Ariadne 2020 Forecast for European social change and human rights funders: What holds?

By Julie Broome, Executive Director of Ariadne

In March, Ariadne, a network of European funders for social change and human rights, published its 2020 Forecast exploring what the coming year holds for European philanthropy.  The report draws from the input of 170 funders. The start of 2020 has surprised many of us, and none of our forecasters foresaw the reality in which we now find ourselves, but some of the key issues that were highlighted remain as important, if not more important. While change has occurred very quickly in the past few weeks, in many ways the pandemic has put into sharp relief some of the forces that have been at play over the past decade across the globe. 

Many funders we consulted spoke about the need to address rising inequalities.  While our members work primarily in Europe, growing inequality is a global phenomenon and of concern for foundations in other regions.  The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare and widened the gap between the haves and have-nots, making this issue more urgent than ever.  Given the predicted economic impacts of the lockdowns around the world, philanthropy will have a critical role to play in ensuring support to the most vulnerable during and after this crisis.

The climate crisis was the top priority issue identified by funders for 2020, and we are now being forced to learn that we can restructure our lives in ways that are good for the environment.  We have seen reports of pollution decreasing and nature healing as we travel less and reduce some of our most harmful activities.  As we restart our lives and economies, we have an opportunity to reshape our practices to maintain some of these environmental gains, and foundations can support those who offer alternative approaches.

During our consultations, foundations also expressed interest in learning more about how the digitisation of society will impact upon their work. This is another process that has only accelerated in recent weeks as our lives have shifted online. We have seen the opportunities this provides as work meetings, social gatherings, schools, even exercise classes have moved onto virtual spaces. However, we also need to be mindful of the harm that this can cause, as we start to see how inequality of access to technology leaves some more vulnerable and the use of tracking apps in the fight against the virus has raised serious data privacy concerns.  This is a key moment for foundations to invest in understanding what digitisation will mean for the issues they care about and developing strategies to mitigate the fallouts and make the most of the opportunities.

In any year, even those less eventful ones, the Forecast is a useful opportunity for us to connect with our members and hear about their plans for the future, their concerns, and the opportunities they wish to seize.  It helps us, as a network, to identify issues around which our members are most likely to need support. The process is time-intensive for our staff and takes place over a roughly six-month period, but we aim to be as inclusive as possible.  We send out a survey to our entire membership, interview select members in particular countries, and hold a series of roundtables to review preliminary results (this year in Amsterdam, Como, London, and Paris).  While we only consult funders who are Europe-based, many of our members work internationally, and the Forecast includes a Global chapter.  We hope that this more global perspective is also helpful for networks and foundations in other regions, and we invite any partner networks to make use of our analysis.  

Having said, 2020 is evidence that predicting the future has inherent flaws.  We don’t always get it right, and certainly no one foresaw that this year would play out in the way that it has.  Nonetheless, the Forecast is a process that brings us together and offers a chance for reflection.  This year, it is a chance to reflect on how this new reality will amplify the needs and accelerate the forces of change we had already identified.






Julie Broome

Executive Director at Ariadne




Ariadne helps funders and philanthropists who support social change and human rights by linking them to other funders and providing practical tools of support. Read more on their website:

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