From Crisis To Opportunity. How Can Philanthropy Accelerate Sustainble Change?

EFC Annual Conference





The health of the planet is tied inextricably to the health of those living on it. Philanthropy has been mitigating the effects of Covid-19 while at the same time keeping focus on the other critical challenges we all face, from the climate crisis to rising social injustice and inequality, all of which have been aggravated by the pandemic.

The European Foundation Centre‘s Conference in Vienna will represent the first time that our membership will be able to come together as one for more than two years. We never imagined that could happen, but since the last EFC conference in Paris in 2019, what was previously unimaginable has become reality, and the previously impossible has become possible.

Opening Plenary

Monday, 18 October 2021, 11.00-13.30

Closing Plenary

Wednesday, 20 October 2021, 11.00-13.00


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Àngel Font
“la Caixa” Foundation and European Foundation Centre

Delphine Moralis
European Foundation Centre

Andreas Treichl
ERSTE Foundation

Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen
LEGO Foundation

Kumi Naidoo
Africans Rising for Justice, Peace & Dignity

Mārtiņš Staķis
Mayor of Riga

Gergely Karácsony
Mayor of Budapest

Kumi Naidoo
Africans Rising for Justice, Peace & Dignity

Lucy Bernholz
Stanford University

Claire Boulanger
Fondation de France

Liz McKeon
IKEA Foundation

Lakshmi Sundaram

So how can philanthropy build on the momentum of the innovations of the past two years to help accelerate real sustainable change, not in the distant future, but right here and now? With no vaccine for the climate crisis, and no herd immunity for inequality, the conference will look at ways for philanthropy to help catalyse a more holistic response to the vast challenges that still lie ahead. The event will take shape via four interwoven strands – Climate, Democracy, Philanthropy and Society – each moderated by an expert who is widely recognised in the field, and will consider the four underlying themes of culture, digital agenda, education and civic engagement.

The EFC’s annual conference gives members the chance to meet with professionals and representatives from philanthropy, corporates, NGOs, EU and multilateral institutions, think tanks and the media. Participants share, learn and explore together new ideas and approaches to tackling the urgent challenges of our times, forging connections that last well beyond the conference.

The event is held in a different European city each year, rotating back to Brussels regularly to give delegates a chance to engage in the EFC’s ongoing advocacy work with the EU institutions and policymakers.

Vienna is hosting the conference for the first time with ERSTE Foundation chairing the Programme Committee as well as the Host Committee. The conference will need to adapt to the ‘new normal’, so things will be done a little differently this year. The EFC Conference 2021 will take place from 18-20 October 2021 on a smaller scale than usual.

For the programme and more details of the conference please visit the EFC Conference page.

Conference Podcasts

To raise the curtain on the EFC Conference the EFC produced a new series of four podcasts. Each podcast will feature two guest speakers (including the moderator of the respective strand in Vienna) and will focus on one of the four conference tracks: Climate, Democracy, Philanthropy and Society. Speakers will be joined by EFC Chief Executive Delphine Moralis and the Conference Chair Franz Karl Prüller, and each podcast is hosted by Chris Burns, a Brussels-based journalist, moderator, media trainer, and video producer.

Episode 1 – Climate

with Elizabeth McKeon, Climate Action Portfolio Head, IKEA Foundation and Lars Grotewold, Director, Centre for Climate Action, Stiftung Mercator

Episode 2 – Society

with Claire Boulanger, Solidarity Expert, Fondation de France and Dame Sara Llewellin, Chief Executive, Barrow Cadbury Trust

Episode 3 – Democracy

with Lakshmi Sundaram, Executive Director, openDemocracy and Saskia van den Dool, Managing Director, Adessium Foundation

Episode 4 – Philanthropy

with Lucy Bernholz, Senior Research Scholar, Stanford University and Ondřej Liška, Regional Director for Europe, Porticus

Since more than 30 years, the conference addresses societal issues that are relevant to the future of Europe and the world at large, such as inequality, social injustice, and inclusive and participatory societies. Each year an overarching theme is chosen that provides a lens through which to view current issues as well as the various areas in which philanthropy works – from gender to ageing to urban development to research, to name just a few.

Previous themes:

  • 2019 Paris: Liberté, égalité, philanthropie!
  • 2018 Brussels: Culture matters – Connecting citizens and uniting communities
  • 2017 Warsaw: Courage to re-embrace solidarity in Europe – Can philanthropy take the lead?
  • 2016 Amsterdam: Imagining and investing in our future
  • 2015 Milan: Philanthropy: Visions and energy for change

Cover picture: Austrian Parliament Building, Vienna, Austria

Watch the awarded conference invitation video here!

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The official conference invitation video won a Cannes Corporate Media & TV Award in 2019

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Florian Bauer

Director Social Finance, Sustainability and Innovation
Since 2023, Florian Bauer has been responsible for social finance, sustainability and social innovation at ERSTE Foundation. Prior to this role, Florian worked in the NGO & Social Entrepreneurship sector for more than 13 years. He led the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), an international multilateral NGO that works to accelerate market-based deployment of renewable energy and energy efficient systems in developing countries, and was Managing Director & COO of the Impact Hub Vienna. From 2020-2023, Florian established strategic alliances with key partners and helped to create innovative semantic technology solutions at Semantic Web Company (SWC), a leading IT company in semantic AI solutions.