Foundations Need to Be More Focused and More Courageous
Study "The Future of Foundations" prepared by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants on behalf of Robert Bosch Stiftung presented
Study serves as a topic for discussion at the "Era of Citizens – How Civil Society and Foundations are Shaping the Future" conference with German President Gauck and Nobel Prize laureates Kailash Satyarthi (2014) and Muhammad Yunus (2006) on October 16 and 17 in Berlin
Stuttgart, October 14, 2014 – As a result of their financial and political independence, foundations are ideally suited to playing a key role in solving societal issues. In order to fully tap this potential in the future, however, they must operate in a more focused, courageous, and transparent manner. This is the conclusion reached by the study "The Future of Foundations," prepared by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants on behalf of the Robert Bosch Stiftung on the occasion of its 50-year anniversary.
"To mark our 50-year anniversary, we want to offer a platform where we can discuss the future of our own sector," says Dr. Ingrid Hamm, Chief Executive Officer of Robert Bosch Stiftung. "This study offers a basis for such a discussion. It addresses numerous questions, including self-critical ones, which are currently being discussed throughout the foundation world. Through their analysis, the authors provide important ideas for how foundations should position themselves in the future in order to make the greatest possible contribution to the general good."
In preparing the study, the authors from the international strategy consulting firm conducted exclusive interviews with international foundation representatives and academics and also analyzed quantitative data.
The study shows that foundations play an increasingly important role in society. For example, current surveys show that the number of foundations in Germany has increased by approximately 70 percent in the last ten years, from 12,088 in 2003 to 20,150 in 2013. Notable in this context is the growth of community foundations, whose assets have increased tenfold since 2003, from just 20 million to 216 million euros.
At the same time, issues such as demographic change, resource scarcity, and the need to strengthen social cohesion mean that foundations are now faced with new tasks. In addition, the government’s foreseeable withdrawal from certain areas, such as cultural duties, is forcing founders and foundations to redefine their role in relation to government activities.
"Foundations can be a driving force behind civil society. Accepting this role means more responsibility and a systematic focus on impact and also involves a corresponding increase in professionalism, openness, and dialog," says Dr. Hamm.
The experts from Roland Berger observed that, often, foundations do not actually tap their full potential, however. According to the strategy consultants, in the future, foundations must work in a more focused manner if they are going to become more effective. This begins with a strategic and fact-based approach to select their issues of focus – foundations should define clear goals and deliberately select the role that they want to take on. The experts from Roland Berger see great potential for foundations in the role of the bridge builder, since they can bring different groups to the table together and create a platform for fruitful reflection and a lively discussion.
In the future, foundations will also need to give more consideration to the impact and efficiency of their activities. Furthermore, a productive culture of accepting and dealing with failure is also part of evaluating one’s own work. As such, the authors of the study suggest that foundations become more courageous and more willing to take risks. In addition, the more prominent role that foundations now hold in the public sphere demands more transparency.
Partnerships are another area that foundations must give more deliberate consideration to in the future. The increasing complexity of societal issues and the limited capacities of individual organizations require foundations to collaborate more strongly with one another and other active members of civil society.
Experts from civil society and the foundation sector will discuss the results of the study with representatives from the worlds of politics and media as part of the "Era of Citizens – How Civil Society and Foundations are Shaping the Future" conference on October 16 and 17 in Berlin. German President Joachim Gauck will open the conference after an introduction by Dr. Kurt W. Liedtke, chairman of Robert Bosch Stiftung’s Board of Trustees. Participants include:
Dr. Gerd Müller, federal minister of economic cooperation and development
Kailash Satyarthi, Indian human rights activist and 2014 Nobel Prize laureate
Dr. Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and 2006 Nobel Prize laureate
Janusz Reiter, former Polish ambassador
Saran Kaba Jones, founder and CEO of FACE Africa
Dr. Anja Langenbucher, director of the Europe Office, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation