The Raymond Georis event this year took the form of an internal reflection of the sector (“entre-nous, chez-nous”) on 21 November. The event took place against a backdrop of increasingly critical eyes being cast at the legitimacy of philanthropic organisations working – some would argue controversially – in the sphere of public policy and advocacy. At the same time, politicians and the media have also begun questioning the sector’s legitimacy across the board. Clearly, anti-philanthropy rhetoric is in the ether and we need to both be aware of it and gauge appropriate responses.
Raymond Georis introduced the debate theme of how to respond to the more negative trend of criticism of the philanthropic sector. At a time when there is a schism developing between people and the elite, and with Europe seemingly in crisis, what could and should Institutional Philanthropy Organisations (IPOs) be doing to help?
The debate, like the rest of the 2017 EuroPhilantopics, took place off the record, so what follows is a broad stroke picture of the direction the debate took, and the key issues:
- Should IPOs influence political debate or have a political agenda?
- If IPOs are working closely on topics such as migration, climate change, etc. how is it possible to avoid being political?
- Legitimacy must be distinguishable from legality – one doesn’t mean the other. Legitimacy is ultimately what public opinion decides it ought to be.
- The rules to follow to accomplish legitimacy are transparency, competency, credibility and reputation. Trust comes from being trustworthy, there is no shortcut.
- As always, context is critical – what works in one may not be ideal for another
- Money talks, big money whispers – too much interference with politics in countries where there is a stable democracy can have an adverse effect.
- Conversely, in less stable democracies, or countries without democracy, there was a call for greater political protest and involvement.
- Even if you treat the government/state as a “friend’’, you should still feel able to comment, criticise, advise and warn them as you would any friend.
- Both right wing and left wing IPOs should coexist to accurately reflect society. There should be no attempt at claiming moral high ground, as long as all people in society feel represented there is less risk of losing legitimacy
Raymond Georis has been a champion of philanthropy for several decades. On 9th November 1989, under his leadership, seven European foundations joined together to form the EFC. 28 years later, the annual event in his name pays tribute to the vision of Mr Georis, who dedicated, and continues to dedicate, his career to the European project and the goal of building long-lasting infrastructures for cooperation within the European philanthropic and civil society communities.in previous years, the 2017 Raymond Georis event recognised individuals with unique insights, new perspectives, and provocative thinking.