Blog

Kia ora koutou.

Today I’ll cover the King Baudouin Foundation, and tomorrow report on my visits to the European Foundation Centre and the Network of European Foundations.

The King Baudouin Foundation 

The King Baudouin Foundation (KBF) ‘working together for a better society’ is an independent, pluralistic foundation that aims to contribute in innovative and sustainable ways towards greater social justice, democracy and respect for diversity. www.kbs-frb.be

Over a forty year history they have built a diverse model of funding and investment for social impact and collaboration. They have funded a diverse range of entities that build philanthropic capacity and capability as well as directly funding many Belgian, European and international NGO’s working towards societal impact.

I had an amazing day with too much to share in a blog post so I recommend a good deep dive into their website and reports for those inspired to learn more about this innovative and influential organisation.

Key areas of discussion

What are they learning?

• Stay nimble, learn by doing and from failure.
• Hold onto neutrality it allows you to influence. 
• Invest in reframing the way society thinks and behaves for societal impact.

• Keep a balance of tools in your funding toolkit including mix of grantmaking, social investment and venture philanthropy and, if appropriate, don’t be afraid to use them all over time with the same organisations .
• Invest in convening for collaboration, systems change, social impact and leveraging investment. This can include funding organisations that enable collaboration.
• Partner with specialists and consultants and corporate pro-bono partners where it adds value to your investments for greater impact
• Measure impact, create platforms for learning, and keep learning. That can include awarding the ‘best failures’ to encourage learning – and remembering to be humble because we are all on a journey of learning
• Fund potential in people as well as organisations. 
• Seed fund for growth prior to scaling what works. Keep funding flexible to fund longer-term place based initiatives.
• Venture philanthropy models can support organisations ready for structural redesign in a changing world. This can allow them to invest in their development and sustainability.
• Prototype whole systems change with all the stakeholders to co-design new models of service provision which when proven can be replicated or scaled

What are their emergent practice observations?

• It’s hard to attribute philanthropic impact when there are always multiple players and you work in collaboration. It is better to look at overall learning and impact and measure impact within focused areas whilst supporting the grantees to measure their own impact.
• The ability to leverage co-investment for collective impact takes capacity to broker and manage relationships but it is worth it. This can reduce duplication and compliance costs and result in greater shared investment in shared impact areas. 
• The KBF impact model includes four main dimensions; capacity building, raising knowledge, forming opinions and initialising policy actions.
• Philanthropics need to work on their own internal learning models to ensure an overall learning culture across practice.
• By bringing together stakeholders and working collectively you can develop and then share the outcomes such as their work on ‘wicked problems’ developed through a two day workshop in 2012 – where they facilitated knowledge sharing and developed helpful ideas for others to access when working in this space. www.kbs-frb.be
• The Foundation plays a critical role in facilitating European policy discussions as exemplified in their report on a ‘new Pact for Europe’ working with the European Policy Centre. www.kbs-frb.be

What’s on the five to ten-year horizon?

Philanthropy needs to stay agile and keep focused on the future and future scenarios. Planning for possible futures is a great way to do this within organisations - something the Foundation does every year.
Europe is constantly dealing with changes, some unexpected, and with yet to be realised implications. Being ready to move and change and flex is critical.

Insights and learnings

I had an amazing day with the Foundation and was not only impressed by the scale and level of engagement across sectors and agencies from government to community that they had but also by their forward-focused strategy, their desire to continually learn and grow, their leadership (often behind the scenes) with many partners and their core focus on creating a better society.
Sitting in both a European and global context (with outreach offices in New York and now Canada, as well as reaching into Africa and Asia) there is significant potential to share and develop great practice and influence attitudes and approaches to social justice and impact. The Foundation also seems to have a strong ability to create new philanthropic investment - something we struggle to do in New Zealand. Whilst the context is different there may be useful lessons to learn from their approach and philosophy. 
Finally, I was delighted to see many of the same learnings and ideas being modelled as we are trying in the Centre for Social Impact in venture philanthropy and understanding impact. Whilst the KBF’s venture philanthropy model is focused on supporting structural and systems development across a wide range of organisations, parallels were found in the role of corporate pro-bono support, specialist consultancy advice and support, strong relationship management and shared learning. Some of those learnings also rang true:

• The importance of CEO and board leadership
• Readiness to engage in change and learning, and seek advice 
• Adaptable approaches based on needs which may change over time
• Flexible funding models
• Growth (but not only!)
• VP models to leverage and attract others to invest
• Ability to draw on the funders networks and resources for greater impact

Europe is a very different landscape to New Zealand but there are always common challenges and in many ways Europe has much more complex and greater challenges to tackle. But there was a real sense from the Foundation also of a desire and action to collaborate - something New Zealand could do more to welcome especially to tackle to the entrenched problems we face.

The King Baudouin Foundation 2.jpg
The King Baudouin Foundation 1.jpg

The King Baudouin Foundation Venture Philanthropy Fund was launched in 2009 as part of a drive by KBF to diversify and modernise its philanthropic tools.