By Alina Porumb, President of the Association for the Practice of Transformation (APT)
INSPIRE is a community of philanthropy practitioners, leaders and thinkers from Central and Eastern Europe who contribute their experience, knowledge and connections to enable social change.
In a context of increasing complexity, uncertainty and threats to democracy, INSPIRE has supported the leaders of philanthropy infrastructure in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) to increase their collective effectiveness and strengthen philanthropy and civil society movements.
Started in 2012 as a program of the Association for Community Relations Romania, INSPIRE reached out to Western European expertise in the area of strategic philanthropy advice for individual donors and made it available to philanthropy practitioners in CEE region. In 2012, corporate philanthropy was developing actively, but individual philanthropy was in emergent stages, while the community philanthropy sector was unevenly developed across the region. In this context, the philanthropy development practitioners in the region could better understand and use the principles of donor engagement. While fundraising principles were known in the region, philanthropy experts were setting their sights on going beyond seeing donors just as a source of money; organizations and fundraisers were starting to invest in understanding the donors’ point of view and build their capacity to invest in social change in a realistic, long-term and thoughtful way.
It also increased participants understanding of donor circles and community foundations as frameworks that can encourage donor engagement within their own context. This was also one of the first areas where we have started to collaborate with other philanthropy infrastructure organizations. One of these was The Funding Network in U.K., which had a dedicated program for sharing best practices internationally and who inspired new donor circles in the region. In turn, the practitioners in INSPIRE shared their own experiences with donor circles and increased the motivation of their colleagues to understand more about this model and reach out to The Funding Network’s available expertise.
In time, the topics of conversations in INSPIRE workshops evolved from those focused on the relationships with donors and how the philanthropic counselling process can set up a clear frame of results and test out of theories of change, to how these can be used by philanthropy support organizations and community foundations themselves to increase their strategic impact and shape their field.
Two new community foundations in Poland, one corporate foundation in Turkey, one family foundation in Romania, and a number of donors circles across the region (one in Slovakia, one in Macedonia and two in Czech Republic) are closely linked to the sharing and strengthening of different ideas as well as individual leadership through participation in INSPIRE. Later on in the program, we also supported the exchange of experiences between community foundation support organizations from the region, allowing reflection on how to best be a supporter of community philanthropy and how to respond to emerging strategic opportunities and challenges in the region.
In order to do that, we continued to look at opportunities provided by the dialogue on practice that was taking place at the European and global level.
A useful framework for reflection on the role, practice and impact of philanthropy infrastructure organizations was provided by the work of DAFNE and WINGS on 4Cs. This is a strategic thinking and evaluation framework for philanthropy infrastructure organizations that focuses on their contribution to four outcome areas: capacity, capability, connections and credibility. The INSPIRE team participated in the development of this frame, hosted a meeting of practitioners in Bucharest, and has seriously taken on the role of ambassadorship for the framework, sharing the information in further INSPIRE meetings. As a result, the Trag Foundation in Serbia and Roots and WINGS Foundation in Hungary learned about it and expressed interest to test 4Cs in their practice.
Together with Candid (then Foundation Center), we explored the specificity of knowledge management strategies for philanthropy infrastructure organizations and how the thinking around organisational impact can be connected to these. We also contributed to connecting conversations that were taking place in different spaces, bringing Candid’s knowledge management and the 4C experiences into the space provided by the European Community Foundations Initiative.
The feedback from the constituency is that they value a lot the opportunities to connect and learn within the INSPIRE community and access the knowledge offered through the program.
For the Trag Foundation, philanthropy advising has become a part of their future strategy and they found several projects where they could apply what they learned during the INSPIRE course.
And while we support the exchange of frameworks for reflection on philanthropy infrastructure’s role, the best way to do that is to also apply them in our own practice. A quick 4C summary of our role shows that capability is the key outcome area of INSPIRE, with a focus on strengthening professional knowledge, standards and methodologies, with connections being the second outcome area (both within the region and internationally). These two outcome areas in turn contribute to increased credibility of CEE philanthropy supporters and their capacity to mobilize long term, strategic financial support.
INSPIRE’s role remains highly relevant in the current and future context of philanthropy, taking into account its opportunities – through the increased interest and engagement of individuals and societies with philanthropy and technological advances that encourage innovations – and challenges – through the closing spaces for civil society, increased fragmentation and political pressures on liberal values, nationalism as a protectionist response to globalization as well as an environment with an increased competition for attention, credibility and engagement.
Since July 2018, INSPIRE has been hosted by the Association for the Practice of Transformation and remains dedicated to contribute to a networked, resilient, active and reflective philanthropic infrastructure in CEE. In a new three year phase, the focus will be on the strategic role, impact and practice of philanthropy infrastructure organizations. We plan to expand the frameworks and tools that help philanthropy builders in the region to reflect on, showcase and share experiences about their role as well as connect to the international field and we are happy that we can also do this as well as learn from global experiences through our membership in WINGS and participation in its events, research processes and affinity groups.
More information about INSPIRE: www.inspire-change.org
Association for the Practice of Transformation
Association for the Practice of Transformation (APT) supports intentional, collaborative, future orientated and systemic transformations of individuals, organizations, communities and societies by stimulating collaboration, research, learning, social innovation and strategic thinking. For more information: https://inspire-change.org/