Preparing for the future takes a good understanding of global trends, an analytic mind, and new instruments for community action.
The FFCR Conference was an insightful and powerful event celebrating 15 years of community foundations in Romania and ten years since the Romanian Federation of Community Foundations (FFCR) was established. The conference took place in Bucharest on September 19 – 21, 2022. The event brought together 18 community foundations from Romania with guests from various countries, such as Ukraine, Chile, Mexico, and the UK. The joyful energy of the participants is the highlight that underpinned all discussions, transforming the conference into a powerful experience.
The highly energetic conference offered a series of plenaries, study visits, and workshops for community foundations’ staff, board members, and partners. The event touched upon community foundations’ local impact and stories from local communities, response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukrainian refugee crisis, innovation in community work, board development, STE(A)M education in Romania (i.e., the Științescu Program), organisational resilience, communication strategies. Not least, the conference addressed more substantively how community foundations can strengthen the sustainability of their communities through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Today, the sustainability of local communities is challenged from multiple perspectives; therefore, we explored in more detail the direction of several global trends and how they are playing out in local communities. The increasing pressures from climate change, humanitarian crises, the COVID-19 pandemic, growing inequalities, and an enhanced digitalisation process considerably transform local communities. A key question relates to the agency that local communities exert in the face of such transformations – will they remain passive actors, or will they become active in shaping the future?
Global pressures demand new and nuanced approaches and responses from community organisations such as community foundations. We, therefore, reflected on the need for adapting strategies and actions of community foundations to enable a better understanding of global trends and to support local communities to become better prepared for facing their consequences.
How can community foundations be better prepared in the current global context? Relying on the Sustainable Development Goals is a good start that opens multiple insights about sustainability and potentially helpful indicators for tracking progress at a local level. Furthermore, potential tools such as foresight exercises, more global cooperation, enhanced global visibility, and more connection to research can strengthen the capacity of community foundations to support local communities as they are undergoing transformations yet to be deciphered.
To stand up to the task, community foundations need:
- continuous strategic guidance that is well-tuned to how global trends evolve,
- an in-built analytic capacity to comprehend how the respective global trends impact local community realities,
- well-tuned instruments to incentivise community action in accordance, and
- enhanced advocacy impact for shaping a future that serves local communities.
Dr Stefan Cibian is co-founder and executive director of the Făgăraș Research Institute, where he is also leading the Center on Global Affairs and Postdevelopment. He is a board member of the Romanian Federation of Community Foundations, the Association for the Practice of Transformation, and Țara Făgărașului Community Foundation.