Bild: John Towner, unsplash

New initia­ti­ves aim to streng­then the connec­tion between phil­an­thropy and acade­mia in Europe

Phil­an­thropy is navi­ga­ting through turbu­lent times. Multi­ple crisis and legi­ti­macy issues are on the table, but also new oppor­tu­ni­ties rela­ted to lever­aging impact of phil­an­thropy. Acade­mic studies can help insti­tu­tio­nal phil­an­thropy become more self-reflec­tive. They can shed light on what the sector can and can’t do, and could inform stra­tegy and prac­tice for the sector. Given the rela­tive small size of the sector compared to its public and commer­cial coun­ter­parts, using and promo­ting (acade­mic) know­ledge deve­lo­p­ment to build the sector is perhaps even more important for phil­an­thropy than it for other sectors. With the launch of new initia­ti­ves, the Euro­pean Rese­arch Network On Phil­an­thropy (ERNOP) and Phil­an­thropy Europe Asso­cia­tion (Philea) aim to provide new bridges to cross the gap that still remains between prac­ti­tio­ners and academia.

It must be noted that the acade­mic-prac­ti­tio­ner distance is not speci­fic to the field of phil­an­thropy and often stems from a gap of perspec­tive, language, under­stan­ding and thin­king between two diffe­rent worlds. Nevert­hel­ess, the growing importance placed on orga­ni­sa­tio­nal lear­ning cent­red around thoughtful and metho­do­lo­gi­cally sound utili­sa­tion of acade­mic rese­arch along with orga­ni­sa­tio­nal data provi­des an oppor­tu­nity for narro­wing this gap. The Inter­na­tio­nal Confe­rence on Phil­an­thropy Rese­arch hosted by Compa­gnia di San Paolo in Septem­ber 2022 offe­red a start­ing point to deve­lop new initia­ti­ves that may foster the rela­ti­onship between acade­mia and phil­an­thropy in Europe. After the confe­rence, Phil­an­thropy Europe Asso­cia­tion (Philea) and the Euro­pean Rese­arch Network On Phil­an­thropy (ERNOP) colla­bo­ra­ted to enhance the visi­bi­lity of and access to phil­an­thropy research.

Rese­arch Notes: Two page summa­ries of acade­mic publi­ca­ti­ons with a focus on impli­ca­ti­ons for practice

Peer-reviewed phil­an­thropy rese­arch rarely finds its way to the eyes of phil­an­thropy prac­ti­tio­ners due to the limi­ta­ti­ons of access to scien­ti­fic jour­nals or atten­tion span to read a text writ­ten for an acade­mic audi­ence, among other possi­ble reasons for non-enga­ge­ment with acade­mic mate­ri­als. On the other side of the coin, acade­mics often lack the time, skills, or the insti­tu­tio­nal encou­ra­ge­ment to rewrite their findings in a more enga­ging, prac­ti­cal, and acces­si­ble way for prac­ti­tio­ners. ERNOP, toge­ther with key part­ners, laun­ched a new initia­tive called ERNOP Rese­arch Notes which aims to provide easy-to-read, prac­tice orien­ted and visually appe­al­ing two-page summa­ries of acade­mic artic­les. Rese­arch Notes are writ­ten by people working in phil­an­thropy, and there is an open call to all profes­sio­nals that want to contri­bute to the deve­lo­p­ment of this initia­tive to join as ‘prac­ti­tio­ner expert’.

Safe Spaces: Inti­mate sessi­ons for dialo­gue between prac­ti­tio­ners and academia

ERNOP and Philea see the inter­ac­tion between acade­mics and prac­ti­tio­ners as a means for cross-polli­na­tion leading to an exci­ting mixture of new ideas, inno­va­tion, and shifts in thought patterns and prac­ti­ces. To allow their know­ledge and skills to influence one other, it is neces­sary to bring toge­ther these two consti­tu­ents in faci­li­ta­ted, trus­ted spaces. For this, ERNOP, in colla­bo­ra­tion with Philea, orga­ni­ses ‘Safe Spaces for Phil­an­thropy’ on June 28th in Zagreb, Croa­tia, prior to it’s Rese­arch Confe­rence ‘Phil­an­thropy and crises. Roles and func­tio­ning of phil­an­thropy in times of society uphe­avals’ on June 29–30th.  The Safe Spaces for Phil­an­thropy will have sessi­ons dedi­ca­ted to foste­ring dialo­gue and shared lear­ning between acade­mics and prac­ti­tio­ners. Topics —  on the agenda for most working in, with and/or for phil­an­thropy — that will be part of the ‘Safe Spaces’ are impact, empower­ment, leader­ship, advo­cacy and diver­sity and inclu­sion. The Safe Spaces are open for all that care about these issues and parti­ci­pa­tion is free. Howe­ver, regis­tra­tion is requi­red and capa­city limited.

The joint sessi­ons will use methods which encou­rage respect for unique orga­ni­sa­tio­nal cultures, profes­sio­nal languages, norms and defi­ni­ti­ons of success; harness and coor­di­nate the energy, inte­rests and resour­ces of these diverse audi­en­ces; and stress shared values, over­lap­ping stra­te­gic inte­rests, mutual purpo­ses and inter­de­pen­den­cies in order to build rela­ti­onship capi­tal and trust. The Also the Jour­nal of Phil­an­thropy and Marke­ting (JPM) will publish five open access ‘Dialo­gue Papers’ that will inte­grate and harvest the outco­mes and reflec­tions of both acade­mics and prac­ti­tio­ners on these topics and parti­ci­pants are invi­ted to write a reflec­tional commen­tary after the event.

Alig­ning secto­ral data coll­ec­tion efforts

In addi­tion to support­ing their members, both ERNOP and Philea have their own rese­arch acti­vi­ties. Giving in Europe, one of ERNOP’s major rese­arch initia­ti­ves, measu­res the amount of giving by house­holds (in vivo and through bequests), corpo­ra­ti­ons, foun­da­ti­ons and charity lotte­ries. Philea coll­ects data on the number, assets and expen­dit­ure of foun­da­ti­ons through its natio­nal asso­cia­tion members and publishes coun­try profiles  with results from each coun­try parti­ci­pa­ting in the coll­ec­tive effort. ERNOP and Philea are plan­ning to align our methods for data coll­ec­tion not only to opti­mise our resour­ces and make our data more consis­tent but also to speak with one voice when it comes to report­ing on the sector’s size and scale, which can only streng­then our messages.

A Euro­pean Phil­an­thropy Rese­arch Fund: Poten­tial deve­lo­p­ments for the future?

The exch­an­ges at the Inter­na­tio­nal Phil­an­thropy Rese­arch Confe­rence in Turin was an important step­ping stone for enhan­cing the phil­an­thropy-acade­mia colla­bo­ra­tion in Europe. As with other complex situa­tions, there is no silver bullet to resolve all the bott­len­ecks and chal­lenges for colla­bo­ra­tion. Nevert­hel­ess, intro­du­cing a set of incen­ti­ves and faci­li­ta­ting the colla­bo­ra­tive proces­ses around a shared rese­arch agenda and stra­te­gic goals can be instru­men­tal for bridging these two worlds. The initia­ti­ves that are curr­ently being deve­lo­ped might provide new step­ping stones towards a joint rese­arch agenda to be achie­ved by the crea­tion of Phil­an­thropy Rese­arch Fund that aims to incen­ti­vise acade­mic rese­arch on issues that matter to phil­an­thro­pic orga­ni­sa­ti­ons, raise funda­men­tal issues on defi­ning Euro­pean phil­an­thropy and explore condi­ti­ons for blue sky rese­arch on phil­an­thropy, make phil­an­thropy rese­arch more rele­vant, acces­si­ble, and visi­ble to prac­ti­tio­ners and the public at large and support rese­ar­chers with a holi­stic approach from design to field entry, from publi­shing to disse­mi­na­tion of results.

What would such a fund look like in prac­tice? How would it deli­ver results that would best satisfy the needs and expec­ta­ti­ons of both acade­mic and prac­ti­tio­ner commu­ni­ties? ERNOP and Philea are keen to engage with any inte­res­ted party on the deve­lo­p­ment of this fund and welcome thoughts from inte­res­ted foun­da­ti­ons and acade­mics on whether and how they would like to take part.

StiftungSchweiz is committed to enabling a modern philanthropy that unites and excites people and has maximum impact with minimal time and effort.

Follow StiftungSchweiz on