The third edition of the EFC Philanthropic Leadership Platform – China-Europe highlights the cross-cultural commonalities in philanthropy

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Philanthropic organisations across the globe are grappling with the same fundamental questions around impact, effecting change, and understanding their role in taking on societal challenges.

Built on the EFC’s firm belief that learning from each other is key to tackling such questions, the Philanthropic Leadership Platform (PLP) – China-Europe is a pioneer peer-led leadership development programme. Funded by Stiftung Mercator and led by the EFC in partnership with the China Global Philanthropy Institute (CGPI), PLP runs annually since 2016 and brings together 20 philanthropic practitioners from China and Europe to enhance their leadership skills by sharing with each other their knowledge, experience, creativity and concerns. It aims at enhancing mutual understanding and trust and builds a community of international peers that will support each other long after the programme ends.

This year, hosted in Philanthropy House in Brussels, the programme connected future leaders in philanthropy from Europe and China to think outside of the box, reflect on different tools and methodologies to think through issues and problems, discuss different leadership, change management, the value and power of collaboration and actively engage in problem solving.

Many participants recognised the common challenges all were facing in their leadership, from learning to managing teams, to strategy design, managing internal change and working with your Board. From the intensive nature of the programme, all participants are asked to challenge themselves and to step outside their comfort zone. For many, this was an opportunity to broaden their horizons and to set new goals outside of their own context. All participants stated they would recommend this programme to their colleagues.

“We support the EFC in this programme because first of all they have a great network of foundations from all over the continent; secondly they have the credibility to bring together professionals from philanthropy all over Europe and the rest of the world to create an open discussion on their work; and thirdly EFC has the ability to carry out these programs so that they create a great learning atmosphere for people from different cultural backgrounds.” – Caspar Welbergen – Stiftung Mercator

In reflecting the multifaceted and multidimensional world of modern philanthropy, this programme has always had a strong emphasis on diversity: diversity of countries, foundations, topics and in the participants themselves. Participants are paired throughout the programme with an intercontinental peer to enhance the sharing experience and to encourage dialogue. In this spirit, much of the programme involved peer-led approaches to raise questions and share alternative perspectives through group and plenary interaction.

The programme focussed on some key aspects of leadership, including change management, collaboration, and building teams as well as including perspectives from practitioners and leaders in philanthropy, social innovation and entrepreneurship. This included speakers from the European and Chinese philanthropic sectors, such as Jacobs Foundation, the Trafigura FoundationBodossaki FoundationBernard van Leer FoundationGlobal Partnership for EducationLa Caixa Foundation, the European Cultural Foundation (ECF), Adream Foundation, and the Huamin Charity Foundation. There were speakers from outside philanthropy who gave other insights for participants, including from FTI ConsultingEuropean Investment Bank Institute, and social entrepreneurs from SPEAK and Hippogriff.

In addition to plenary sessions with our guest speakers, the participants took part in activities such as a Tandem methodology team leadership workshop[1], change management case studies and site visits to Ghent and Mechelen. In Ghent, participants were hosted by VBJK (Centre for Innovation in the Early Years) with guest speakers in local government (Alderwoman and Director of Childcare in the City of Ghent) who gave insights into the innovative and world leading child care operations in the City of Ghent. In Mechelen participants also took part in a team building exercise that tested their communication and collaboration skills under pressure. These sessions gave participants unique opportunities to learn and share with peers outside of their usual environment, building strong connections and networks internationally.

Anonymous testimonials from the evaluation:

“The chance to interact with so many cultures and spend time talking about Philanthropy in general is a very unique opportunity. It improved my broader perspective but also gave me a sense of China.”

“This has been an amazing experience. The strength of the program is in its diversity.”

“It was a tremendous experience. I learned a lot of skills. I will share my learnings with my team. But also, I felt very safe and comfortable with this group. I think it’s really important to invest in young leaders and I’m grateful to EFC and Mercator for putting this program together.”

[1] MitOst e.V. in Berlin for the Tandem programme

PLP China-Europe forms part of EFC’s commitment to think global and act local and to improve peer-learning and collaboration among its members. For more information on the EFC’s seven key priorities, please download the EFC Strategic Framework 2016-2022.  http://www.efc.be/about/strategic-framework/

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