My last sessions at the EFC’s 2019 Conference followed a wonderful site visit to ‘le Plus Petit Cirque du Monde’, a circus school as well as a haven for artists, a social networking laboratory and platform for international exchange. Nestled within the Tertres-Cuverons in Bagneux, this enterprise promotes citizenship and solidarity within an historically deprived suburb of Paris, and was a true delight.
The first session of the afternoon was Building inclusive leadership in cities, which spoke about citizens becoming decision makers, and asked how philanthropy can increase the different definitions of inclusion within cities. Susan Treadwell (Open Society Initiative for Europe), moderated between Ashleigh Gardere (New Orleans Business Alliance for Economic Development) and Marcin Gerwin (Gdańsk Citizen Assembly).
The centre of gravity is moving towards cities… it’s not just about shifting the power, but about distributing it.
Gerwin began by explaining the concept of a citizen assembly; namely, a group of people randomly selected with certain demographic criteria (gender, age, etc.), constituting a city on a small scale (usually around 50-60 individuals). Discussing topics of national importance and given authority to take action – for example, when a recommendation reaches the support of 80 per cent within the assembly, the mayor has to implement this. ‘The centre of gravity is moving towards cities’ said Treadwell. ‘It’s not just about shifting the power, but about distributing it.’
Gardere spoke of setting up the New Orleans Business Alliance, and its roots back in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. ‘We had elected officials – mayors, a city council – in power to make big decisions on behalf of the citizenry. After Katrina, our focus was invested in resident engagement on the ground’. Gardere described large ballrooms and convention centre spaces designing what the future of the city ought to look like, which then went into the neighbourhoods. ‘Philanthropy made a decision that our collective support would test what it would like for residents’ visions to redevelop their community. We thought that this innovation could be scaled to city level’ – which it turns out it could.
Treadwell asked what the conditions are for a government to cede such power, and noted in particular that Gdańsk’s mayor was murdered recently. Gerwin responded that Gdańsk is currently ‘the only place in the world where the citizens can initiate the Citizen Assembly by getting signatures under a motion to the mayor, and when it reaches 5,000 – the mayor can’t refuse it.’
Gardere said that ‘robust conversations’ need to happen about ‘courageous leadership, with people willing to lean in and make a difficult decision’. Trust has to be cultivated, and it is important to believe that the community are the solution-makers, she added.
All of us know what it is to be busy, that’s lived experience. But what you decide is a priority is what you think will make the most difference
In Gardere’s experience in New Orleans, to empower the ‘everyday citizen’ means dealing with place-based economic development in communities which have been excluded. ‘52 per cent of black men are not working. If that’s the context you’re operating in, as a black male not successful in this economy, what would make you get up tomorrow and do something different? We had to make sure our programs were excellent, and that they delivered… All of us know what it is to be busy, that’s lived experience. But what you decide is a priority is what you think will make the most difference.’
Both Gardere and Gerwin spoke of the necessity of offering food and childcare, so as to better encourage more inclusive representations of their communities. For Gardere, city-wide language interpreters have been a must, whilst in Poland Gerwin said that they were ready and able to support those with disabilities.
So many of these conversations are about power; which policies get prioritised, what programs move forward and the institutions that get built.
In terms of lessons looking back, Gardere said that if they had to do the rebuild over again, ‘instead of focusing on community development, housing and civic engagement, we would have focused on jobs and wealth… so many of these conversations are about power; which policies get prioritised, what programs move forward and the institutions that get built.’ It is important to shift priorities around who holds wealth, and who has the opportunity to be prosperous.
Gerwin agreed that it is important to interrogate the way decisions are made behind any topic in society and gave the examples of the environment and gender equality. ‘There is someone making a decision in a certain way – who is making this decision? In whose interest? And how?’ Gerwin’s aim of deliberate democracy is in order to create ‘the right way of making decisions’.
Treadwell ended the panel discussion by referencing the power represented in the room, and that we tend to think about power in ‘finite terms’, that someone has to lose power in order to gain power. ‘But it’s not a zero sum game.’
The session which followed was Sustainable food systems, a multi-dimensional challenge for our future – What role for funders?
Damien Conaré (UNESCO Chair on World Food Systems) began with a graph-heavy presentation on the importance, and yet momentous challenge, of sustainable food systems. Referencing the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Conaré said that a ‘deliberate systems lens’ is needed ‘to understand the intersection around health, climate and food.’ The timing has never been more necessary or urgent, both in daring to change the way we make policies, and also in adopting policies themselves on food systems.
In talking about ‘food systems’, said Conaré, we mean ‘reducing food waste, improving our diet, producing sustainable nutritious food, innovation in food systems and markets’. There are a huge range of actors involved in the production, process and distribution of food products that originate from agriculture, forestry or fisheries. It is a continuous process of interactions, spanning time and geographic space.
‘Why do we need a systemic approach?’ asked Conaré. ‘It is a way of thinking and doing that considers the food system in its totality, taking into account all the elements, their relationships and related effects. It is not confined to one single sector, and considers all variables.’
We are living in an urban world. Since 2007, there is now a higher urban rather than rural population globally.
Cities and regions are emerging as major actors in this movement, said Conaré. We need system actors to reconnect ‘in a way that restores democracy’, such as through the Urban Food Policy Act, which is a network of cities tackling urban food systems. A pioneer of this was in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. ‘We are living in an urban world. Since 2007, there is now a higher urban rather than rural population globally.
Next to speak was Vicente Domingo (World Sustainable Urban Food Centre of Valencia), which is the world’s first. ‘We have three main objectives: to capture knowledge around the world to achieve a sustainable, local food system; to manage the catalogue of all of that wonderful information, and third, to guide those players and regional governments to set up strategies or projects to achieve global, sustainable food systems.’
Elena Jachia (Fondazione Cariplo), spoke of Cariplo’s work around agricultural issues and in particular, their support of sustainable agriculture diffusion in the area around Milan. Jachia also referenced the European Foundations for Sustainable Agriculture and Food (EFSAF), which was ‘born inside the EFC, an appendix, something pushed by a few environmental network members several years ago.’ In the beginning, said Jachia, EFSAF was ‘more concerned about countries’ development, but rapidly it has concentrated on European policies, and the commentary on agricultural policy.’ Sharing a lot of principles, such as the recognition of the link between agriculture and climate change, as well as facilitating access to healthy food, EFSAF decided ‘to have a flat structure as a group. Every foundation can participate, sharing the principles’. Every foundation does ‘its best activity’ said Jachia, from coalitions, to research, to campaigning, to supporting grassroots movements.
Marie-Stéphane Maradeix (Fondation Daniel & Nina Carasso), presented next. A family foundation founded in 2010, ‘systemic approach to food systems is in our DNA’. For Carasso, one of their biggest strategies has been through impact investing. Maradeix said that Carasso wanted ‘to create synergies with an environmental return’, leveraging the latter against a positive, or perhaps neutral, financial return. ‘At Carasso, your investment policy has to be coherent with your grantmaking strategy – a new way to have more impact with what you want to achieve.’
Maradeix also mentioned the Divest-Invest Global Movement. Starting with universities, it asked organisations to divest from fossil fuel companies and instead invest in those that mitigate climate change. ‘You can do the same with the food industry,’ said Maradeix. ‘When you try to organise your portfolio management, consider that impact investing is a powerful way to have more impact on food systems.’
This is not only about food, but an entire global system related to people, health, education, climate change, sustainable development… it’s an holistic program with so many different actors
Domingo said his mission is to try to reactivate local, traditional markets with social entrepreneurs. Domingo wants to make a collaborative space and make others understand that ‘this is not only about food, but an entire global system related to people, health, education, climate change, sustainable development… it’s an holistic program with so many different actors.’ Referencing the history of agriculture, he noted that we are citizens, that we have society, only through the discovery of agricultural practices around 12,000 years ago. ‘It is the origin of our civilisations… cities are more or less older than our countries.’ This dialogue between cities and their food systems means that they are sharing their information and their practices. ‘If we don’t change soon, we will see terrific consequences. It is obvious. People call you apocalyptic, but it is clear and you can see it every day and it will increase dramatically.’
The problem of overproduction and overconsumption is real, agreed the panel. Philanthropy can help to cross state lines: climate change and its consequences will not stop between the borders of Germany and Poland, or the US and Mexico.
The last session of the conference which I attended was LGBTI activism in Europe – Shifting funding paradigms.
Moderated by Matthew Hart (Global Philanthropy Project), this session presented and explored the findings based on the GPP’s collaborative report they commissioned with ILGA-Europe. The GPP, Hart explained, is a collaboration of 19 funders working to expand philanthropic support to advance the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and intersex people in the Global South and East.
This report is for existing funders of the LGTBI movements in Europe and Central Asia, European governments, funders who support human rights and development issues in Europe and Central Asia, LGBTI funders who don’t currently prioritise funding in these regions and LGBTI organisations themselves.
The context of this report presents dynamic findings, with incredible resource disparity. ‘This report is a tool you can use when you think of including LGBTI funding in your portfolios,’ said Hart. It ‘cracks the myth that these issues are uniformly funded. Recognise the vulnerability.’
Björn van Roozendaal (ILGA-Europe), told the audience that they wanted to give them a taste of some of the data within the report. Noting that this was the first time that LGBTI conversations have had their own session at the EFC, it was important to recognise the regression of LGBTI policies across Europe. ‘This troubling trend we’re experiencing across sectors is something that LGBTI organisations have called the ‘closing space’ long before others,’ said Hart. ‘We used to call it, “state-sanctioned homophobia”.’
Don’t be too prescriptive about what ‘LGBTI work’ looks like, or what the groups you think you might fund look like
The panel comprised of grantmakers, activists and those that run big, regional networks about the ‘lived experience’ of this data. First to unpack it was Beth Fernandez (Sigrid Rausing Trust). The SRT is a member of the GPP, and a leading grantmaker in supporting LGBTI organisations in all regions that this report covers. Asked about what advice Fernandez would give to grantmakers considering incorporating an LGBTI focus, she replied:
‘Don’t repeat the mistakes I made at the beginning of my philanthropic career! Don’t be too prescriptive about what ‘LGBTI work’ looks like, or what the groups you think you might fund look like.’ Fernandez noted that the work which tends to get funded is along the lines of strategic litigation, or advocacy for legislative change. ‘This is understandable, as we’re looking for systemic change. But even during the ‘good times’’ – which Fernandez is at pains to point out that we’re not – ‘it leaves two risks. One, that we leave the real needs of a community behind, such as through accessing safe housing or employment, and two, it leaves the general public behind.’
Fernandez cited that 65 per cent of LGBTI groups surveyed struggled to get funding for direct services, like communications work or community organising. These services are in vital need of funding, too.
Next to speak was Miroslawa Makuchowska (Campaign Against Homophobia – KPH), who gave a very candid talk about her adolescent struggle with internalised homophobia. Having grown up thinking that being a lesbian was ‘shameful, a disaster’, with ‘no safe spaces for people like me’, Makuchowska came to KPH 13 years ago. ‘I come from a Polish LGBT organisation and our journey is focusing on strategic litigation, but our priority now is how to engage young people in contacting their politicians.’ Coming to KPH was the ‘first time I thought I didn’t have to be ashamed. It was groundbreaking… meeting the basic needs of communities is crucially important.’
As important as advocacy work, says Makuchowska, are ‘organisations that are providing space for language, building power and creating a space for joy’. Broad political movement building and solidarity work, she says, is a ‘critical strategy in stabilising and advancing the conditions for the stabilisation of rights.’
Emina Bošnjak (Sarajevo Open Centre), explained that they are very keen to engage with other movements. Sarajevo’s first Pride March is happening this September, and they’re determined to ‘raise the visibility of a community that is very much still invisible. But we’re not just going to do it for LGBTI visibility, but for many other movements whose freedom of assembly is very limited’. An example of this, says Bošnjak, is those victimised by police violence.
The SOC’s strategic decision is to tackle what ‘we think is the basis for the problems for all women and LGBTI people: heteronormativity and patriarchy.’ Bošnjak stated that once they started working on advocacy and changing hate crime legislation, it was ‘important to have an image as working for gender equality and women’s rights in order to get a meeting with decision makers in the first place.’ For women, Bošnjak said, it can be seen that certain rights they have achieved have been repealed; it was important for SOC to use this progress to not forget women in their efforts to secure LGBTI rights.
There is a challenge in needing traditional LGBTI funders to meet them in the ‘complex places that LGBTI organisations and feminist organisations necessarily occupy in order to do the work’
‘It is very difficult to get funding for both women and LGBTI grants,’ said Bošnjak. Yet it is important to combine these in meaningful ways, and to listen to the community’s concerns and basic needs – namely, domestic violence, familial harassment, and abuse in schools. ‘We as movements need time and resources to help others, or to engage with others that are a real threat’. There is a challenge in needing traditional LGBTI funders to meet them in the ‘complex places that LGBTI organisations and feminist organisations necessarily occupy in order to do the work’.
Last to speak was Nina Spataru (Oak Foundation). A private family foundation based in Switzerland, Spataru said that ‘initially there was a bit of resistance from our trustees in establishing an identity-based mission’. There were concerns about mission scatter, with the limited knowledge and staff time available. At the beginning, said Spataru, the Oak Foundation’s entry in this area was through torture and detention. ‘We funded a lot of litigation about six years ago, and realised quite quickly that in countries where same sex relationships aren’t criminalised, there’s still institutionalised homophobia’. As a result of this, Spataru and her team sought ‘a mandate from our trustees to establish a self-standing strategic strand to look at these issues and commission a research piece’. This was the 2013-2014 Global Resources Report.
We have the first indicators of a backlash in 10 years. We’re seeing a number of Western countries where political commitments are starting to fade. There is a very real urgency in raising these issues and building bridges.
Van Roozendaal told the audience that with Russia’s positioning of themselves against the West, he knew that it was going to very heavily affect the agenda of ILGA’s work to come. ‘It has created the space for the atrocities in Azerbaijan and Chechnya, and has allowed others to take up against LGBTI issues as a rights issue.’ In 2014, the EU took a very active stance on LGBTI issues in their policies, said van Roozendaal. However, gains that were made then are now under threat today. ‘We have the first indicators of a backlash in 10 years. We’re seeing a number of Western countries where political commitments are starting to fade. There is a very real urgency in raising these issues and building bridges.’ Working together is about raising your voice with another, not merely walking hand-in-hand, he says. The importance of intersectional community organising is clearer than ever; the case has now been made to those LGBT foundations who do not fund in Europe.
The resounding message to funders was for them to continue to do the work that they’re doing, to invest in their core mission, but to understand and see that LGBT actors are a key part of this. All foundations are funding in LGBTI people within their portfolio, without necessarily specifically doing so. True solidarity has a way to go.
Amy McGoldrick is a Marketing & Advertising Officer at Alliance magazine