Call for papers: Inequality, inclusion and social innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean

The International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR) is issuing a call for papers in advance of its 10th Annual ISTR Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, to be held in San Juan and Ponce, Puerto Rico from 5th – 7th August 2015. The preceding nine ISTR Regional Conferences addressed issues including: participation and representation; growth and consolidation of civil society; sector cooperation; and civil society self-identity and its responsibility for the development process. This 10th edition will continue to put challenges of imbalance at the forefront by focusing on inequality, inclusion and social innovation, and papers addressing the following themes are currently being solicited:

– Relationship among social inequality, citizen participation, inclusion efforts and sustainability promotion.

– Social innovation for sustainable development with social inclusion.

– Social enterprises, sustainability and new business forms.

– Civil society / third sector institutionalization, training and fortification.

– Democracy, the struggle against corruption, promoting accountability and civil society.

– A changing democracy: linkages between the state, civil society and business for social inclusion and sustainability.

Founded in 1992, the ISTR is an association of researchers and academic centres with associates located around throughout the world. ISTR promotes research and education on civil society and the non-profit sector internationally. The Latin America and the Caribbean Network of ISTR was established in 1996.

The deadline for papers is 28th February 2015. Read more details on the call in English and Spanish.

Adapting YouthBank to South Africa’s West Coast

YouthBank has a huge potential in South Africa, says Jeremy Maarman, Grants Manager at West Coast Community Foundation. He tells the GFCF about the last two years of WCCF’s YouthBank programme, about its experiences so far, and where he sees this heading.

 

GFCF: WCCF completed its first year of YouthBank activities in 2013 – how did this differ from WCCF’s past activities with youth? What about YouthBank is different/interesting?

Jeremy Maarman: In the past WCCF focused mainly on funding youth projects through our Grants Program. This meant that the engagement with young people was really limited seeing that we did not interface directly with the youth. With YouthBank, the foundation was able to have a more hands-on approach to young people and also the relationship was more as equal partners. This was the biggest difference between our past activities with young people and the functioning of YouthBank. YouthBank is different because young people are not only the recipients of the development interventions but the YouthBank projects puts them in the position of active players in community development.

 

GFCF: Who were the youth that WCCF involved and what do you think they gained from their experience?

JM: The youth we identified were all from the Bergrivier Municipal area and we recruited them by engaging with the local municipality as well as the local high schools. The young people involved in YouthBank gained immense knowledge on community development and how they themselves can play a role in their communities. As part of the YouthBank project young people also gained knowledge about active citizenship and that the strength of a democracy lies in the responsibility that citizens take to not only keep public representatives accountable but also to themselves take ownership of development.

 

GFCF: Was it difficult to introduce the concept of philanthropy, particularly to young people? How has the broader community reacted?

JM: Philanthropy is a word that is not used in everyday vocabulary on the West Coast. Therefore WCCF introduced youth philanthropy by explaining what it “does” and not what the definition “is.” We realized that bringing development “words” (like youth philanthropy) to the communities is further alienating people from realizing that in actual fact African communities have been sharing their talents, skills and treasure with each other without ever using words like philanthropy to define their actions. The broader community are starting to see young people as real assets for development and are also beginning to realize that young people do become enthusiastic about and involved in projects if they are given the power to decide what they “can” and “want” to do.

 

GFCF: What were the lessons learned for WCCF during this first year? As WCCF expands YouthBank activities into two additional communities in 2014, will the programme be adapted at all?

JM: We learned a very critical lesson: trying to replicate projects as blueprints from other countries (like Westernized countries) is not the best strategy. We also decided to engage with school-age young people, similar to YouthBank projects in Europe, however we quickly found out that the South African education department are not very open to having non-profit organizations engaging with children via the school. The reason for that was that schools were just more focused on getting through the curriculum, and didn’t necessarily want to be seen as adding extra activities to the burden on students. We also found it very challenging to move the grants from YouthBank during that latter part of the year due to the school examination period – it became very difficult to get hold of the YouthBank members.  

The biggest adaptation of the YouthBank project in 2014 lies in the fact that our recruitment strategy is now focused on out-of-school youth who are unemployed. We are hopeful that this strategy will allow for more active participation by members. This is a very significant adaptation as it is also very different from how YouthBank is implemented in other parts of the world. We however believe that we need to be conscious of the local conditions and what works best for us in South Africa.

 

GFCF: How important has it been for WCCF to be connected, through Youth Bank International, to other community foundations running their own YouthBank programmes? How important has it been that it is a community foundation that has led this work?

JM: Connection with other community foundations running YouthBank in other parts of the world gave WCCF a frame of reference for what works and what does not. YouthBank International also makes WCCF part of a community of actors in youth philanthropy. The importance of having YouthBank implemented by a community foundation gives the community foundation another avenue through which we can make grants and also to explore how best to bring young people into philanthropy. This, I believe, is groundbreaking work for a community foundation as youth philanthropy still needs to be defined in a way that is understandable and applicable to different conditions and this can be a really exciting niche for community foundations.

 

GFCF: What do you think it is about YouthBank which resonates across communities in all regions of the world? Do you think the concept has the potential to spread in Southern Africa?

JM: The notion of young people as active players in community development resonates with all people in all cultures and countries because it is a globally held truth that youth are the leaders of the future; in order to sustain development it is important to bring young people into the fold as soon as possible. The transfer of leadership skills to young people is also a very important issue that is gaining recognition. Finally, the point is that organizations too often lose contact with young people because they don’t deal with them as equal partners, but merely as recipients/beneficiaries of development interventions. Such an approach leaves young people feeling apathetic and uninterested all over the world. I absolutely think that YouthBank has the potential to spread in Southern Africa as it is a project that puts young people in a position of power.

When the trouble came to our house: How one Ukrainian community philanthropy organization is responding

Inna Starchikova The last six months have shocked the Ukraine. Unexpectedly, the state met problems with its integrity under the influence of our neighbour, Russia; citizens sought to stop the creation of an authoritarian regime and are trying to restore democracy. And finally, as the world is aware, we have a war in our east territory, leaving the rest of the country to try to solve all of these problems that have accumulated. It sounds like a lot of challenges for the Ukrainian state and citizens because it is. But, interestingly enough, this period of time has also yielded quite a bit of new information about philanthropy – examples and useful models – that can perhaps be used to define the main trends and risks affecting the sector for the next three to five years. Qualitative analysis of all of this information is still waiting to be explored more deeply, but I can already share some early observations:

1. Most NGOs and foundations lost “urgent charity” to social media. During this crisis, the main flows of charitable help from citizens went into bank accounts of individuals (via online donations), largely outside of the foundation sphere and without official records (money-boxes). This was especially highlighted at the local level, where calls for help from within informal networks evoked the greatest trust, and therefore response. People didn’t care at all about the tax implications of such donations. This was the situation we experienced in our city (Odessa), though it was common across the Ukraine.

2. There have been attempted raids on charitable foundations located away from the military zone. Some years ago we tried to discuss this problem, as well as possible mechanisms to counter it, with our colleagues at a national conference, but without success. There have already been several attacks this year aimed at different foundations. One of these raids received wide publicity (not to mention millions of Hryvnia, our currency, for the families of those killed at Maidan) and became a scandal, with members of the Ukrainian Philanthropists Forum getting involved with a team of lawyers.

3. Odd crowdfunding companies for government institutions have emerged. For example, the Ukraine has been left with a very weakened army. Citizens continue to pay taxes to maintain it, despite the lack of investigation or punishment to identify who was responsible for its destruction in the first place. Furthermore, instead of reporting what is happening with the millions of public funds being devoted to the army’s budget, there has been an enormous campaign in the mass media for charity donations to the army using modern mobile channels. In the end, it is likely that the same army generals who were involved in the first plundering have raised millions from patriotic citizens. These kinds of donations carry huge commissions in the Ukraine (more than 30% to business providers), but authorities never seem to mention this in their reports. Such “transparency” raises further concerns regarding possible abuses. There are additional risks associated with charity in the Ukraine, which means there is a need to reconsider conventional ways of providing international assistance as well as domestic help. We have preferred to deal with existing regional partners during this period, who have already proved their competences and capabilities.

On 2nd May there was a tragedy in Odessa, where we live and work, which garnered the world’s attention. Numerous citizens were killed. It was impossible for us to believe that dozens of inhabitants could be killed in this European city; the city was blanketed with confusion and depression. Our foundation provided different support after that, but I think that the greatest help was our psychological support: we returned faith to the people and to the community of thousands of residents by delivering messages and support through social media during the first evening and all night after tragedy. More information on the events in Odessa can be found in the “Report on the Human Rights Situation in Ukraine” published by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights  on 15th June 2014. It has a large section entitled “Investigations into Human Rights Violations Related to the Violence in Odesa on 2nd May.”

I’d like to offer a few words and some comments which you cannot find in this report. We were also interested in determining the causes of the tragedy with a view to preventing such incidences in the future. However, our goal was not to punish the perpetrators or official groups involved, but rather to check the “state of health” of the whole community. We asked members of the community two closed-ended questions, with the possibility to add comments, as well as their own answers. Below, the findings:

%
Causes of the tragedy: What did you personally do wrong, which allowed the tragedy to happen on 2nd May in Odessa?
I failed to stop a friend who went to earn money for their participation in the meeting 0
I was not on the front lines to prevent conflict 7.41
I previously did not take action around the accountability of authorities 18.52
I did not support the earlier actions that could have prevented the tragedy 22.22
My actions, as well as inaction, could not have led to the tragedy of 2nd May 51.85
Further prevention: What steps will you take to reduce the risk of recurrence of such tragedies in Odessa? 
I will avoid participating in paid rallies and will discourage my friends from doing the same 38.57
I will avoid any mass gatherings 12.86
I’ll be sure to respond to the unscrupulous actions of the authorities 37.14
I will maintain regular contact with authorities 2.86
I will participate in manifestations against the abuse of authority 8.57
I will support activities reputable for me, including financially 0
I do not plan to do anything to prevent the tragedy in the future 0

 

We often try to use such quick instruments in order to accelerate our own internal reflections (and sometimes for proactive engagement). Our foundation developed its own direct “digital channels” to the community with the help and support of the GFCF. This table contains important information for better understanding the current, complex situation, as well as specific roles for community philanthropy organizations (CPO) in the future.

In my opinion, the main role of CPOs is the same as anywhere: to support community development based on a community’s needs and resources. At the same time, situations such as the one unfolding in Ukraine, set specific (not to mention challenging) tasks for CPOs. It is very important for us to understand what can be implemented without our involvement, and what has a high demand but little chance to be realized without our participation. A time of turmoil and change requires crisis management, when we should be focusing our efforts on the changes that the community really needs. We’ve already started supporting the design of a more modern system to encourage better self-government based on IT, mobile technologies, and the concept of direct democracy. This can enforce people’s participation in decision-making at the local level and can also provide new opportunities for monitoring local authorities as well as preventing conflicts. We are going to implement it first with civil society organizations, with an eye to further developing this infrastructure by the time of the 2015 local elections in the Ukraine. At the same time, our region still is at risk of falling back into conflict. We as an organization will therefore be focusing on building our capacity to work with larger humanitarian aid bodies, as well as to deliver conflict resolution services.

We didn’t imagine that the trouble would come to our house. Sometimes it’s scary and sometimes it’s deeply frustrating. However, many people living in Odessa greatly appreciate the place, and with this great, common love we move forward together, inspired to look for solutions even in the most dire of situations.

Inna Starchikova is Executive Director of the Charity Fund “Moloda Gromada” (“Young Community’) in Odessa, Ukraine

Troubleshooting not troublemaking at the first youth community philanthropy global summit

In fact, throughout the course of this one day summit, held 17th June in Chicago, there were plenty of “T” words thrown around: time, talents, treasures, trust, transparency and ties were just some of the others. Organized by the Council on Foundations and the Council of Michigan Foundations with support from the C.S. Mott Foundation, the summit brought together more than 50 youth philanthropy practitioners and enthusiasts from 14 different countries to gain a broader understanding of innovative approaches in youth community philanthropy and to begin building links between these actors.

The morning examined the “what” of youth community philanthropy: various approaches around the world and what strategies are proving to work well (and which aren’t). During the first panel, with speakers from Brazil, Romania, and the US, it became quite clear, quite quickly that the challenges experienced in encouraging individual youth constituencies to contribute their time, talents and treasures resonated across borders. As Anderson Giovani da Silva, CEO of ICom in Florianopolis, noted: “Failures are best when they happen quickly.” But as in real life this just isn’t the case very often, Summit participants eagerly shared and listened to each other’s anecdotes and experiences from the different corners of the world represented, keenly digesting the practical learning from peers grappling with the same issues.

Digging deeper into substance, the ensuing Table Topic Talks (at which point it was impossible not to notice the alliterative pattern running throughout the day) delved into the “how” of the work. What tools are proving to be successful in day-to-day work? Giving circles, YouthBanks, Youth Advisory Councils, crowdsourcing, cash mobs were all explored by those with plenty of experience and lessons to share, and those just beginning to test the waters. A brilliant presentation from Gabriel Marmentini, a student and social entrepreneur working with ICom, succinctly expressed what matters most in online crowdsourcing: trust, transparency and ties. Drawing from his own experiences in Brazil he emphasized that one cannot overstate the importance of being clear in your goals, communicating how funds are being used throughout the process (not just at the end in a snazzy report), and using existing networks to help spread your message and reach new partners.

Challenges around terminology and language recurred throughout the day. Firstly in the use of the word “youth”, as it seemed for as many people as there were in the room there were as many understandings of who we were speaking about when we used the word. Use of the word “philanthropy” was also debated heavily: in some contexts it is somewhat off-putting as it suggests an old way of operating, and doesn’t go far enough in capturing all of the different activities that today’s youth engage in to uplift their communities. Adina Ana Cristea, from YouthBank Romania, stated that she “would rather see people doing things than stopping to define them.” In other contexts, participants noted that using a recognized word such as “philanthropy” offers legitimacy and a greater sense of trust in the value of youth voices.

Afternoon sessions focused on how the field can be advanced more coherently moving forward, and participants offered that further, more regular, efforts should be made to share youth community philanthropy models, best practices, and other information on a global level. Practitioners seem to learn best from exposure to new environments and situations, so mediums should be generated for this exchange – while additional face-to-face meetings, perhaps organized on a regional basis, would serve to keep stakeholders in contact). More difficult questions included: how to raise the profile of youth philanthropy outside of the sector, in order to draw more attention to the field and its potential; how to build greater trust in the value of youth voices (moving away from the stereotypes of troublemaking youth); and, how to ensure voices from different parts of the world, emerging economies in particular, are heard as youth philanthropy grows as a concept.

But despite the diversity of those present, differences in terminology, language, approaches, beliefs, there was one overarching theme emerging from the day: youth around the world are ready to take on the challenge of uplifting their communities. Everyone agreed that the secret ingredient to youth philanthropy, why it is so important, is that it moves away from the traditional sentiment that young people are the future but rather gets them involved in their communities, in giving, in decision-making, not in the future but here and now.

Local philanthropy of Federal importance: Community foundations in Russia

The growth of community foundations across the Russian Federation is captured in a handy new infographic and a more detailed report, “Local Philanthropy of Federal Importance: Community Foundations in Russia.” This updated information has been brought to the field through a partnership of CAF Russia, the C.S. Mott Foundation and the Russian branch of Evolution and Philanthropy. The report was launched in May 2014 at meetings in both Moscow and Tyumen (Urals Region). Larisa Avrorina, Manager of CAF Russia’s community foundation development programme, explained that the research which identified some 45 community foundations, working across 27 regions of the Russian Federation, probably underestimated the number of such bodies. In reality, there is an additional 13 organizations that are using a community foundation model and approach, although not necessarily identified as such.

Over recent years there has been a clustering of community foundations for support and exchange purposes. The largest clusters were noted as the 15 community foundations in the Volga Federal District; 14 in the Siberia District; and six in the north west District which includes Saint Petersburg.  Interestingly the initial attempt made to establish a community foundation took place in Moscow in the early years of the 1990’s, but this floundered. The Togliatti Community Foundation, which was launched in 1998, remains the longest surviving Russian community foundation in existence, and has acted as a role model to many that were developed more recently.

Seven distinct characteristics were identified from the research as shared by the community foundations studied:

(i) Building social capital (trust and relationships) and a sense of community;

(ii) Acting as centres for local development and fundraising;

(iii) Engaged in promoting civic activism;

(iv) Creating a new philanthropic culture and traditions;

(v) Proactively contributing to a sense of community responsibility and engagement;

(vi) Providing a knowledge hub on local community issues, needs and opportunities; and,

(vii) Offering a neutral space for negotiation and partnership between the local administrative authorities, business interests and community activists.

This latter role is further reflected in the reported structure and composition of community foundation boards: 43% business, 37% community and 20% government representatives.  The majority of business interests involved came from the small and medium sized sector that had a close identification with their local communities.

Local philanthropy, local leadership

One of the current trends identified in the report was the fact that community foundations are emerging not only in urban areas but also in areas of small rural settlements. Out of 18 new community foundations established since 2008, 13 of them have been rooted in rural areas. This development was supported by World Bank investment in a “Local Self-Governance and Civil Engagement in Rural Russia” initiative, which recognised community foundations as a key infrastructural element and helped with the creation of the first alliance of rural funds across Perm Krai.

The importance of credible local leadership was also identified as an important aspect in the creation of a sustainable community foundation.  This can take the form of a single leader of some local standing, or a group of people who have sufficient authority with representatives of local elites to coordinate activities with regard to priority issues, but also have an understanding of the social innovation that is required. Putting in place an efficient organisational framework that has the capacity to mobilize a broad base of local philanthropy is also seen as a prerequisite for positioning community foundations in the area of donor services. This may apply to independent philanthropists, but also to the larger donors in the field of corporate social responsibility and indeed sources of municipal and federal government. Interestingly, while international grants are still listed as a funding source, the resources and opportunities in this area are now rather meagre. A shared challenge for many of the community foundations is finding the funding to meet their administrative and organizational costs, although these on average now amount to only 15% of their overall expenditure.

Priority areas of work

Over 90% of the community foundations support initiative groups in their local communities. This stands in marked contrast to those philanthropic organizations that prefer direct operational programmes. The main priorities for the awarding of grants include funding for organizations working with vulnerable groups and projects aimed at improving the local environment and quality of life more generally. Focus groups and other forms of community consultations are organized to inform the nature of local priorities.  While the standard grants awarded are small in monetary terms, it is argued that they are invaluable for building a sense of community self-esteem and participation. In a number of the remoter rural areas where there are few community-based organizations, the community foundations themselves act as community development centres. A re-invigorated emphasis on evaluation and the assessment of impact has also emerged as a recent trend. The Regional Alliances of Community Foundations have supported collective initiatives to map social well-being and community needs.

The study notes that with the honourable exception of the Ministry for Economic Development, there is still considerable work to be done in raising the profile of community foundation work with other government structures; a task that will require considerable time and effort. Such profile raising could also usefully take place with major corporations. What is important, however, is that there is now a growing evidence base to allow that task to be addressed in a positive manner.

Read the report “Local Philanthropy of Federal Importance: Community Foundations in Russia”, available in English and Russian  

L. Avrorina (ed. L. Tikhonovich) CAF Russia, 2014

Philanthropy in Pakistan: Private energy for public good

Philanthropy is “private energy for public good” and it is particularly effective as a “fuel” for civil society which can drive socio-economic development. So said Dr. Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, Chairman of the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy, speaking in Washington DC in April 2014 and sharing his thoughts with audiences at both the Global Donors’ Forum and at a discussion held at the Hudson Institute. He was joined at the latter by Dr. Carol Adelman, Director of the Center for Global Prosperity, Hudson Institue, and by Dr. Mirza Jahani, CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation, USA.

He also referred to the role of civil society and active citizenship in helping to think through the mantra of democracy and models of governance. However, in stepping up to these critical roles civil society needs to be supported – one area that requires further examination is the interface between civil society and the private sector, which Dr. Kassim-Lakha depicted as “a magic in that space that we haven’t quite captured.”

Commenting on the growth of philanthropy in Pakistan, the point was made that when a comparison is made between indigenous giving and foreign grants, Pakistanis give Rs 20 billion in money, which represents some five times the amount that Pakistan receives in outright grants by way of foreign aid.  Equally it was noted that 28% of all giving in Pakistan is made by people that are earning less than US$2 per day – a model of the generosity of the poor. This ethos of giving was traced to a long established ethos of giving in Muslim countries, although the challenge remains as to how to turn this impulse of generosity into more strategic philanthropy. An important contextual framing for this challenge is the development of an enabling legal and fiscal environment for philanthropy which the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy is currently working on.

In a country where two-thirds of the population are below the age of 20 years, the potential linkages between philanthropy, civil society and active citizenship are clearly critical, with the need to harness the impulse of generosity and translate it into the development of sustainable social assets.  Dr. Jahani emphasized the importance of indigenous philanthropic organisations and developments in this context, making reference to the fact that the recent Spring Meeting of the World Bank linked strategic development to citizen engagement. Mechanisms to facilitate communities to bond together around locally identified needs were recognised as central building blocks in any future partnerships between strategic philanthropic investment and grounded civil society initiatives.

Climbing the ladder: GFCF referenced in New Statesman article

“If civil society is to play a role in combating poverty, we need a vibrant, independent voluntary and community sector”, argues Barry Knight, Executive Director of CENTRIS and adviser to the GFCF, in a recent article in the New Statesman. Climbing the Ladder is the lead article in a special supplement on Civil Society and Poverty.

“Much of the voluntary sector contributes little to civil society because it is highly professionalised, possessing few connections to local people other than through the delivery of services” says Knight. “Resources should instead go to organisa­tions such as London Citizens, which is composed of citizens themselves and en­ables them to build their own power. We can also learn from international organisations like the Global Fund for Commu­nity Foundations, which helps citizens’ groups to build their own asset base so they can be free from the persistent ‘pro­jects’ demanded by official aid agencies.”

Read the full article

YouthBank International introduces its new identity and new digital magazine

Says Vernon Ringland, Executive Group member and YouthBank International Coordinator, “At YouthBank International we are looking forward to a promising, dynamic and invigorating 2014. With a renewed spring in our step, we are putting into action the projects that we have developed and refined in 2013. This year, after building solid foundations, we are ready to set up our stall and showcase the fruit of our collaborations and internal work within and outside our network.”

YouthBank ‘supports projects designed and run by young people that address issues and concerns relevant to them and their community.’ They do this via over 200 YouthBanks in 26 countries across Europe, parts of Africa, and Central Asia… from South Africa to Romania; from Bulgaria to Kyrgyzstan; from Ireland to Turkey.

Learn more about YouthBank International’s new identity and its new e-magazine.

YouthBank International – Think Big from Daniel Kendall on Vimeo.

 

 

Cluj Donor Circle – a new way of engaging the community to support youth initiatives in Romania

Simona Serban, Executive Director of the Cluj Community Foundation, reports on the first Donor Circle event on Youth in Romania

We had a full house of exceptional people and a level of generosity that surpassed all expectations. Together we numbered more than 60. Together we donated 25.500 lei (around US $7,500) for three projects supporting educational values-based projects for youth, promoting entrepreneurship and capacity-building.

On 20th November 2013, the Cluj Community Foundation organized its first Donor Circle on Youth Civic Engagement in Cluj, the first of its kind in Romania. The idea of a Donor Circle is to bring people together at live crowd-funding events to raise vital funds, transform lives and create lasting social change.  

Cluj Donor Circle

Our event was organized in affiliation with the Founding Network UK, in partnership with the Association for Community Relations and with the support of the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

It brought together a community of donors and organisations working with young people. Participants included young entrepreneurs and disadvantaged youth; international private funders and local donors, the “Share” local youth Federation and many other partners.

“The atmosphere was electric and everyone was so enthusiastic about being able to give a relatively small amount which together could have a big impact on making our city a better place through investing wisely in our young people. It’s amazing how a well thought out framework can help us achieve so much in such a short time!”  Bita, Cluj Donor Circle member

Three teams of young entrepreneurs will STEP UP and benefit from mentorship to implement their ideas. 14 youth will practice their powers of expression at ACTitude – Impromptu School and 17 youth will Edu Practic(e) the jobs they would like to learn.

STEP UP is a project developed under Cluj HUB concept, in which young entrepreneurs’ teams are helped by mentors to develop their own initiatives from idea to prototype over a three-month period. The project will target skilled young people with initiative and audacious ideas regarding technological entrepreneurship. Three teams will have the opportunity to go through steps which will bring them closer of implementing the idea and bring together resources in order to become sustainable businesses. Ten mentors are prepared to offer the support they need through weekly sessions and trainings. They were granted US $1,600 raised from local donors.

ACTitudine – Impromptu School is a project initiated by another local NGO, Dreams for Life. The project advocates for the development of a alternative learning space for young people that fosterspersonal development and community engagement. Two trainers Dreams for Life and two actors from the Create.Act.Enjoy Theatre will work with ten youngsters between 18 and 26 years old by using non-formal educational techniques and impromptu theatre techniques. They were granted US $2,000 in cash and $1,500 in-kind donations.

PracticalEdu”, a project of Danis for Managerial Development Foundation, aims at supporting disadvantaged youth to learn crafting from the energy and building local business’ employees. The young people will take part in activities of business and entrepreneurial education such as trainings and consultancy for developing sustainable business plans but also growing into financial independents adults, responsible for themselves and their families. They were granted US $2,500.

“I wish to acquire as much knowledge as possible in this field. My main incentive for being part of this program is proving my parents and my friends that I am skilled and responsible to be financial independent.” (Vlad, project participant)

Not only did the donors give, but they also engaged in conversations centered around the projects. Education was raised as a topic. People discussed the importance of giving young people the opportunity to learn practical skills and develop abilities that are shaping their future professional and personal life.

Most importantly, it was fun! The potential to extend the Circle was also clear as more donors expressed their interest in becoming members.

“I was impressed with the generosity in the room and the fact that so many people felt like I do that together we can make a difference in our city.  I didn’t really expect this because so many people are pessimistic about the future. Even though I’m not, you don’t hear many people agreeing that we can make a change. It touched me and I was thinking what a smart group to invest in the future by investing in the youth!” Maryam, young donor

From one on one conversations to social media, we have found the whole process of organising a donor circle event to be very rich: it allows us to open up conversations about philanthropy and collective giving, about engaging young people in social change and as a way of acquiring new contacts and cultivating relationships. Most exciting of all has been the opportunity to witness the diversity of reactions and feedback from those of participated. We learnt a huge amount from this event: the future has a collective author and we love being able to promote it!

Over the last five years the Cluj Community Foundation has awarded 1 million lei (US $300,000) to 150 projects and 130 scholars. And now we have introduced a new approach to fundraising through the Cluj Donor Circle (CDC). Twice a year, groups of donors who will be a part of the future CDC Network will promote projects from different areas and will gather to support them during the CDC events.

Video highlights of the event can be found here

Many thanks to our Donors and Partners, including the Funding Network, UK, the Association for Community Relations, Share Federation – Cluj Youth European Capital 2015 and the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

Simona Șerban – Executive Director, Cluj Community Foundation