Les fondations et les organisations bénévoles peuvent impliquer la prochaine génération. Sinon, celle-ci suit sa propre voie.
Their methods are radical, sometimes even illegal. This is hardly surprising: Generation Z, named after the last letter in the alphabet, has to face up to the thought that it may be the last generation of all. Their predecessors in the West were able to enjoy an era without any major conflicts. The US political scientist Francis Fukuyama posited the theory of the ‘end of history’ in all seriousness as early as the late 1980s, believing that liberal democracy had prevailed for good. It is fitting then that the first generation of digital natives was able to make a cosy home for itself in the infinite expanses of the digital space. Conversely, the younger generation’s world is shaped by fundamental challenges in terms of environmental policy: dwindling biodiversity, global warming and resource shortages are the issues with which our society is grappling. Philanthropic initiatives are also picking up on these topics to an increasing extent, with 7% of all foundations working on issues related to environmental protection in 2022. According to the foundation’s report, this figure rises to 10% for foundations established within the last decade. However, it is not just the topics at hand that are changing, the traditional models are also subject to scrutiny. ‘The traditional form of philanthropy has failed,’ said André Hoffmann, for instance, in a much-discussed NZZ interview two years ago. His father, Luc Hoffmann, established the Mava Foundation, which was active in the environmental sector. André Hoffmann has now closed the foundation.
The power of transparency
This discussion reveals a point of tension: foundations have an impact on the reality of the next generation by specifically preserving a world, a cultural asset, a perspective on the future. At the same time, their purpose – which is near-impossible to change – perpetuates the values of the previous generation. The next generation has limited ways in which to influence matters, particularly on strategic committees: 75% of foundation trustees are over the age of 50 and just 5% under 40, according to the report Diversité et conseils de fondations d’utilité publique en Suisse. This does little to make foundations an appealing prospect for Generations Y and Z, and those that will come after them. Furthermore, it also means that the next generation can often make more efficient headway by forging its own path. New ideas are shared on social media and developed in tandem with the community, as shown by Buy Food with Plastic. The desire for transparency and collaboration plays a key role in this respect. A strong community lends a project acceptance, instead of a small group making decisions behind closed doors on support, direction and, in turn, the future. Today, financing is secured via crowdfunding, crowdsourcing and even partnerships. The traditional project-based funding model is facing competition – and being called into question. Investors are also driving forward developments in this field. The new generation is looking for sustainable investment strategies, hoping that they can use their money to make both an impact and a profit. Foundations should also use their capital assets, currently sitting at CHF 140 billion, to further support their own purposes.
Other examples show how organisations, no matter how traditional, can get the new generation involved, adopt their ideas and make them accessible. The Swiss Guide and Scout Movement has 50,500 members – with more joining every day. Founded in 1907 by 50-year-old Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell (known as ‘B‑P’), this organisation encourages young people to ‘do a good turn daily’ – and more than a century on, is still succeeding in its mission. ‘Pfadis’, as they are known in Switzerland, now invest countless hours of voluntary work in providing support for society, just as many other youth organisations do. This has the desired result because young people are given responsibility at an early stage and the opportunity to have their say. How do we integrate the next generation into the foundation sector and inspire them to engage in foundation work? This is not an easy task due to the numbers at play. Demographic change means that the next generation will be smaller than its predecessors. In 1990, 40.7% of the population was under the age of 20, according to the Federal Statistical Office, but by 2020 this number had halved to 19.9%. Conversely, the number of people over 65 tripled, increasing from 5.8% to 18.8%. The reference scenario forecasts that this trend will continue until 2050. In short, it will be the responsibility of the older generations to give their successors a voice and to accept that they have their own ideas, concepts and methods in order to be heard.