I write this in a state of pleasant jetlag, having arrived in Brussels from the west coast of the US early yesterday morning. Besides the usual networking, I took in two sessions on my first day at EFC: a portion of the Peace and Security Funders briefing on “A view from Europe;” and the Global Fund for Community Foundation’s , “Not such a poor cousin: understanding the unique role of community philanthropy in driving development.” Each was good, although quite different in tone. As a newcomer to EFC and an American “outsider,” I’m not sure that either was typical. Both rooms were packed. My first day bodes well for the conference and allayed my fear of not fitting in.
I learned from European experts that the EU is woefully uncoordinated around peace and security issues. Instead of using their joint power to its best advantage, individual countries in the EU take their own lead. When combined efforts are devised, they are often more symbolic than successful. Peacemaking is more or less off the agenda, although peace in Europe is one of the main reasons for the existence of the EU. Missing from the session I attended was much discussion of the role that philanthropy might play in promoting peace. The Peace and Security Funders reception was a particular treat with philanthropic inspiration and music by Juanes.
The Global Fund for Community Foundations has just completed a baseline study of 50 applications for grants. Sound boring? Not at all. Lively discussion followed the presentation of preliminary results, focusing on the importance of the community foundation as a model of locally-drivenphilanthropy. I urge you to pick up the recently published paper. An engaged audience emphasized the role of community and trust building, as well as the significance of local knowledge. I notice Bhekinkosi Moyo has already posted a blog on this session. I was particularly stuck by the diversity in the room. Participants came from Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America. All had important stories to tell. This conference isn’t turning out to be as European as I expected.
As mentioned earlier, highlights of my long day included drinks and musings on global philanthropy with Fernando Rossetti Ferreira, General Secretary Of GIFE in Brazil and Chair of WINGS, and Marissa Camacho-Reyes, Executive Director of WINGS. I met a number of new colleagues at receptions and had the pleasure of dinner with the Alliance magazine staff and other hangers on such as myself.