EVPA Conference 2014 — Venture philanthropy, a collaborative effort

By Laura Fernandez

The 10th annual conference of the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA) was held this week in Germany in an inspirational environment that set the tone for Collaborating for Social Impact: The Next 10 Years! Present were international experts and practitioners in venture philanthropy (VP) and social investment (SI). VP as a more recent form of the culture of giving and is playing a vital role in maximizing the social impact of financial, programmatic and human capital—thus it is both philanthropy and investment.

Collaboration was a key theme throughout the conference, drawing on the history of the host city, Berlin, which illustrates the power of collaboration to confront challenges when building communities around a common purpose. Support for Social Purpose organizations (SPOs) in Europe comes from a small but growing corporate sector, and participation from government. Three quarters of VP organizations (VPOs) considered social return more important than financial. This is a paradigm shift, where giving money is but one part of creating effective organizations working on the ground.

The conference program touched on a variety of issues, including how to attract more capital to VPOs, and the role family foundations and business in general are taking in communities through VP and SI. Various projects in developing countries and local European communities by social entrepreneurs (a new funding target for VPOs) were presented. EVPA also highlighted the importance of developing an exit plan in order to maintain social impact—the basis of its Practical Guide to Planning and Managing An Impactful Exit.

WINGS members were also present. Doug Miller (AVPN) talked about the role of the sector over the next 10 years, and Garry Salole (EFC) shared the importance of building dialogue with policy makers, through which civil society organizations (in this case SPOs) can build on trust with the public sector to create a more enabling environment for the VP.

The EPVA conference inspired social strategies for investment and the use of resources, where transparency remains key, alluding to the need for global actors who can be responsive at the individual level. The conference was about convening stakeholders under a common purpose, further showing how collaboratively bringing about social value and making an impact are both key elements of venture philanthropy.

Laura Fernandez is the membership and development coordinator of WINGS.

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