Now free to read: Interview – Luc Tayart de Borms, King Baudouin Foundation


Alliance magazine


Luc Tayart de Borms

Part of the September 2013 issue of Alliance magzine – now free to read.

‘We have a convening power and a brand name power, in the sense that we are accepted in Belgium as a foundation that is working for the public interest.’

Belgium’s King Baudouin Foundation (KBF) is a large foundation in a small country. This potentially gives it an extremely powerful position. How does the foundation deal with this, Caroline Hartnell asked KBF managing director Luc Tayart de Borms.

Within Belgium, the
King Baudouin Foundation is a very powerful organization. At the same time, you address the issue of sharing power in some very explicit ways. Could you tell us how and why you devised them?
The history of the foundation is a curious one. We are not a foundation created by one individual or corporation or family. We were in a way created to serve the public interest, the interests of Belgian society. Parliament created the foundation and gave it to the king (pictured in a study for a portrait by Albert Crommelynck, 1971 − gift of the artist to the King Baudouin Foundation), who had been on the throne for 25 years, and the king gave it back to the nation as an independent foundation. So from the beginning the governing structure was one where the board tried to be a mirror of Belgian society. I think that is quite unique. I think we can be very proud of the way we do things, but partly the explanation is the way we were created.

What power does KBF have?

We have a convening power and a brand name power, if I can call it that, in the sense that we are accepted in Belgium, and more and more also in Europe, as a foundation that is working for the public interest. We are always involving different stakeholders, so the power of execution or implementation of a strategy doesn’t rest with either the board or the staff alone. Last year we had 1,700 people involved in expert groups, selection committees and so on.

Is this for defining programmes or implementing them and selecting grantees?

The board sets the overall strategy. To give an example, the board decided that one of the things we want to do is to change attitudes towards dementia in society. That’s difficult. It’s easier to change policies than to change attitudes in my opinion. So that’s quite an ambitious goal and we won’t achieve it with one tool; we will do it with grants, research, giving policy advice, etc. And around every project that is part of that overall objective, we have a group of people – experts who guide our staff on how best to do it. If we say we’re going to support local authorities around policies on dementia, then we will have a separate selection committee. In reframing Alzheimer’s, which is more research driven, we will have a group from the academic field looking at it. The board receives a mid-term report to see what is happening, but they will not intervene to say who will get grants or subcontractors, or in the framing at the academic level; all of that is delegated to committees where our staff are in fact the project managers.

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