I am writing this blog post on the plane, during my flight back to Cluj from Madrid. The vibe of the first #PEXforum2020 is still fresh after three days. As this rarely happens, I would have to agree with Felix Oldenburg that ‘the technical term’ for what just happened is ‘Wow!’.
The programme was intense, leaving me both drained and energised at the same time. With a wealth of information coming thick and fast, PEXForum 2020 has at times left me grasping for air and wishing that I could clone myself to attend different parallel sessions (mostly on data and research, of course!). At the same time, the process of co-creation had me pumped up (or as I have said in the title, PEX-ed!) beyond my wildest expectations. The diversity and commitment of the participants coming together to exchange ideas and forge a concrete action plan in order to generate and share reliable data on philanthropy for advocacy, research and planning purposes was truly awe inducing. Amidst outstanding academics, funders, researchers and support organisation representatives, we have seemed to find an increased openness to new ideas, ways of collaboration for a common goal and a willingness to put effort, energy and resources towards creating a common path and a new way forward for philanthropy. All in all, the PEXforum has filled me with a new hope, a feeling of belonging, a belief in the power of the philanthropic community.
I can’t remember many instances of feeling the same way after an event. Perhaps after the first edition of the Summit of the Industry of Good, which ARC organised for the first time in 2019 in Bucharest. The purpose was to gather forces and fuel hope in the dark times during which Romania was but a step away from sliding towards, and the illiberal path that several other Eastern European countries have taken in recent years. The event gathered representatives from nonprofits (association and foundations alike), responsible companies and corporate foundations, donors and investors, but also politicians that have elected to serve their constituents rather than their own self-interest. When we have coined the term of ‘the industry of good’, we have done so in order to achieve three objectives:
- Indicate that we are not the ‘third sector’ that is somehow less important than the other two
- Show that we can be more than the sum of its parts if we manage to collaborate for a common goal
- Change the way we think about civil society and expand the definition in order to include all individuals that despite not being part of the civil society (as traditionally viewed) are in fact contributing to bringing about systemic change in society
The reaction of several PEXForum 2020 participants to the idea of the industry of good has confirmed that we might be on to something. That this view resonates across types of organizations and countries, giving both a renewed sense of belonging and a widened pool for hope: the hope that together we can tackle enormous tasks if we are willing to share knowledge, data and resources.
Felix was right, Wow! Now, it is on us to make the ideas co-generated at the forum a reality. Let’s do this!
Dr. Lev Fejes is Head of Research at ARC Romania