[Translate to English:] Projekt »Together Foundation« | Foto: Lucia Hofmaier
by Tim Göbel
Philanthropy needs to change, just as society is continually changing. Fifteen years ago, foundations focused on positioning their own brand name and directly implementing projects that had a specific target group in mind and were intended to bring about positive change there. For example, music lessons in the afternoons were sponsored for children from socially disadvantaged families. A few years later, foundations tended to focus on large-scale lighthouse projects that would subsequently be adopted by policymakers. However, foundations usually do not support civil society organizations collectively, but predominantly with their own financial resources, which neither contributes to the quick solution of complex social problems nor is it sustainable. But how do philanthropists want to act in the future and how should "giving" be shaped in the philanthropic sector? How should social problems be solved by foundations, at best in a short time? And how has the simultaneity of multiple crises changed the view of philanthropy and the urgency of social support in times of transformation? These are questions that we at the Schöpflin Foundation are currently discussing. For us, working "systemically" means reflecting on the context in which we work and actively contributing to its further development.
That's why we - together with four close partner organizations - set out on an experiment: What happens when 35 people, including established donors and representatives from foundations, startups, social enterprises, politics and administration, are brought together for 24 hours on the Havel River in the flat Brandenburg countryside and given plenty of time to get to know each other, to talk, and to share some new ideas? Can this have an effect on society and lead to more collective "giving"?
A trusting relationship: The "gang"
For many years, we have supported the social enterprise ProjectTogether, which uses thematic missions on topics such as climate-friendly and sustainable agriculture, support for refugees and counteracting the shortage of skilled workers in Germany to motivate civil society actors, politics and business to act together to implement innovative solutions for the pressing social challenges of our time. Markus Hipp, member of the board of the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt, has also been intensively supporting ProjectTogether since Henrike Schlottmann and Philipp von der Wippel founded the social enterprise in 2015. The BMW Foundation inspires leaders worldwide to assume their social responsibility and work as Responsible Leaders for a peaceful, just world. In addition to financial support for ProjectTogether, the Schöpflin Foundation and the BMW Foundation are linked by a variety of start-up funding for network organizations such as SEND e.V., Germany's Social Entrepreneurship Network founded in 2017. The round is completed by the fairly new Famtastisch Foundation of the Viegener entrepreneur family - here Managing Director, Michael Viegener and Operational Director, Caroline Wetzke - who jointly pursue the goal of realigning the nutrition system and thus strive for a health-promoting nutrition that benefits society. In addition, Mirjam Stegmaier from MSR Social Impact, a holistic donation and foundation consultancy, complemented the panel. From our side, our founder Hans Schöpflin, the program director for Economy & Democracy, Dorothee Vogt as well as our executive director Tim Göbel were present at various rounds of talks with the management and colleague Vanessa Gstettenbauer from ProjectTogether as well as all other parties mentioned above. The question of how to achieve more philanthropic capital for social transformation was always central to our exchange.
Trying, reflecting, moving on
In the spirit of "rapid prototyping", we held a total of three "salon evenings" in Hans Schöpflin's Berlin living room in the fall and winter of 2022. Invited were NGO activists and social entrepreneurs from the joint networks of the five initiators as well as wealthy heirs ("nextGen") and start-up entrepreneurs who want to get involved philanthropically. At these salon evenings, the focus was on getting to know each other and sharing grantmaking experiences. The focus was always on giving collaboratively, i.e., on cases where foundations or wealthy individuals pool resources and together provide financial support to social organizations or campaigns. The hypothesis behind this: if we know each other well, trust each other, then collaboration is easier. And when we work together, we can have more impact with philanthropy.
We learned a lot in the course of these salon evenings and it became increasingly clear: we need more time, we need a real Philanthropy 3.0 Gathering!
This year we invited five initiators to Paretz and spent 24 hours there as a group. In the end, a lot of things came together: new relationships, shared knowledge and, above all, the decision to work more closely on social problem solutions in the future. The big issues can only be solved together, and a lot of capital needs to be pooled. So the new initiative called "Together Foundation" will be a collective of people who want to use their financial and non-financial resources for transformation - to finance the transition to something new. The Together Foundation will bring together funds, work together for risk-oriented and socio-politically engaged philanthropy, and learn from each other. Of central importance to the Together Foundation will be deep human relationships as well as the value of "trust." Therefore, in addition to small individual events, there will be Together Foundation Gatherings several times a year in the future, to which new interested parties are always cordially invited.
Are you interested in "collective giving"? Then you are welcome to contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org
This article appeared in our July 2023 newsletter. Don't miss any more issues? Click here to subscribe!