Thoughts on the London Philanthropic Forum…

Photo from the London Philanthropic Forum Dinner including Simon Weston CBE, DEBRA President (left); Louise Murray (second from the left; Stuart Procter, COO of The Stafford London and DEBRA Vice President (second from the right); and Lenore England (right).

In this blog our Managing Director for the Centre for Health Policy, Peter Howitt reflects on his experience attending the London Philanthropic Forum.

On 27-29 September, myself, Emma Lawrance and Gianluca Fontana from the Institute of Global Health Innovation joined with leaders from three charities for a Philanthropic Forum at the Stafford Hotel. DEBRA, are the charity for people with Epidermolysis Bullosa, a rare but devastating skin disease. Le Cure are a subset of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, raising money for cancer research through volunteers cycling stages of the Tour de France. The third charity, the British Library, will probably be most familiar to readers, with its impressive building on Euston Road and comprehensive collection of books.

The idea of the charities coming together was that of philanthropist Lenore England. Lenore has been supporting the work of IGHI (specifically the Climate Cares initiative) for a number of years now. She is also a patron of the other three organisations and was keen to explore the potential for collaboration.

The focus of the Forum was on creating Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs), a term coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. Big Hairy Audacious Goals are bold multi-year targets, such as President Kennedy’s declaration that NASA would put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s.

It was fascinating to see that, despite the different size and scope of our organisations, there was a huge amount of agreement on the common issues and problems facing the charitable sector. After discussion, the two BHAGs that emerged were reducing duplication in charities for greater philanthropic impact and creating a go-to resource for charities and donors.

The idea behind reducing duplication in charities for greater philanthropic impact is that each new charity has overheads and can end up competing with existing charities. It is therefore better to establish separate funds within an existing charity as has happened with Le Cure within the Royal Marsden Charity.

The resource for charities and donors would be a one-stop shop that could help charities define their mission and charter, help link up venture philanthropists with charities, launch an incubator programme for new charitable ideas, link with corporate sponsors and more.

Taking forward the BHAGs will mean working with others, including the Charity Commission. By their nature they will not be easy to achieve, but they could make a profound difference to philanthropy in the UK.

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