The threat, the challenge, and the opportunity

19. April 2021.

“The philanthropy sector is a bedrock of civil society activity and has a unique convening power to bring together diverse societal actors.”

This article has been commissioned for PEXnews. By Omri Preiss, Alliance4Europe

Our society is undergoing a seismic shift, and the philanthropy sector has the ability to shape its direction for good by acting together. Recovery requires joined up society-wide action. The time to make that commitment is now.

We live in an age defined by disruption and transformation, terms that had become buzzwords long before the Covid pandemic arrived. And yet, as we were grappling with fundamental challenges to our way of life, Covid seems to have catapulted us some way into a surreal and dystopian version of the future, one where we sit at home, with a lot of time on our hands for deeper thinking. Reflecting on the realities of our transforming world, some patterns emerge.  

When we were already trying to come to terms with a digital interconnected world, Covid threw us into a reality of constant digital connection and physical isolation. Whereas climate change threatens us at the pace of ice melting, the pandemic unleashed a fast-moving global crisis in real time. Whereas disinformation and malicious actors online threatens democracy and spread authoritarianism, Covid has unleashed an infodemic of outlandish conspiracies. The same applies to the challenges of accelerated economic inequalities, race, gender, education – fundamental issues in our lives.

pex community march 4

Illustration by Marina Roa from SenseTribe

In each of these cases, there is a significant palatable threat. If we do not act as a society, the consequences for ourselves in the present, and for future generations, will be severe. Now that we have had a taste of an unfolding global crisis, do we want to risk unmitigated climate change? Of course not. If there is anything we have learnt, it’s that listening to scientists about well-established facts is a good idea.

“Can we raise up a sustainable, inclusive and prosperous economy out of this economic crash once the pandemic is over? Now that we have come to depend on our apps and devices for human connection, will we redesign our tech to be more humane? Where to begin?”

All around the world and across Europe, citizens at large, people from all walks of life, organised themselves online and in person to support each other through this crisis. They worked tirelessly to save lives, they stood up for racial equality, gender equality and the right to live in a democracy. Civil society across the continent has shown resilience and determination to persevere and to shape that vision of the future. We need actors from across society, from governments, to media, from education, the arts and culture, to business, for all of these to join in.
The philanthropy sector is a bedrock of civil society activity and has a unique convening power to bring together diverse societal actors. Acting together, philanthropic actors can leverage their capacities, platforms, networks and communities to generate the vision that is needed to shape that hopeful direction. This would require cooperation and coordination within the sector and a joined-up conversation. Then, the next step would be societal outreach together and coordinated action.

Part of the solution is in emerging civic technologies, which can open up new democratic spaces. The European Hub for Civic Engagement is a new online platform co-developed by Das Progressive Zentrum, Alliance4Europe and Citizens for Europe to enable civil society organisations and activists to connect, share content, coordinate action, and to eventually incubate new ideas and seek funding.

Source: dafne.

Europska zaklada za filantropiju i društveni razvoj je korisnica financijske podrške Nacionalne zaklade u okviru Razvojne suradnje u području razvoja filantropije i zakladništva u Republici Hrvatskoj.