Philanthropy Is More Than Money

March 2022

Philanthropy is often mistaken as a mere source of funding. In fact, today it offers much more than money and can be a catalyst for overcoming the challenges we face.

By Sandra Breka

Sandra Breka Philanthropie Setzlinge
Peter Irungu / WRI

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has caused shock and deep concern worldwide. Our founder Robert Bosch was particularly concerned about peace and stability in Europe. The Robert Bosch Stiftung is committed to this legacy and has supported numerous projects in Ukraine since the 1990s. We are still closely connected with many alumni and partners today. Our concern and sympathy go out to all Ukrainians and the people who have been working for freedom and democratic development there for years. We are also concerned about those people in Russia who openly oppose the war and expose themselves to great personal risk. We all need to do our utmost for freedom, peace, and stability.

This war in Europe shows once again that the foundation’s issues are highly relevant. Peace remains a central issue for us as around two billion people worldwide are impacted by violent conflicts. In many places beyond Ukraine and Russia, democracy is also under threat from autocracy. The war in Ukraine is an attack on Europe, on the security order established after the Cold War, and on the freedoms of democratic societies.

Philanthropic organizations also rely on multilateral cooperation

In times like these, the urgency of multilateral cooperation is abundantly clear. It is essential for addressing the complex challenges at the heart of many of the Robert Bosch Stiftung's issues. Indeed, on migration, climate change, peace, and inequality, we work closely with the world's foremost multilateral organization, the United Nations.

There’s the Africa Climate Mobility Initiative, launched by the African Union, the United Nations, and the World Bank. It aims to develop evidence-based approaches for dealing with climate-induced migration in Africa. This serves to protect people who migrate regionally by strengthening their resilience and ability to adapt to climate change. This unprecedented global partnership has been joined by academics, practitioners, policymakers, and philanthropic organizations, including the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

In the field of inequality, this year the foundation launched a strategic partnership with the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD). UNRISD addresses social and ecological issues across the boundaries of research and policy fields. The recently established global research network on a new socio-ecological social contract brings together not only scientists but also practitioners from around the world. UNRISD focuses on making sustainable development strategies more equitable and inclusive to reduce inequalities across social, economic, and environmental dimensions. One of the ways UNRISD does this is by incorporating previously neglected bodies of knowledge, such as indigenous knowledge and practical experience, into analyses and policy recommendations.

In addition to collaboration on the issues, the Robert Bosch Stiftung also supports the overarching initiatives of the United Nations. As part of the UN General Assembly in September 2021, UN Secretary-General António Guterres presented the report "Our Common Agenda." It is an ambitious action plan for the next 25 years that contains concrete measures for what António Guterres calls inclusive, networked, and effective multilateralism. The report emerged from an extensive consultation process as part of the United Nations' 75th anniversary in 2020 and ties in with existing development goals such as the 2030 Agenda. As a result of the war in Ukraine, measures included in the report to preserve and build peace, such as the New Agenda for Peace, have taken on new urgency.

Philanthropy can take risks and seek unconventional solutions

These examples illustrate our approach: not to view global challenges and phenomena in isolation, but always as interdependencies; to work on solutions in partnership and across sectoral boundaries and to act as a mediator between stakeholders; to embed local knowledge and action in international processes; to support evidence-based policymaking; to provide long-term support beyond projects and to support actors and organizations as flexibly as possible in their development.

We strongly endorse the rigorous participation of civil society, for example within the framework of Our Common Agenda. We aim to strengthen its independence, its capacity to act, and resilience.

The challenges we face require an inclusive approach: inclusive of geographies, of opinions and more inclusive of actors from all sectors: governments and international organizations, the private sector and the technical community, academia, civil society, and other relevant stakeholders. The most promising approach to multilateral cooperation means leveraging the expertise of civil society organizations, the reach of governments, the innovation and independence of philanthropy, and the efficiency of the private sector.

Philanthropy is still largely mistaken as solely a beneficial source of funding. In fact, philanthropy has professionalized with a view to impact, and today offers much more than money: independent from breaking news and election cycles, it can take risks, and search for exemplary solutions to local, regional, national, and global issues. Philanthropy can reach out to parts of society that neither governments nor businesses reach – and can support citizens to participate and forge partnerships across sectors.

Beyond being a source of finance, philanthropy needs to fulfill its potential as a catalyst for solutions to the challenges we face.

Sandra Breka Profil rund grau 30p
Foto: Gene Glover


Sandra Breka is CEO of the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

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