Session 2: Building trust in communities – a catalyst for social justice


Richard Jenkins, Head of Policy, Association of Charitable Foundations

Epaminondas Farmakis, Managing Director, SolidarityNow
Avila Kilmurray, Director, Policy & Strategy, Global Fund for Community Foundations
Marie-Anne Paraskevas, Senior Policy Officer, Directorate General Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission
Myriam Stoffen, Director, Zinneke

Moderated by Richard Jenkins, this session evaluated the importance of trust and trustworthiness in the relations between communities and policymakers in tackling long-term social inequalities.

Epaminondas Farmakis’s organisation, SolidarityNow, is an NGO based in Greece, working mainly in Thessaloniki and Athens. They have developed an interesting “participative model” to support and address the marginalisation of vulnerable groups both providing services and running grantmaking programmes to support the work of other NGOs. This model is based on the creation of partnerships between different stakeholders to provide services such as medical and psychological support to those groups in need of that, in particular following the financial cuts in healthcare, those who often do not have access to those services (e.g. single parents, unaccompanied children, migrants etc.). This model foresees quite a long process of building relations among the different actors such as civil society organisations, sometimes working independently, local communities and local public administration. The key element that makes this model work is reciprocal trust.

Mr Farmakis remarked that the task of building trust has become even more important with the current migrant crisis Greece is facing: informing citizens and involving local communities in facing the problem could prevent (even) greater prejudices and xenophobia towards migrants. He stressed that, with only 8 of the 28 Member States agreeing to a relocation scheme and many adopting their own policies to deal with the crisis, the EU now faces its moment of truth.

Giving the community foundation perspective was Avila Kilmurray of the Global Fund for Community Foundations, a grass-roots grantmaker working to promote and support institutions of community philanthropy around the world. Ms Kilmurray described the model of community foundations as one which perhaps garners more trust in communities. In the context of migration crises, community foundations have been at the coalface in responding to the volume of migrants entering at the borders as well in their communities. They are often the source of effective community organising and are seen to be trustworthy. They also assume an important role in organising a high volume of volunteering to make the response more effective.

Ms Kilmurray presented an assessment of the issues currently faced by community foundations and specifically how they are responding to the migrant crisis. Her presentation gave valuable insights into the key elements required in terms of ways of working, behaving and “policy thinking” when striving to build trust in communities.

Marie-Anne Paraskevas of the European Commission gave an overview of existing EU funds such as the European Social Fund, and how they can be employed to foster greater trust among the different stakeholders involved. In the frame of the current migrant crisis, she focused on the EU funds (ESF, FEAD, AMIF) conceived to improve migrant integration and how these can be used most effectively to alleviate tensions and ensure an integration process that has support from a range of communities and sectors. This support is apparent through more trusting relationships between governments, local authorities, civil society organisations and local communities including migrant communities. Ms Paraskevas described how in future a more bottom-up approach, which has already been tested through community-led local development initiatives, will be used for these funds, enhancing the inclusion of disadvantaged groups including migrants, and hence improve trust.

Myriam Stoffen described how Zinneke, a parade project conceived as part of Brussels 2000 European City of Culture, highlights the rich culture of Brussels, which is by definition cosmopolitan and pluralistic. Made up of residents and artists, Zinneke is the expression of a desire to build bridges between the 18 municipalities and the city centre, between the people of Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia, by mobilising the city’s (socio) cultural associations. Zinneke contributes to building trust in and between communities, and generates a sense of well-being for individuals and communities. Ms Stoffen concluded by making some reflections on how these processes/outcomes could be used and evaluated by policymakers when engaging with local communities in the long term.