Monday, 29 June 2009

Philanthropy, Civilisation and Almedelan week

The Alliance of Civilisations is an amazing organisation! Set up as a special project in the UN Secretary-General's office its aim is to promote better understanding between the Muslim and the western worlds. I met the Director on Saturday and talked about how we can encourage this work amongst ACEVO members. We have a large membership amongst organisations working with, or run by the Muslim community in the UK and it is the third sector that is always at the forefront of encouraging and promoting better multi cultural relationships. There website is

The 20th annual international philanthropy Fellows Conference of Johns Hopkins University opened on Sunday. In Milan under the impressive title, "Beyond the Welfare State , towards Subsidiarity". So very much around themes of service delivery through no- profits and our community and representative role. I addressed the Plenary session and stressed the role of the sector working in partnership with Government and the need for the sector to press for reforms in public service at the same time as building its own capacity. One of the Italian speakers, head of one of their big Banking foundations had earlier spoken of the need for access to capital so I also spoke of the transformation role of Futurebuilders in the UK. Because I had to leave for Sweden I actually spoke before the speeches of the three leading Italian Politicians and they had to sit on the platform listening to me. This will have been educative I'm sure! My Italian International Director tells me this is most unusual and almost unprecedented, but very good for them! I told them that in the UK that very day the PM was announcing further reforms for public services- putting citizens more in control of the services they want.

But now I am in Visby, Gotland for the Swedish Third Sector, "Almedalen Week". This event is a major annual week long meeting," real democracy in practice" (or so they say), between the politicians (all Parliamentary Party leaders’ make public speeches), the media, the third sector, the lobbyists, industry and the public. Over 600 events take place during these seven days. These meetings take place on a rather lovely island, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. It's all rather like I imagine a third sector Glastonbury would be. But you just can't imagine Gordon Brown and David Cameron wandering around taking part in informal meetings with sector activists can you? I'm just a bit too old for this sort of thing. Too many sandals around for comfort. But each to his own. Packing for this trip was problematic. Sharp English designer suit for the Italians (they notice this sort of thing) and rough T shirt and shorts (what an image) for the healthy vigorous Swedes. An ACEVO CEO is nothing if not adaptable!

Euclid is holding a roundtable looking at how the third sector works in local communities. And we are there to develop a" Northern Hub" of sector leaders in the Nordic countries.
And we also have one of our regular board meetings- though its unusual for us all to meet in person. Its more often a teleconference call. Our Swedish Euclid Board member is Jakob Beijer. He has written that:

"The most crucial thing I’ve learnt during these years of engagement in the development of Euclid is not that I’ve received lots of examples of how it works in other countries, but by using these examples as tools to see things in Sweden that I have taken for granted. That it is, in fact, possible to do things in different ways.

The difficulty is not to learn what you do not know, but to make visible what you do not know that you do not know."

But now I must go and find my sandals........

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