EFC Conference 2014: Organized by Friends

 
Terry Odendahl

Terry Odendahl

In an effort to show I could be a good blogger, I attended two unrelated, but actually interrelated sessions on the first full day of EFC.  Full disclosure.  They were each organized by friends.  What else did they have in common?  I suspect – no, I know – both want to change or at least ask European foundations to examine the way we do our work.

My early morning meeting was with the new “Thematic Network on gender equality,” launched in February in Brussels.  Twelve of us attended. Some people were missing. They might have been on planes that couldn’t land in Sarajevo. Two of us were brave men, even though we all believe gender does not = women. We are going to: collect case studies; do action learning; go on study visits; creat a database of good gender grantmaking practices; explore providing professional development support; and try to convene joint sessions with other EFC networks to show that grantmaking with a gender lens is more effective. However, we will proceed more slowly than some would like because we do understand that we mostly work among “men in suits.”

Right after lunch, off I ran, through the rain, to “Sea Change or Hard to See Change?  Are Foundations Making Enough of a Difference?” In their 4th episode in four years, questionnaires, hats, skits and unfortunately blank slides made what was obviously a carefully organized session appear chaotic.  Still, most of us had fun finding out how we really do our work, by analyzing the “The Do Good Foundation on the Island of Trouble.”

Ask yourself these questions. Are we agents of change? What is our attitude toward being agents of change? We were told the results of a “BS” Survey with 54 respondents at the highest levels in European foundations. Only four of those funders feature the word “change” in their mission statement, but 54.55% embrace change.  Barry Knight, with characteristic humor, said there was a “left leaning distribution…”

We heard, not unexpectedly, about, “social impact, the next frontier,” and  “lasting sustainable change.” We understand we are all so virtuous, whatever our attitudes (which predict our behavior) or our styles.

The best aspect of both sessions is that we took time to listen and talk with each other.  Bravo to the organizers.

Terry Odendahl, Global Greengrants Fund.

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