The festive season is a time for celebration and for reflection. Philanthropic foundations stand in a unique place in our community. One aspect of this is the long-term horizons that can be applied to our work helping address community challenges.

This long-term view is often related to the perpetual nature of philanthropic funds. Foundations are here, not just for the current generation but also for future generations. 

I was prompted to reflect on this aspect of philanthropy when the images of young people taking to the streets around Australia, demanding climate action, were on our screens last week.  They are trying to speak for the benefit of their own and future generations.

Consider this statement:
Foundations—precisely because of their governance structure—can fund experiments and innovation where the payoff (if it comes) is over the long haul, benefiting future rather than present generations. (Reich R, 2016)
 
This means that funding long-term thinking can be an important role of foundations. I think of our support of action on climate change, especially where young people are amongst those taking a lead including the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Generation Yes, Cool Australia, Renew and Farmers for Climate Action. I think of Melbourne City Mission’s Frontyard Project, specifically supporting young people experiencing homelessness. I think of recent discussions around the Future of Work with the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Foundation for Young Australians. These organisations are all doing very forward-looking work.

I have begun to think we need another lens applied to our philanthropic work alongside our gender lens, our culture diversity lens and our climate lens. What about a future generations lens?

From a government perspective, there have been interesting developments. There is now legislation in Wales that requires public bodies to consider the health and wellbeing impacts on future generations as new laws and regulations are considered. This is the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. In summary: To give current and future generations a good quality of life we need to think about the long-term impact of the decisions we make. This law will make sure that our public sector does this.

Now that is farsighted.

What else should we in philanthropy do for future generations?

Catherine Brown
Chief Executive Officer
 

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