The following article is cross-posted from Alliance magazine blog. Based out of the UK, Alliance magazine is the leading global magazine on philanthropy and social investment.
The best idea is in these rooms! A conference that only has one goal—exchanging as much knowledge as possible—is only as good as the ideas that are shared. Its success is measured by the participants’ willingness to pick up these ideas and pass them on.
Therefore it comes as no surprise that the workshop on “Understanding the needs of local communities” was completely booked and more participants than expected followed the remarks of Cindy Lindsay (CF Canada), Beate Hirt (Healthy City Slovakia) and Christina Vaileunu (CF Bucharest).
As actors of civic engagement we talk a lot about how we find new sponsors, fund our work, manage the change of generations in our committees, and react to political regulations. Yet the question of how we as community foundations actually serve local needs with our offerings is often paid little attention.
However, this is precisely what we must ask ourselves: how do we as community foundations find solutions to the problems with which our city/municipality is concerned and how do our offerings make a recognizable contribution to the improvement of our local community?
Vital Signs is a programme of the Canadian community foundations that is still completely unknown in Germany and many other European countries. Information about the needs of a city, municipality, or region is to be gathered via specific analyses and assessments of existing data material.
Answers to questions on health & wellness, environment, living standards, education and other issues are analyzed in such a way as to enable the community foundation to use the results to develop and offer specific programmes.
However, Cindy Lindsay from Community foundations of Canada does not see the benefits of Vital Signs in a rigid programme for community foundations.
She sees the power of Vital Signs in the programme’s adjustability to local as well as national needs.
And so it comes as no surprise that by now Vital Signs has successfully travelled from Canada to Europe and that such countries as the UK, Slovakia, and Romania have worked with it for years.
Beate Hirt and Christina Vaileunu motivated us workshop participants by showing us how their very different community foundations, the Healthy City Community Foundation and the Bucharest Community Foundation, use Vitals Signs to find starting points for goal- and needs-oriented project work—adjusted to the local needs!
As a participant of a country which is still unfamiliar with Vital Signs, I found one argument particularly convincing: Vital Signs is especially helpful in motivating sponsors to invest in areas of actual need while at the same time improving the long-term effect of programmes.
One thing is clear after this session: in Germany and other European countries we must look into ways in which this solid and effective programme can be implemented to meet our national or regional needs.
Team Germany (Anja Böllhoff, Burkhard Küstermann, Ulrike Reichart) is taking a good idea home!
Anja Böllhoff is the Coordinating Director for the European Community Foundation Initiative.