It’s good to see you. Let’s build our relationship


Silke Breimaier


It has been exciting to be back on the conference floor at the #PhileaForum2022 in Barcelona. After two pandemic years and the convergence of EFC and Dafne in between, I had been wondering prior to the conference: What would be the overarching issues discussed? How would the atmosphere be? Had anything changed compared to pre-Covid times?

After three days packed with panel discussions, coffee break chats and evening mingle, I have mixed answers to my questions:

We touched upon many questions during the conference, without one single issue dominating the discussions, although the invasion of Ukraine of course has been present throughout the conference not least by the touching accounts of Ukrainian colleagues and their impressive examples of active civil society engagement under hardest circumstances.

On the one hand, we are still doing things the same way, big conferences work like they have ever done: panels with little interaction from the audience, delegates glued to their phones and – a specialty of philanthropy maybe – little disagreement or controversy on the topics discussed, which can leave one puzzled why little progress is made on some of our most pressing challenges such as climate change.

On the other hand, things have changed over the past few years: ‘The future of philanthropy is intersectional’ was the title of one session during the conference that my dear colleagues working on Inequality at the Robert Bosch Foundation co-organised together with Calala Women’s Fund,  Global Greengrants Fund and the Philea’s Disability Thematic Network, making the case for looking at the world through the interconnected lens of different identities each of us has but comes with reinforced discrimination for many already marginalised groups. Applying an intersectional view on philanthropy also means to reflect on the privileged positions of power many of us as funders hold.

This perspective chimes well with another inspiring discussion at the Forum on participatory grantmaking organized by Porticus, underlining the importance of including the ones affected by a decision into the decision-making process whilst at the same time being considerate about not to make such processes extractive and burdensome for those you are trying to serve.

Although these debates, which essentially center around how we share power and privilege as philanthropists, are not new and have been going for the past few years, I left Barcelona with the impression of a shift: more people are talking about these questions, more organisations are changing their practices towards a more equitable approach and our discussions about it have become more nuanced and action-oriented.

The pandemic has taught us many things but one of the positive outcomes might be this: foundations and funders realised that being trustful and flexible in their relationships with partners (as we were forced to be by the upheavals of the pandemic) did not cause chaos or reduce impact. It rather helped us to focus on what we are trying to achieve and let partnerships be based on what each and everyone involved best can bring to the table.

I see a big ‘window of opportunity’ here as we are slowly moving towards a ‘new normal’: Let’s not forget about these experiences but incorporate those learnings into our organisations and practices. Let’s build on those relationships we have formed and nurtured in many ways.

It’s been for a reason that the most-heard expression during the Forum has been a heartfelt ‘It’s good to see you!’. Let’s make sure we truly see and listen to each other.

Silke Breimaier is Senior Manager on Future Issues and Foundation Development at the Robert Bosch Stiftung. She writes in a personal capacity.

Tagged in: Philea 2022

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