Sarah Van Beers ist

Know­ledge for daily work

Sarah Van Beers is Manager, Resource Mobilisation, Private Sector Partnerships, and Innovative Finance at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. She talks about the DAS Strategic and Operational Philanthropy at the University of Geneva, lack of training opportunities and the professionalisation of the sector.

What moti­va­ted you to take the DAS Stra­te­gic and Opera­tio­nal Phil­an­thropy at the Univer­sity of Geneva?

I have always wanted to work for non-profit orga­ni­sa­ti­ons and make a posi­tive impact through my career. This DAS was important for me to conso­li­date my skills lear­ned on the job and gain new perspec­ti­ves. I was also looking for an execu­tive programme that would be compa­ti­ble with my work sche­dule, and the DAS allo­wed me to conti­nue to work while lear­ning new trends and skills.

What parti­cu­larly convin­ced you about the DAS?

I was looking for a diploma that covered both the gran­tee side and provi­ded an under­stan­ding of the dona­tion mecha­nism and decis­ion-making – e.g., why donate to this cause vs another. After looking at what was offe­red at diffe­rent schools, the DAS seemed to be the most complete option, cove­ring the opera­tio­nal side of phil­an­thropy with prac­ti­cal aspects such as budget manage­ment and analy­sis, the legal aspect of charity, as well as broa­der stra­te­gic thin­king (e.g., how to define a stra­te­gic coher­ent phil­an­thro­pic plan, how to select a project vs another, and what elements to consider). Through the various cour­ses, we could address all the above ques­ti­ons and exch­ange with class­ma­tes and profes­sors on real-work cases, chal­lenges, and best practices.

Was there know­ledge and input that you can apply directly in your daily work?

Yes. Thanks to the real-work cases we worked on, I was perso­nally able to gather inputs from class­ma­tes and experts to directly help on a speci­fic situa­tion. In addi­tion, I also lear­ned new skills, such as draf­ting a theory of change or analy­sing a grantee’s budget.  I was able to apply these skills in my daily work. Over­all, the various readings and discus­sions throug­hout the years allo­wed me to gain more confi­dence in my know­ledge of phil­an­thropy and more respon­si­bi­li­ties within my organisation.

Coor­di­na­tion and coope­ra­tion amongst the diffe­rent phil­an­thro­pic orga­ni­sa­ti­ons seem important to tack­ling social chal­lenges from diffe­rent perspec­ti­ves as they are often interlinked.

Sarah Van Beers

Has the DAS chan­ged your job at Gavi?

Sure! The DAS enab­led me to get a deeper under­stan­ding of the theo­ries and prac­ti­ces of phil­an­thropy and deve­lop prac­ti­cal skills such as defi­ning the theory of change, buil­ding a coher­ent stra­te­gic plan, and over­all buil­ding better criti­cal thin­king on phil­an­thropy matters. I believe that the various cour­ses and skills lear­ned allo­wed me to posi­tively impact my current role and take on addi­tio­nal oppor­tu­ni­ties and responsibilities.

How is the cont­act with fellow students after comple­ting the DAS?

Throug­hout the year, we had great exch­an­ges with my class­ma­tes, and we were not ready for it to stop. We ther­e­fore crea­ted an asso­cia­tion – Le cercle de la phil­an­thro­pie – where we can stay connec­ted and enga­ged. We orga­nise networ­king events, work­shops, and social events for all the asso­cia­tion members to exch­ange best prac­ti­ces, access career resour­ces, and stay up to date on the latest deve­lo­p­ments and trends in philanthropy.

The profes­sio­na­li­sa­tion of phil­an­thro­pic insti­tu­ti­ons is an issue: Are there any further trai­ning oppor­tu­ni­ties you feel are lacking?

As phil­an­thro­pic insti­tu­ti­ons become more profes­sio­nal, we could empha­sise leader­ship and manage­ment trai­ning expli­citly focu­sed on phil­an­thro­pic orga­ni­sa­ti­ons natio­nally and inter­na­tio­nally. MBAs focus more on gene­ral or speci­fic indus­try manage­ment, e.g., health, inno­va­tion. Still, I will be inte­res­ted to see more MBAs speci­fi­cally focu­sed on phil­an­thropy needs that are, in my opinion, bridging private sector and public sector skill sets.

In which direc­tion does phil­an­thropy need to develop?

I do believe that colla­bo­ra­tion and inclu­si­ve­ness are essen­tial. Indeed, coor­di­na­tion and coope­ra­tion amongst the diffe­rent phil­an­thro­pic orga­ni­sa­ti­ons seem important to tack­ling social chal­lenges from diffe­rent perspec­ti­ves as they are often interlinked.

Inclu­si­ve­ness is also important to broa­den perspec­ti­ves, gene­rate inno­va­tive ideas and ensure the projects consider the needs and chal­lenges of the populations/group orga­ni­sa­ti­ons they are trying to serve. 

DAS Stra­te­gic and Opera­tio­nal Phil­an­thropy, Univer­sity of Geneva

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