July 20th, 2022

United we talked – united we act!

By Henrike Doebert and Daniel Großbröhmer

More than 700 participants joined the Philea Forum to finally meet in person, share learnings, and make plans for advancing philanthropic work. Henrike Doebert and Daniel Großbröhmer travelled to Barcelona. Let’s listen to what they have to say.

It was the first of its kind. The Philea Forum in Barcelona was the first conference hosted by the recent convergence of the European Foundation Centre and Dafne – the Donors and Foundations Network Europe.  

As Delphine Moralis, CEO of Philea, made clear in her opening statement, the title of the conference – “The time is now”– was by no means an exaggeration.  

After more than two years of lockdowns, emergency plans and building back better, it was time to take stock and to see where the pandemic had left the European philanthropy community. More than 700 participants joined the conference to finally meet in person, share learnings, and make plans for advancing philanthropic work. 

With Henrike, responsible for Active Philanthropy's Learning Journey and Curricula, we had the chance to join the crowd and dive in at the deep end of discussions in the European philanthropic community. Despite the huge divergence in national circumstances across the community, it quickly became clear that we all have the same fundamental challenges to tackle. 

At first sight, it may have felt like any other conference pre-Covid. But, taking a closer look, the discussion appears to have changed. 

All the crises we face today – climate, war, Covid – are deeply intertwined and cannot be tackled alone. The interconnectedness of crisis was the central theme of this conference. 

But the core of the discussions was how to respond to the climate emergency. The topic dominated the conference: whether the nominal subject was the World Food Programme simulation on loan traps for emerging countries or the debate over the future of health, climate was the underlying thread almost everywhere.  

Many participants and panellists have embraced the vital role of philanthropy in ensuring a just and inclusive discussion towards a climate-friendly world. In the opening discussion, for example, Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation, made it very clear that there was no silver bullet to combat climate change but that, with a broad range of approaches, we can address climate and, at the same time, work on other societal challenges like health or justice.  

A lot of foundations and other actors were visibly motivated to embrace climate action. And many feel the urgency to act now. Everyone knows what the problem is. But what can be done about it? And who would do it? 

Philea, WINGS and other actors have initiated the “International Philanthropy Commitment on Climate Change” as one place to turn to. More than 500 foundations have already signed the commitment and are advancing the discussion on the issue.  

The room was packed when the commitment was presented during the Philea conference. There was massive interest among a broad range of actors in learning more about the movement and how they could engage.  

In many conversations, we learnt about impressive examples of foundations and other actors who have already found a way to introduce climate action into their work, from reducing emissions over smart grant-making to Paris-aligned investment strategies. But most of the people we spoke to admitted that they didn’t know what their foundation would be able to do and how they could be part of the solution. 

We are happy to be now doing just that and sharing those tools. Our learning journey, which we launched shortly before the conference, will help funders navigate the complexity of climate change and the interlinkings with philanthropy and other funding areas. The sole objective of this tool is to break down the complexity of climate change, show why it is crucial to act now and outline what steps need to be taken. The self-paced online training is accompanied by live sessions that create small communities of changemakers working together to bring climate into their foundations.  

The next Philea conference will take place in Croatia. We are sure, when we all meet again, there will be many more foundations that have taken the big leap from committing to climate action to implementing it. After all, four out of five philanthropy professionals are convinced that climate change will be the dominant issue in the next 25 years.  


  • Daniel Großbröhmer, Senior Advisor at Active Philanthropy ©Philea

  • (on the right of the picture) Henrike Doebert, Senior Advisor at Active Philanthropy ©Philea