We have learned a lot over the past years. To grant a donation of this size, which is rare in the sector, has required us to invest upstream in a detailed analysis of candidate projects. This allowed us to meet hundreds of social entrepreneurs, people concerned by employment issues, foundations, and public and private actors active in the field. These encounters have sharpened our experience in philanthropy and our understanding of the value we add to an eminently complex and wide-ranging subject such as employment.
We would like to share with you the main conclusions that led to the developments we are now presenting:
1. A systemic approach
To act as a philanthropist on a complex and multifactorial issue such as employment (in the same way that poverty, democracy and climate are), one must first acquire a solid knowledge of the system: what holds it in place, the context, the causes, the norms. Without this, any measure remains curative and the problems are perpetuated. The donation becomes costly: it is necessary to give more and more, without the prospect of solving the problem. Although curative measures are useful and should be supported, investing in a systemic and corrective approach make a better outcome.
2. A European reality
We first focused on three countries: Belgium, France and Luxembourg. This choice came naturally, since these are the locations of our groups’ main offices. But today we have good reasons to expand our focus, since employment is a subject that has both local and European dimensions. If there is a Europe for work, trade, sport and culture, there is also a Europe for social innovation. We encountered successful projects born in Denmark, imported to Portugal, copied in Belgium and based on German public policies. Social innovation flows smoothly between the countries of the European Union. There is a richness in discovering what works in one territorial context and adapting it to another.
3. Strong visibility and network
As a funder, the success of our actions depends on the capacity of the social entrepreneurs and innovators working in the field. Whether they are opinion leaders, technological innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, policy makers, researchers, or advocates. We need these visionaries, who understand the issues and problems related to employment and bring solutions. They are rare and we want to go above and beyond the financial side to help them get started with visibility and the necessary connections.
These observations led us to expand our DPF Award program to Europe (UE) and to invest in an action-research center. This Lab will aim to manage, develop and share the Foundation's knowledge and will serve as a platform for meetings and exchanges to collectively address challenges related to employment, with a focus on Belgium this time.