SIGNs of CHANGE exhibition opens with insights and inspiration from south-east Europe

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The latest exhibition to visit Philanthropy House, SIGNs of CHANGE, courtesy of the SIGN Network (South East European Indigenous Grantmakers Network) opened with an insightful event on 8 October featuring a panel discussion of representatives from the network reflecting upon the previous 10 years, highlighting the success stories, sharing the potholes stumbled into along the way and looking forward to what the future holds for the network.

The event was opened by the EFC’s Gerry Salole congratulating the network on their 10th anniversary and welcoming the many more to come, before the discussion dived into the complex question of establishing what exactly philanthropy is, especially to the citizens of south-east Europe, courtesy of Nathan Koeshall, Catalyst Balkans. Catalyst Balkans had conducted surveys and studies across the 5 countries represented by the network, to get to the root of what philanthropy means and to see how people engaged in ”philanthropy”. The data showed a rising trend in awareness and participation across the region, along with highly localised differences regarding issues such as median donations, methods of engagement, transparency and how people saw where the responsibility of care lays.

The insights provided by Nathan were supplemented by his colleagues on the panel discussing examples, case studies and learnings from the networks operations. Anica-Maja Boljevic, Fund for Active Citizenship for example talked about the founding of the network, and how one of its greatest achievements was simply putting philanthropy on the map, forming it into a known quantity discussed not just by citizens, but by the government too. Anica also discussed a key issue the network faced and one facing all philanthropic organisations, transparency, explaining that to many transparency is essentially about trust, and trust can be hard to create if you do not fully understand what an organisation does.

Merisa Abdullahu, Forum for Civic Initiatives shared how the networks growth and operation in Kosovo had been heavily influenced by the network’s grasp of social media and the digital space, with the quick utilisation of crowdfunding, donations via text, and social media campaigns all helping the network to quickly grow and establish itself. Catalyst Balkans is itself an example of this, hosting one of the largest crowdfunding websites in the region, though a perhaps interesting, yet not unexpected learning was that for the most part people only donated to people they knew, even through digital media, highlighting the human aspect of the fundraising.

The discussions evolved into a brief Q&A session with the panel, featuring questions on the lessons talked about by the network, the data acquired and some more philosophical questions on philanthropic giving, reciprocity and active citizenship. The questions continued downstairs to the formal opening of the exhibition, inspiring further questions and conversations on the network, its members and its story.

The members of the network are: Catalyst Balkans, Forum for Civic Initiatives, Fund for Active Citizenship, HORUS, Mozaik Foundation, National Foundation for Civil Society Development, and the Trag Foundation.

For more information on the exhibition contact Leticia Ruiz-Capillas.

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