The UBS 10th Global Philanthropy Forum, held in St Moritz at the end of November, was an outstanding conference, bringing together 120 UBS clients from 35 countries plus 70 speakers and panellists. ‘Phenomenal,’ said Bill Spire, who has been running his family foundations for the last 13 years, ‘a great opportunity to meet different people and form some potential long-term partnerships.’
For me there are three main reasons why this was such a good conference: the extraordinarily high calibre of the keynote speakers – with former prime minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland, Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For All, setting out the environmental, economic and human challenges in the opening plenary; the high level of engagement of the participants; and UBS’s careful planning.
The wonderful venue in the Swiss Alps does of course raise questions in itself. ‘For me personally it highlights the disparities that exist in the world,’ said singer-songwriter, activist and philanthropist – and keynote speaker – Annie Lennox (pictured). ‘I’m heartened by the fact that people who have access to tremendous wealth are not all just cutting off and living in their own bubble, that they could possibly be stimulated into becoming agents of change.’
How do you judge success? Chi-Won Yoon of UBS Asia Pacific, Hong Kong set out some clear benchmarks in his opening remarks. ‘If we sow the seeds for one new philanthropic idea, one new sustainable investment and one new partnership, we will have done our job.’ Judging from the comments I heard, the job was done.