WINGSForum Interview: Douglas Rutzen

In the run up to WINGSForum 2017, we will be publishing interviews with some of our esteemed speakers. For this interview we spoke to Douglas Rutzen, President and CEO of International Center for Not-For-Profit Law (ICNL).

douglas-rutzenWINGS: Tell us a little about yourself, your work in philanthropy infrastructure and your interest in attending WINGSForum 2017?

D.R.: In 1985, Helen Keller International hired me to develop social enterprises for blind and visually impaired persons in the Caribbean, Asia, and Latin America. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, I served as a Legal Advisor in the Czechoslovak Parliament, and my first assignment was to help draft the country’s laws governing nonprofits and philanthropy. I was hooked and decided to devote my career to this field. Accordingly, in 1994, I joined ICNL, and since then we’ve worked in over 100 countries on these issues.

I’m interested in attending the WINGSForum 2017 to learn from international colleagues. WINGS convenes remarkable people. In the past, I’ve left each meeting with fresh perspectives and renewed inspiration, and I’m sure this will also hold true after the WINGSForum 2017.

WINGS: What might critical philanthropy mean to you and to ICNL?

D.R.: We are facing increasingly complex and serious challenges around the world. These challenges can’t be solved by governments alone – indeed, in many cases, they are the cause of the problem. At the same time, countries have imposed barriers to the participation of philanthropy and civil society. ICNL works with partners to promote an enabling environment for philanthropy and civil society so we can all play our role in making the world a better place.

WINGS: What is your involvement in the session you will be speaking at WINGSForum and what issue(s) are you most looking forward to addressing at WINGSForum2017?

D.R.: It will come as no surprise, but I’m particularly looking forward to the February 21 workshop on the enabling environment for philanthropy and civil society. Last year in Lisbon, WINGS organized a great meeting on this topic. I learned a lot from colleagues who attended that meeting, and I look forward to a similarly rich learning experience at this workshop.

WNGS: Why do you think infrastructure and this global gathering are important for the development of the sector?

D.R.: Infrastructure organizations can play a critically important role in promoting sectoral “common goods” – such as the legal framework for philanthropy. The WINGSForum 2017 provides a unique opportunity for infrastructure organizations to work together to promote more enabling legal frameworks for philanthropy and civil society around the world. I’m looking forward to continuing this discussion in a few days time!

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