”Communicating on Europe; Communicating to Europe” with the EFC’s Communications network

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The EFC’s Communications Professionals in Philanthropy had its Spring Meeting 2019 on ”Communicating on Europe; Communicating to Europe” on the 4-5 April, 2019 in Philanthropy House, Brussels.

The purpose of this convening was threefold: to enable the participants to take stock of EU-level developments shaping the communications environment in the EU public sphere; to put on the radar, and help connect participants with Brussels-based organisations; and to catalyse peer-learning on a range of communications topics.

Opened by Gerry Salole, the Chief Executive of the EFC, the first discussion of the day provided Friso Wiersum of the European Cultural Foundation, with the chance to present their latest campaign ”Democracy Needs Imagination”, a call for proposals for cultural ideas that demonstrate the key European values of openness, democracy and solidarity. The campaign demonstrates one of the possible means by which foundations and the philanthropic sector can engage with the EU public sphere in the run up to the elections in May.

Communicating in the ”bubble” formed the centrepiece of the second discussion of the day, as Corinna HorstGerman Marshall Fund of the United States, and Jürgen NoackBertelsmann Stiftung, each provided their insights and experiences on working within the bubble/s. Mastering the complex interaction between private and public lives, learning to navigate the various bubbles within bubbles that each sector has in Brussels and doing your utmost to keep your mailing lists up to date were just a few of the myriad insights that arose from the discussions with Corinna and Jürgen.

The final open discussion of the day ”Not a Solo Effort: building and communicating partnerships” deep dived into the why, how, and when foundations should leverage impactful multi-stakeholder partnerships. The exchange kicked off with a panel discussion featuring Rebecca Castermans, Head of Communications, European Policy CentrePaola Maniga, Head of DevelopmentBruegelCarol Guthrie, Head of Public Affairs and Media , OECDElizabeth Cunningham, from the International Monetary Fund. The session helped to raise principled and strategic considerations that informed how each organisation is approaching partnerships and highlighted examples of existing partnerships with foundations. The participants explored with the representatives potential entry points for working together in the future, and touted the importance of continuing the conversation going forward.

The four speakers provided different aspects and experiences on creating and maintaining mutli-stakeholders relationships, from the view of the fundees, and the multilaterals. This panel discussion later evolved into each speaker leading individual discussions with small groups to explore potential entry points to their sectors, and organisations, moving forward, and to provide participants with the nuances of working with vastly different organisations.

The discussions and debates of the first day were to be seen in action on the second, in an exclusive meeting with the European Parliament team behind the campaign ”This Time I’m Voting”. The discussion touched upon strategic communications considerations around designing and implementing an EU-wide campaign, micro-targeting and driving the message home at the grassroots level in EU Member states. It also helped to put on their radar future opportunities for foundations to get involved in the official EE2019 campaign so as to help amplify key messages, raise awareness and reach out to target audiences.

This exchange was followed by a guided tour of the European Parliament, to witness how art from Member States is helping to weave and communicate the European project to its visitors.

The last session of the programme featured Päivi Anttila leading a discussion on the development of the EEA Grants Active Citizens Fund, as it seeks to create a sustainable civil society sector throughout south and eastern Europe, and the effort required to form the EEA Grants programme into a recognisable brand, a key requirement for a grants programme funded by taxpayers.

Päivi was joined for this presentation by Maria Fola of the Bodossaki Foundation, whom are operating the fund in Greece, and provided insights from the other side of the partnership, along with updates on the recent events and actions of the fund in Greece.

The meeting came to a close with the network reaffirming the ties of trust and confidentiality that bind the group and renewed their appointment for the Autumn meeting in Athens on 21-22 November hosted by the Bodossaki Foundation.

For more information on the meeting or the work of the Communications Professionals in Philanthropy network contact Stefanos Oikonomou.

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