The colla­bo­ra­tive phil­an­thropy of the future?

Support consortia

Conven­tio­nal support models often don’t achieve the desi­red sustainable and systemic impact. But what are the alter­na­ti­ves? As part of a support consor­tium, the foreign policy think tank foraus exami­nes the impact of colla­bo­ra­tive support and core funding that stret­ches over several years.

The model of bila­te­ral project support that often features rela­tively low volu­mes, short time hori­zons, fixed quan­ti­ta­tive quan­ti­fia­ble results and plenty of bureau­cracy when it comes to appli­ca­ti­ons and reports is still the norm in Switz­er­land. This is based on the desire for trans­pa­rency and effi­ci­ency (every franc goes to the project) or causa­lity and attri­bu­tion (our contri­bu­tion has made this project happen).

This model works rela­tively well if you want to launch some­thing new. But for those already working in civil society, such as the foreign policy think tank foraus, this means that they constantly have to devote signi­fi­cant resour­ces to new project appli­ca­ti­ons and admi­ni­stra­tion instead of being able to use them stra­te­gi­cally, flexi­bly and effec­tively to make an impact in their core business.

Alter­na­ti­ves that make a systemic impact

When we talk about sustainable and systemic impact, we have to consi­der the funding logic behind it. There are already plenty of studies that describe alter­na­tive support models. Three elements stand out: first, a shift from short-term project funding to long-term core funding of bodies that help make systemic change happen . These include think tanks and social inno­va­tion labs in parti­cu­lar. Second, a shift from linear thin­king to agile and systemic thin­king . And third, a shift from bila­te­ral to colla­bo­ra­tive support . But what does this look like when put into practice?

A group of support funds and foun­da­ti­ons – inclu­ding arcas foun­da­tion, Emil & Rosa Rich­te­rich-Beck foun­da­tion, Migros Pioneer Fund, Merca­tor Foun­da­tion Switz­er­land and others – have deci­ded to test these concepts. This support consor­tium has been jointly supporting foraus since 2021 with core funding, which will conti­nue for five years.

The foraus support consortium

Having a support consor­tium invol­ves more than just pooling funding: foraus and the supporting insti­tu­ti­ons, some of which are very diffe­rent from each other, first had to agree on a common under­stan­ding of this under­ta­king. This inclu­des not only aspects such as a common defi­ni­tion of impact and reporting proces­ses, but also the inter­nal gover­nance of the consor­tium, exter­nal commu­ni­ca­tion and more. The goals are regu­larly evalua­ted toge­ther with the insti­tu­ti­ons and adju­sted if necessary. 

We’ve already noti­ced three posi­tive effects of this new support model after just one year: 

  • The focus has shifted to our core busi­ness as a foreign policy volun­teer orga­ni­sa­tion. Instead of having to devote our energy to many small projects in order to survive, we can now focus on the acti­vi­ties that give us the most leverage.
  • Conti­nuity over a longer plan­ning hori­zon, which is parti­cu­larly important for our employees. Until now, we have often only been able to offer them short-term, project-based contracts. We are now in a better posi­tion to retain these great people, their exper­tise and their networks.
  • Scope for stra­te­gic orga­ni­sa­tio­nal deve­lo­p­ment. Instead of project goals, we now perio­di­cally evaluate our impact as an orga­ni­sa­tion. This allows us to estab­lish insti­tu­tio­nal lear­ning proces­ses and adapt our stra­tegy flexibly.

It is important to the members of the consor­tium and foraus to share the know­ledge acqui­red with the chari­ta­ble sector in order to make the core support model repro­du­ci­ble in a low-thres­hold way. We look forward to other foun­da­ti­ons joining this joint lear­ning process. 

About foraus

foraus has been commit­ted to construc­tive foreign policy dialo­gue for twelve years now. With its volun­teer model, the non-profit orga­ni­sa­tion offers young thin­kers and the gene­ral public a plat­form to jointly deve­lop approa­ches for solving inter­na­tio­nal chal­len­ges and to include them in policy-making. With its network, which varies from young people to deci­sion-makers – who come from diffe­rent parties, sectors, language back­grounds and coun­tries – and its ability to bring diverse play­ers toge­ther and parti­ci­pate in inno­va­tive program­mes, foraus is an example of an orga­ni­sa­tion helping to bring about systemic change.

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