Inter-Act: Perspectives on the built environment: a recipe for community transformation?

A multi-stakeholder dialogue on asset based community development
The Atlantic Philanthropies_logo

Inter-Act to tackle the issue | 10 September | 14.30-16.30 | Philanthropy House 

The Atlantic Philanthropies and the European Foundation Centre will organise the next Inter-Act, a panel discussion which will bring together European foundations, institutions and NGOs to consider the question: Perspectives on the built environment: a recipe for community transformation? A multi-stakeholder dialogue on asset based community development. The event will take place in Brussels at Philanthropy House on 10th September 2015 from 14.30 to 16.30.   Speakers include Christopher G. Oechsli, President  and Chief Executive Officer of The Atlantic Philanthropies and Jesper Nygård, Chief Executive Officer of Realdania.

The issue

A perennial dilemma for foundations, NGOs and governments is how best to achieve a sustainable impact in communities, in both geographic communities and communities of practice. Long-term change requires accepting risk, building trust and a commitment to fostering community independence. Capital investment—investing in structures, equipment and the built environment—by philanthropy can be catalytic in achieving community change. But philanthropy can’t do it all, even if it wanted to. It takes extended collaboration, usually with governments at multiple levels, private investment and NGO and community ownership to renew and sustain change. Beyond financial endowment, a community must be endowed with the capability to assess, communicate and manage their own needs.

Alongside collaboration, funding these types of projects most likely requires a re-think in terms of the structuring and timeline of foundations’ expenditure. The Atlantic Philanthropies has invested more than $2.5 billion in capital funding. It is a limited-life foundation, having chosen to make all its philanthropic investments within the lifetime of the donor, Chuck Feeney. Such an approach poses an alternative narrative for change for funders with the financial capability to make these kinds of large scale investments and to see them sustained by others.

Still, investing in physical capital raises fundamental questions and challenges: Are these investments just in institutions and organisations or in people and communities?  Can these investments be sustained?  Who will pay for maintenance and operating costs?  Who “owns” these new or renovated facilities and spaces?  What are the relative roles of philanthropic, government and private investment?

This Inter-Act discussion will consider the motivations and practicalities around asset based community ownership and capital investment. It will explore how we can learn from the funding initiatives of The Atlantic Philanthropies and others, and will consider the potential to assess, build upon and adapt capital investment strategies to fit differing European and global contexts.

Interested ?  For further information and registration please contact Dharmendra Kanani or Emmanuelle Faure at the EFC secretariat at

Jim Goldberg


© photograph by Jim Goldberg

Bread Houses

The bread house movement unites people from all walks of life through the simple act of baking. Organisers and participants say bread houses spark cross-cultural dialogues and enhance understanding among community members while bridging ethnic, cultural, racial, economic and religious divides.

Today bread houses can be found in 20 cities in more than 16 countries across Europe, Africa, Asia, North and South America, and Africa. The bread house movement consists mainly of two components: community centres, with regular hours and frequent workshops, and events that are held at least once a month at different locations.