitate to contact the network secretariat.  The network members are looking forwarding to bringing collective wisdom to support philanthropic practitioners in their daily work and strategic thinking.