Philanthropy gears up to tackle urgent challenges

    Philanthropy gears up to tackle urgent challenges

    Lombard Odier explored new ways for philanthropists to benefit society at its Rethink Philanthropy symposium in Zurich on Wednesday, 18 April. Humanitarian, educational and investment experts said the time was ripe for philanthropy to play a key role in tackling social and environmental challenges.

    To fight the real causes of poverty, you need to help people help themselves.                                               

    “To fight the real causes of poverty, you need to help people help themselves," says Swiss photographer Hannes Schmid, who helps people in Cambodia escape a life in the slums. Through his organisation Smiling Gecko, he provides several hundred Cambodians with education, work and a sustainable income on a 110-hectare site.

    “Projects should be financially self-sustainable and income generating because that enables families to create a life for themselves, earn a living and gain independence," he says.

    Hannes Schmid's presentation kicked off a lively evening of discussions, networking and practical insights into how individuals can translate their philanthropic passion into action.

    “You always need to start with the client," says Maximilian Martin, Global Head of Philanthropy, Lombard Odier. “What does the client want to achieve, what are the assets that they have at their disposal, be it financial, a network or specific insights into an industry or topic?

    “Then you have to understand the latest developments and tools so that you can help clients translate their passion for social change into something concrete that can be executed efficiently in the long run."

    Tina Wüstemann, Partner & Head of Swiss Clients, Bär & Karrer, agrees. “Given that each family is different, both from its cultural and philanthropic background, there is no “one size fits all" solution," she says.

    Given that each family is different, both from its cultural and philanthropic background, there is no “one size fits all" solution.

    Thanks partly to the development of new tools to mobilise and deploy private resources, philanthropic giving is at an all-time high around the globe. Access to data to identify challenges and measure results has also transformed the landscape.

    Last year, the International Committee of the Red Cross broke new ground with the Programme for Humanitarian Impact Investment, also known as Humanitarian Impact Bond, which was co-sponsored by Lombard Odier. In this novel funding transaction, the largest ever in in the humanitarian space, impact investors pre-financed three new physical rehabilitation centres in Africa.

    “It is possible to invest in a very unstable environment and it is possible to do that in a very structured and effective way," says Yves Daccord, Director-General, International Committee of the Red Cross.

    “Looking beyond a simple financial result is part of our DNA." Says Patrick Odier, Senior Managing Partner, Lombard Odier.

    What more could you want than allocating capital that does as well as it would do traditionally and adding societal benefit?

    Education remains the most popular philanthropic cause for ultra-high net worth individuals followed by health. Education is also society's great equaliser. ETH University President Lino Guzzella gave us an insight into where education is headed and why and how philanthropists should get involved.

    “Education, research and knowledge transfer are the most important factors not only for economic success but also for societal progress. Thus, society is well advised to invest in these endeavours," he says.

    “The role of philanthropy, is becoming more and more important in funding research and education. We need much more funding than governments can provide. If we want to remain able to act, we need more involvement from the private sector." 

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