Global Perspectives on the Changing Role of Foundations (2007)

The seminar “Global Perspectives on the Changing Role of Foundations” was held at the Sabanci Center on November 20, 2007. Among the participants were; Sabanci Foundation Board of Trustees Chairman Ms. Guler Sabanci, Sabanci Foundation General Manager Husnu Pacacioglu, Ford Foundation Retired Senior Vice President Barry Gaberman, German Marshall Fund President Craig Kennedy as well as representatives from the government (Foundations Directorate), private sector, foundations, NGOs and academia.

In her opening speech Ms. Guler Sabanci referred to the changing structures in the international philanthropic sector and the new roles defined for foundations throughout this transformation. Touching upon the strategy assessment period Sabanci Foundation has undertaken since the beginning of 2007, she emphasized the Foundation endeavors within the framework of their motto To give what this land has given to us back to its people...

Referring to the three Strategy Consultation Meetings Sabanci Foundation held in September, and the Decision Conference that would be held in the afternoon; Ms. Guler Sabanci implied that they were going to develop new strategies in light of these meetings and conferences.

Answering questions of journalists, Ms. Guler Sabanci mentioned the rising importance of Corporate Social Responsibility and that companies are eagerly willing to conduct such operations. Ms. Guler Sabanci emphasized that social responsibility is an important component of social awareness.

Regarding the Sabancı Foundation, Ms. Guler Sabanci said, In 34 years, Sabanci Foundation has built more than 120 institutions including the Sabanci University. She expressed that the current assets of the Sabanci Foundation is approximately 700 million dollars.

In his speech, Mr. Barry Gaberman former Senior Vice President of the Ford Foundation stressed the concept of philanthropy; defining it as the voluntary capture of primary wealth for public benefit . Barry Gaberman expressed that foundations have a set of attributes; foundations can conduct projects targeting specific parts of the society, can do independent policy analysis and that they have flexible structures . Gaberman also stated that foundations do not always live up to their attributes; they may sometimes hold back from taking risks, or become overly bureaucratic. He added that this could consequently lead to a decrease in foundations flexibility.

Highlighting that there are 2 million non-govermental organizations and communities in the USA, Mr. Barry Gaberman said Total of the organizations budgets add up to 800 billion dollars, which is around 10 percent of the United States GDP. He said that there are 72,000 foundations in USA and that the Gates Foundation is the wealthiest with 35 billion dollars in assets.

Regarding today organized philanthropy models, Gaberman emphasized that foundations are becoming important actors in international movements; This is a global structure, and activities are going beyond national borders .

In his speech, German Marshall Fund President Craig Kennedy implied that people are starting to see foundations in a different perspective, in a way that contributes to the development of the society rather than organizations that only write checks.

Emphasizing foundation partnerships and resources; Mr. Craig Kennedy said that foundations are (positioned to) contributing to the resolution of regional conflicts . In this scope, he gave examples from the Balkan Fund for Democracy that was established by German Marshall Fund and other major foundation partners 5 years ago.

Craig Kennedy pointed out that contributing to the resolution of ethnic conflicts and civil society development in Balkans is possible through an established pool of resources; Establishing these pools are very efficient. You can accomplish many things that can not be accomplished by individual foundations. Our new initiative is Black Sea Trust Fund. Emphasizing the tremendous growth in philanthropy and increase in the number of foundations in Europe, Kennedy also highlighted some of the hedge funds that are soon establishing foundations.

Filiz Bikmen, the director of the Third Sector Foundation of Turkey moderated the seminar. In the active discussion with the guest speakers, Barry Gaberman and Craig Kennedy, gave examples from global foundations, analyzed the changing roles of foundations, developments in the sector, new forms of philanthropy and new approaches coming to play. In the last 30 minutes, they answered the questions of the participants about foundation structures, program areas and funds.

For the written document of the seminar please click here...

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