30 September 2019

The 4th edition of the Philanthropic Leadership Platform – China-Europe took to Beijing to share experiences, ideas and inspirations on an intercontinental level

The 4th edition of the Philanthropic Leadership Platform – China-Europe took place in Beijing from 15 to 22 September and provided countless opportunities for its 20 participants to learn about the major forms of philanthropy being practised worldwide, dive into current trends, explore internal and external challenges to the sector, and find out about the cultural context that has shaped these developments.

The event brought together 10 participants from China and 10 participants from across Europe to share their experiences, ideas and inspirations, learn from each other and then return with these findings to their own organisations and teams. From the very beginning, the exchange aimed to create not only professional but personal links among the participants, an effective method for catalysing understanding between philanthropic practitioners and encouraging the sharing of more personal goals, sources of motivation and development paths.

The opening session featured remarks from leading figures in the Chinese philanthropy field such as Prof. Zhenyao Wang, Dean of the China Global Philanthropy Institute, alongside a personal video message from EFC Chief Executive, Gerry Salole. These opening remarks highlighted the various challenges facing society, both in the West and the East, and stressed the responsibility of philanthropy to make connections between their internal work and environmental changes. China has experienced a remarkable period of rapid development and economic growth and in parallel to this the philanthropy field has also been on the rise. This correlation is important as philanthropic organisations need to pay more attention to the developments of the economic, political and social systems and reflect upon their implications for the role of philanthropy.

The week’s programme featured various discussions, debates and presentations including early insights into philanthropy’s role in history, with Prof. Zhenyao Wang presenting on the traditions of Chinese philanthropy, and the EFC’s Sevda Kilicalp walking the group through a brief history of philanthropy in the Western world and its development from pagan to later Christian traditions of giving and on to its secularisation and rationalisation in the 16th century. Both discussions highlighted that philanthropy is by no means a new concept to society, and drew forward the idea that many answers to present day issues could be found by reconnecting and reconciling with the cultural and ethical roots of philanthropy in the past.

Haoming Huang, Deputy Dean of the China Global Philanthropy Institute and Rupert Strachwitz, Chairman of the Maecenata Foundation would lead separate discussions looking more at philanthropy and the present day, emphasising both the various challenges and opportunities presenting themselves to philanthropic organisations, along with the current trends and developments these organisations find themselves having to navigate respectively.

The participants had a chance to meet and hear from eminent Chinese social entrepreneurs and social investors including Robin Lu, Chief Strategy Officer of First Respond, Qiang Dong, Associate Professor at the China Agricultural University, Beiwei Li, Secretary General of Yifang Foundation, Jun Ma, Founder of Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) and Da Mao, Co-founder of China Zero Waste Alliance. These meetings showcased some of many Chinese foundations that have emerged as major driving forces for social investment in China, via impact investing, green finance, and technology-enabled tools.

Workshops aiming to help the participants to lead change and operationalise strategy from a management level, and another that sought to aid in improving leadership skills through the recognition of self-awareness, and understanding of empathy and sympathy models were respectively run by Neil Van der Meer, Operations Director, Bernard van Leer Foundation, and Chao Wang, Professor at the National Development Institute of Peking University. These workshops were juxtaposed with later sessions taking on more informal structures and involving fireside conversations in a traditional Chinese tea house with the speakers, to learn more about their personal stories, help develop intimate bonds, and better understand the contexts of their lessons.

Site visits added to and enhanced the many discussions and learning’s from the programme, allowing the participants to witness philanthropy in action and learn more about the day to day work, challenges and stories of 3 separate Chinese organisations. These organisations; the Beijing Sicheng Community Foundation, one of the most diverse community foundations in China, Friends of Nature, one of the earliest nationwide environmental NGO’s in China and the Yifang Foundation, a leading player for social investment in China, welcomed the participants in their groups to meet, learn and share from their staff and also provided the occasion to explore more of Beijing.

The final day of the exchange was dedicated to sharing personal and group reflections on the lessons, thoughts and feelings developed and provided by the programme and allowed an opportunity for the participants to meet, develop and plan for further collaboration in the future, both transcontinental and within their respective regions.

The Philanthropic Leadership Platform – China-Europe is funded by Stiftung Mercator and led by the EFC in partnership with China Global Philanthropy Institute.

For further information on the 2019 edition of the Philanthropic Leadership Platform: China-Europe contact Sevda Kilicalp.