Due Diligence at its best! Munich in May 2012. The members of a local youthgiving committee are discussing grant applications. The atmosphere on this Friday afternoon is a unique mixture of excitement, fun and seriousness. Robert* (12) just asked the representative of a local social enterprise initiative why they want to built a bakery in Kinshasa instead of another part of Congo. The representative of the Centre Ya Bana project – a school financed through a local bakery – explains why they decided on a school site in Kinshasa. He talks about their market analysis, but also of how important access to local networks has been for the decision. Clara (15) wonders why the oven for the bakery is so expensive and whether they could buy a used one. The grant applicant patiently also answers this question. This conversation continued for quite some time. When the representative of the Centre Ya Bana left, the seven members of the youth giving committee of the Munich-based charity Children For A Better World e.V. continued their discussion. On this day they discussed four additional grant applications with a maximum grant value of €1500 each.
During the last 5 years I have again and again looked into ways that young people can learn about giving. Such programs have already existed for a while in the US (for example Penny Harvest and Youth as Grantmakers), Canada (Youth Philanthropy Initiative) or in the UK (Giving Nation) In the US, philanthropy expert Susan Price has described such approaches in detail in her book The Giving Family: Raising Our Children To Help Others.
We already know quite a bit about the issue, but nevertheless right now I often get confronted with the question: how can young people learn more about giving? The answer is: create opportunities for children and youth as grantmakers! Why? Experience is the driver for learning. In youth-led organizations in Europe, such as Youth Bank or Schüler helfen Leben, young people have created such grantmaking spaces for themselves. They give back to their local communities or, in the case of Schüler helfen Leben, to their peers in the Balkans. Community foundations in Michigan have established youth grantmaking councils more then ten years ago. This initiative has turned into a cradle of new leadership for community and third-sector organizations.
Which other foundations, initiatives and NGOs support young people on their path to become engaged and active grantmakers? After the above-described experience at Children For A Better World’s youth giving committee, this organization and Active Philanthropy have decided to explore youth grantmaking initiatives. We are right now in the process of looking at several concrete cases in Germany. We are conducting interviews to find out the success criteria for such programs.
As part of this analysis we are also looking for reference projects around the world in which young people are grantmakers for a community foundation, a family foundation or a grantmaking NGO. Maybe you know about such a program in your community? If so, please do share your experience with us.
The results of our findings we will share with you on this blog later on this year. By the way, the most urgent question asked by the members of the youth giving committee with regards to the bakery/school in Congo was: when can the first children attend the school? We know how important education is!
* Names of committee members have been changed for privacy reasons.
Michael Alberg-Seberich is managing partner at Active Philanthropy