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Staff blog: Sustainability, crisis management and global challenges: my learnings from a conference with Romania’s community foundations

In October 2022, 18 community foundations attended the Romanian Community Foundations National Conference, which coincided with the 10th anniversary of the Romanian Federation of Community Foundations (FFCR). The FFCR represents community foundations at a national level, supporting its members, much like our national equivalent: UK Community Foundations.  

The first Romanian community foundations were established in late 2007 – early 2008, supported by the Association of Community Relations (ARC), the Charles Stewart MOTT Foundation and the Romanian-American Foundation. Since then, over 8,000 projects have been awarded grants across Romania, totalling over £11 million. 

To compare, America’s first community foundation was set up in 1914. The UK’s first was established in 1975, with 47 accredited community foundations now in existence. So, although the movement is still very young in Romania, a huge amount has been achieved in a very short time, despite the significant challenges of recent years. 

Northamptonshire Community Foundation was invited to attend the Romanian National Conference, to speak on a panel about sustainability and how global challenges impact local communities. As a community foundation, we have aligned ourselves to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and believe in “think global, act local”, and I was incredibly pleased to attend the conference and to learn about how community foundations operate in different parts of the world. I was also excited to visit Romania’s capital, Bucharest, where the conference was held.  

On day one, delegates were invited to visit projects funded by Bucharest Community Foundation. The projects I visited had strong educational and community focuses: an education centre in Buftea where children, many of whom were Romani, have access to additional educational support; a community garden project run across three sites, and the Green Mogo Centre, a space dedicated to dialogue about green buildings and solutions, with a learning centre for young people and students.  

During the conference, representatives from across the Romanian Community Foundations network took time to reflect on the work which took place during the Covid-19 pandemic, and on their current challenges, including supporting refugees from neighbouring Ukraine. Over the last three years especially, community foundations have proven themselves to be key organisations in crisis situations, being deeply rooted in their local communities as well as operating within a national network.  

As with many former Soviet satellite states, Romania faces challenges in the philanthropic sector. The conference offered vitally important sessions focusing on how to support impact-makers in your community through research: understanding the problems facing each community; being mechanisms for change; designing strategic programmes with donors to the voluntary and community sectors, who have the capacity to build effective projects and the imagination to visualise a better future.