EFC Grantmakers East Forum 2020 – Embracing Complexity: Interconnectedness in times of crisis


The 2020 edition of the EFC’s Grantmakers East Forum (GEF), “Embracing Complexity: Interconnectedness in times of crisis” will take place digitally on 2-3 and 9-10 December.

The coronavirus pandemic brought Europe and the world to a standstill in early 2020. As world borders closed and economies were shut down to slow the spread of the virus, the world’s interconnectedness and interdependence came into sharp focus. No longer can the climate, national economies, democracy, cities, justice, health, racism and discrimination, and so much more be distilled from one another, and treated as separate issues. The precarious situation the global community found itself in during Corona and Black Lives Matter has thrust this into the spotlight. Just as the precariousness of it all showed itself in an even more alarming light.

In times of crisis like this, the seemingly impossible becomes possible. We can witness both sensible, fair and just ideas, and predatory “disaster capitalism” ideas being put into practice and fundamental civil rights being suspended. Shocks and crises can and have catalysed (r)evolutionary leaps. How will the countries of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe emerge from the crisis? Interdependency played a key role in the crisis arriving in these regions, but can we use these same ties, networks, interdependency, to collectively emerge from the crisis and make our way towards a more equitable, just society? What is the role of philanthropy and the grantmakers in weathering this and catalysing change?

It is in this context that foundations must take a unanimous stand as stewards of civil society, to be platforms for social interaction, facilitators of citizen empowerment, promoters of fundamental rights and shapers of societies’ social fabric. To bolster the impact of civil society actors, funders need to re-evaluate and adapt strategies, tools and operating mechanisms.

The annual gathering of GEF offers an open space and stimulus for debate and new ideas. Grantmakers, academics, civil society actors, and representatives from EU and international organisation’s are provided with the opportunity to discuss pressing questions, such as:

  • Should philanthropy primarily focus on helping existing civil society organisations to survive with practical and flexible support until the situation returns to normal? How much space should be given to fundamental questions, such as what ‘new normal’ we should strive for?
  • How can civil society maintain its watchdog function in times of rising authoritarianism, surveillance, deteriorating public trust and disinformation campaigns?
  • How to address the soaring inequalities in access to education and healthcare now more visible than ever?
  • What are the best methods of building community resilience, mobilising people and creating new communities in a pandemic? What role does technological play?
  • What is the role of local, national and European philanthropic actors and networks?

For more information contact Deborah Flon.

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