Blühendes Österreich (“Blooming Austria”) is a company foundation that was established in 2015. It emerged from a collaboration between REWE International AG and BirdLife Austria. The foundation’s work rests on a funding volume of one million EUR per year and aims at protecting local biodiversity, preserving habitats, and providing climate and environmental education.
Undoubtedly, climate and environmental protection rank highly among the most pressing public issues. Many people are creative and committed when it comes to actively contributing to solutions but there is often a lack of structures and financial resources to channel this commitment.
Philanthropic funding can provide financial resources, infrastructure such as rooms, and professional support to enable motivated people to implement their ideas in a coordinated fashion. This can activate the high potential for Public Engagement in climate and environmental protection.
Application in Practice
Climate protection has recently moved from a cross-cutting funding topic for Blühendes Österreich to one that defines the core of the foundation's work.
One of the foundation’s current projects is the Changemaker #Nature project, which is co-funded by the "Austrian Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation, and Technology". Through a call for proposals, Blühendes Österreich has encouraged young people to submit their project ideas.
The funded projects enable youth organisations to contribute to restoring or enhancing threatened ecosystems, making young people active agents of change in biodiversity and climate protection in Austria. Experts help participants to put the finishing touches on their project concepts.
Since its founding, Blühendes Österreich has supported 240 project partners and helped protect more than 1,000 hectares of endangered habitats. It was the first private foundation ever to win the EU's Natura 2000 Award to honour its commitment.
As part of the Changemaker #Nature project, the foundation contributes to making young people active agents of local climate protection.
Through its projects, the foundation also intends to create greater awareness of the importance of healthy ecosystems and biodiversity for climate protection. Against this backdrop, Blühendes Österreich works to dovetail climate protection with biodiversity and nature conservation in the public eye.
What has worked well?
- Promoting interdisciplinarity: Nature conservation and climate protection are directly linked. It is therefore essential to consider and communicate this nexus in the planning stage of any Public Engagement strategy in order to avoid these topics being isolated in practice.
- Avoid duplication by building partnerships: There is already a host of public funding programs for climate action. Partnerships between foundations and public players can help prevent duplication and embed Public Engagement in a broader framework.
What are opportunities for new funders?
- Initiate the transfer of knowledge: Volunteering is an important element of nature and climate protection projects that aim at Public Engagement. However, since volunteers come and go, knowledge is frequently lost. Funders can help by funding the structured transfer of knowledge and new exchange formats.