The first year of collaboration between the ECF and Hivos

October 2004 -

Vanessa Reed, Grants Manager at the European Cultural Foundation (ECF), reviews the first year of collaboration between Hivos and ECF.

Something was changing in Tirana this summer. In August when all institutions are usually closed, the Labarator I Komunikimit collective transformed the back yard of the National Gallery into a summer cinema and video forum which remained open for between 40 and 100 spectators each evening. In this new cultural meeting place works by young Albanian film and video artists were screened alongside experimental classics programmed by visiting curators. Meanwhile, across the border in Kosovo, another cultural community was forming around interactive ODA, Prishtina. Here, local residents will be gathering to exchange stories through participatory workshops, open platforms, performances and installations. And then, further south, in Macedonia there is an independent NGO which is hatching plans to tackle the much needed development of cultural policy infrastructures by working on new organizational strategies for the municipal 'Houses of Culture.'

So what do these projects have in common?
Each was made possible, in part, by a new collaboration between the European Cultural Foundation (an independent foundation supported by the Dutch lotteries) and HIVOS (the Dutch Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries which is independent yet financed predominantly by public sources). The rationale of this partnership seems clear: HIVOS which works predominantly on civil society building and poverty alleviation across the global south is outsourcing its programme for cultural development in South East Europe to the grants department of a smaller foundation; one which specializes in facilitating arts and cultural policy initiatives in regions within and around the borders of the enlarged EU. Yet, it is only in recent years that the benefits of such cross-sector funding partnerships are being recognized European-wide, especially in the domain of grant giving where it is often assumed that spending, as opposed to fundraising, is the only challenge.

A sign of the times?
For all donors, whether public or private, there is no doubt that a commitment to building light, transparent and cost efficient structures is now as much a moral obligation as a strategy for economic survival. Inevitably, intelligent, mixed funding partnerships are becoming increasingly important and there is no reason why this should not be seen in a positive light.

If the first results of this Hivos 'ECF collaboration are anything to go by, we can only hope that other funders whether public or private, international or 'European', mixed or specialised might also look into this model. After all, perhaps it is by joining forces, and finding new alliances that we can maximize the impact for those we are striving to support.

Vanessa Reed is Grants Manager, European Cultural Foundation