26 May 2020

When digital means more, not less – DAFNE Summer Meeting in an online format

by Sabine Friedel, Association of German Foundations

To start with the end: in the “Looking Ahead” session, my group agreed that all of us would not have met or participated in the DAFNE Summer Meeting had it been held in Vienna as planned and not in the virtual space. We also agreed that, in future, personal meetings will be important but that a mix would be perfect so that DAFNE becomes more inclusive and more real to its members.

Now back to the beginning: due to “the current situation” – a euphemism for the corona crisis which means no travelling, no gathering, etc. – DAFNE shifted its meeting to a virtual conference the biggest advantage being that over 70 people met there as most member organisations “sent” more than one representative.

In my thematic session on the Climate Commitment, we heard examples from the UK, France, and Spain where member organisations have started to implement agreements in an attempt to mitigate the climate crisis. They presented their commitments and activities, shared practices that worked well, and discussed difficulties, especially in creating consensus among members. In a short plenary session we shared summaries with the other thematic session on Gender. The consequences of the Covid crisis arose as a common issue for both gender and climate, with discussions around how the changes in society will impact activities and plans in the respective areas.

Due to the huge interest in Next Philanthropy, this third thematic session was open to everybody. What do we associate with Next Philanthropy? What should Next Philanthropy look like and how can we make that happen? What should Next Philanthropy leave behind? These were the guiding questions. Interestingly, the most important aspects that each group reported back to the plenary were very similar: more collaboration and exchange topping the list, followed by more diversity and better involvement of target groups and new stakeholders in decision making. In order to avoid repetition, the rapporteurs focused on aspects that had not been mentioned by other groups, some questioning the alleged opposition between Next Philanthropy as something progressive and modern and so-called traditional philanthropy. It was suggested that both forms of philanthropy co-exist and represent the diversity of the sector. When discussing Next Philanthropy, it is relevant to take into account what is already out there, which includes looking to what happens internationally.

Considering all this, the DAFNE Summer Meeting was definitely “Next Philanthropy”: digital, more collaborative, international, participatory and inclusive of new stakeholders. We were, though, still all part of the same bubble – a word that I heard often. What we definitely need is more involvement of those we work for, more trust, less control, and maybe more risk.

After the coffee break, the DAFNE team had prepared a little surprise for us: there was a yoga instructor who made us do some exercises (thankfully without camera) in order to move our bodies,which was most welcome to disrupt from our rigid positions in front of the screens. On all accounts, the DAFNE team did a great job in organising that Summer Meeting in this new format. They made sure to facilitate active exchange and networking as well as interesting conversations in many break-out groups, so that the five hours flew by.

The last session, the reflection about the learnings from the Covid-19 crisis and looking ahead, astonishingly revealed many positive aspects of the crisis. As human beings, it has brought us closer together, with more interest in the well-being of each other. It made foundations and organisations more flexible and faster to react, it has shown us new ways of co-operation and it definitely catapulted us into the digitisation of our work. Let’s keep up that spirit!

Sabine Friedel, Association of German Foundations