24 June 2022

The New European Bauhaus (NEB) and philanthropy

On 9 June, the European Commission kick-started The Festival of The New European Bauhaus (NEB): four days of webinars, debates, expert panels, and art exhibitions where the “soul of the EU Green Deal” was finally unveiled. The main venues for the NEB Festival were in Brussels, but dozens of activities took place in many other European cities and were made accessible through online streaming. In this spirit, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen opened the Festival, sharing the stage with Diébédo Francis Kéré, the 2022 winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, at the MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome. To allow maximum outreach and visibility, the session was streamed to Brussels.

How the New European Bauhaus came to life

Dessau, Kaliningrad, Chicago, Tel Aviv, Ascona, Paul Klee, Kandinsky, Anni Albers, László Moholy Nagy, Iwao Yamawaki, The “State Bauhaus”, founded in Weimar in 1919 by Walter Gropius and friends ‒ were all elements in an international movement for architecture, art and design. The Bauhaus movement influenced creative thinking, furniture, and city landscapes throughout the world for over a century. Inspired by this ingenious avant-garde, President Ursula von der Leyen launched the idea of a New European Bauhaus in her State of the Union address 2020: “I want NextGenerationEU to kick-start a European renovation wave and make our Union a leader in the circular economy… The New European Bauhaus will be a driving force to bring the European Green Deal to life in an attractive, and innovative and human-centred way. It will be a movement based on sustainability, accessibility and aesthetics to bring the European Green Deal closer to people and make recycling, renewable energies and biodiversity natural.” The New European Bauhaus is not just an environmental or economic project, “it needs to be a new cultural project for Europe,” said von der Leyen.

Philanthropy’s role in the New European Bauhaus

The idea of the New European Bauhaus ‒ which seeks to address green and digital challenges along the values of sustainability, aesthetics and inclusion, and which was conceived as a co-creation space where architects, artists, students, engineers and designers work together ‒ is an attractive movement in which philanthropy can play a crucial role, and not just as co-investor or co-funder. As President von der Leyen reaffirmed during the NEB Festival: “Fundamental change requires more than just money and laws: It requires millions of ideas and the enthusiasm of citizens, businesses and scientists alike.” The role of philanthropy as a convener and as a connector to local knowledge and practices cannot be missed. This is why Philea, Assifero, and the European Cultural Foundation became official partners and are actively contributing to the NEB initiative and community. The adhesion to the NEB provides a unique opportunity to link Philea’s work on the enabling environment for philanthropy with issue-based advocacy in relation to Philea’s Arts and Culture Thematic Network. In particular, the Thematic Network launched the “Philanthropy Talks” series with the aim of “Building links between the Environment, and the Arts and Culture”. In this series, the network invites the philanthropy sector to reflect on how to align arts and culture with environmental solutions, considering the increasing number of creative and cultural responses that are emerging to combat the environment crisis. In parallel to this series of webinars, the members of the network will collaboratively create guidelines for foundations supporting the arts and culture to become a driver for change both within their organisations and across the sector. These guidelines will be a concrete contribution to the NEB.

The European Commission invited Philea and the European Cultural Foundation to join forces in the “NEB Lab: Innovative Funding”, which explores new funding models and cooperation mechanisms between public and private funders. A report with the conclusions of this work is expected in July 2022. This initiative is part of a bigger collaborative exercise looking at ways for the EU and philanthropy to work more structurally together and to scale their impact through co-investment and collaboration. It is part of the Social Economy Action Plan (SEAP, page 18), exploring, among others, new financial products under InvestEU. The European Commission is represented by DG JRC, responsible for the NEB, as well as DG ECFIN, which holds expertise on the development of financial tools co-created with philanthropy. Philea has been engaging with DG ECFIN on these new tools and comes in from this perspective, as well as with its expertise on the wider enabling environment for philanthropy. The European Cultural Foundation has long-standing expertise on European philanthropy, not the least of which is reflected in its recent report “Philanthropy with a European Purpose”. Other organisations involved in the NEB Lab, as well as the timeline and further details, can be found on the website.

Exciting momentum to build on

The New European Bauhaus is an exciting opportunity for the EU and philanthropy to work together on making Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050. There is still a long way to go for this collaboration to unfold in all its dimensions, and to achieve more leverage and impact. Strategic exchanges must go beyond the funding issue, and Philea will continue conversations around the NEB in its Arts and Culture Thematic Network, and at the occasion of its annual “EuroPhilantopics” event and connecting policymakers and philanthropy to address Europe’s challenges and find solutions together.


Hanna Hanses
Policy Manager