Laetitia Gill ist Geschäftsführerin des Center for Philanthropy in Genf.

«A new form of philanthropy»

The Faculty of Economics and Management (GSEM) jointly with the Centre for Philanthropy of the University of Geneva is offering a new DAS in "Strategic and Operational Philanthropy". Laetitia Gill, Executive Director of the Centre for Philanthropy, explains the programme.

The Philanthropist: What was the trig­ger for the deve­lo­p­ment of this DAS?
Laeti­tia Gill: We noti­ced that there is a lack of formal offe­rings for phil­an­thropy in the execu­tive educa­tion market. At the same time, we saw a strong inte­rest in acade­mic and profes­sio­nal trai­ning in this field. The hall­mark of this DAS is its inter­di­sci­pli­nary nature, which is necessary if we are to fully under­stand the complex field of phil­an­thropy today. We want to build on the local ecosy­stem. Geneva is one of the hubs of phil­an­thropy and home to many inter­na­tio­nal orga­ni­sa­ti­ons. So we chose to offer this trai­ning in English, in a hybrid format, so that people from other coun­tries can participate.

TP: What do you think is the strength of the offer?
LG: We take an inter­di­sci­pli­nary approach. One of the main strengths of this DAS is the great diver­sity of the lectu­rers. We have brought toge­ther acade­mics and prac­ti­tio­ners from diffe­rent disci­pli­nes: we talk about diver­sity and we live it too! The parti­ci­pants will thus bene­fit from a broad network. A second strength is the time hori­zon. We don’t just look at the present, but also cover what phil­an­thropy will mean in 10 or 20 years.

TP: Many issues such as finance, leadership or diver­sity are not speci­fic to phil­an­thropy. How do you deve­lop a phil­an­thropy-speci­fic perspec­tive on these issues?
LG: All are important factors to be consi­de­red by all orga­ni­sa­ti­ons, public and private. Howe­ver, they are parti­cu­larly important for phil­an­thropy: the sector needs to lead the way in ensu­ring that best prac­tice is in place when it comes to finance, leadership and diver­sity. Our course has a strong focus on all of these elements. For example, the finance module focu­ses on invest­ment, trans­pa­rency and accoun­ta­bi­lity. We talk very speci­fi­cally about how invest­ments should be aligned with a foundation’s mission. We also want to take advan­tage of our univer­si­ty’s loca­tion and are consi­de­ring visits to foun­da­ti­ons to enrich the offering.

TP: The profes­sio­na­liz­a­tion of the sector depends on educa­tio­nal oppor­tu­nities. How do you see the Swiss foun­da­tion land­s­cape in this respect?
LG: The sector is deve­lo­ping very quickly. We can see that the manage­ment and gover­nance of foun­da­ti­ons in Switz­er­land is beco­m­ing more and more profes­sio­nal. Howe­ver, 80% of foun­da­ti­ons are suppor­ted by volun­te­ers and it is not easy for volun­te­ers to find addi­tio­nal time for trai­ning. This does not mean that they are not inte­re­sted, but there is a need to create a link with the trai­ning offer. Further­more, profes­sio­na­li­sa­tion should not be limi­ted to Switz­er­land. Globa­li­sa­tion chal­len­ges foun­da­ti­ons. Foun­da­ti­ons which are working with the deve­lo­ping world need to under­stand how the problems are deve­lo­ping locally. So they need a compass.

TP: What do you see as the major chal­len­ges for foun­da­ti­ons and NGOs in Switz­er­land?
LG: Digi­ta­liz­a­tion and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence are chan­ging the world. Howe­ver, many foun­da­ti­ons are still not present on the inter­net. Perhaps this is deli­be­rate for reasons of discre­tion, but this will not work in the future. There is a need for more trans­pa­rency and a new legi­ti­miz­a­tion. Digi­ta­liz­a­tion plays an important role in this. The inte­gra­tion of future genera­ti­ons will also be a major challenge.

The phil­an­thro­pic sector needs diver­sity, not only in terms of gender, but also in terms of genera­ti­ons and social class.

Laeti­tia Gill

TP: Why?
LG: Young people engage differ­ently. Think about crowd­fun­ding. They use their mobile phones to give money to a project they care about, they are not inte­re­sted in a tax exemp­tion. There are new ways of giving, both in money and in kind. Crowd­fun­ding is a growing new form of phil­an­thropy. We need to engage young people. The phil­an­thro­pic sector needs diver­sity, not only in terms of gender, but also in terms of genera­ti­ons and social class. This is one of the reasons why our DAS also wants to attract people who are only indi­rectly connec­ted to phil­an­thropy and who see the need to create a stron­ger link with this sector.

TP: Where do you stand with this DAS?
LG: The posi­tive feed­back from our Advi­sory Board and espe­cially from inte­re­sted parti­ci­pants is very encou­ra­ging. We are very plea­sed to have recei­ved appli­ca­ti­ons from a number of highly quali­fied candi­da­tes. This shows that the demand is there and our offer is attractive.

DAS “Stra­te­gic and Opera­tio­nal Phil­an­thropy” (34 ECTS points) at the Univer­sity of Geneva

The language of inst­ruc­tion is English. The course starts in Septem­ber 2021 and lasts until August 2022. The offi­cial regi­stra­tion dead­line is May 31st.

The detailed programme can be found here

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