Together: Why the ACF conference can help you navigate the culture wars and achieve more for your mission

15 September 2021


Richard Hebditch, ACF's director of external affairs explains how the ACF virtual annual conference 2021 can help all foundations navigate issues of community, identity and belonging. 


The last few years have seen increasingly polarising debates about identity and belonging. Social media has made it much easier for people to have their say, with those with the strongest views getting the most reaction and attention. Increasingly, organisations who might want to be getting on with their day job find themselves drawn into culture wars and having to respond to criticism in the media and from politicians.

For most foundations, culture wars have been a somewhat distant conflict so far. But they’re getting closer and already drawing in some of our members. Just last weekend, the Secretary of State at DCMS criticised two of our members, after they were unfairly targeted in the media over how they’re looking at the legacy of some of their own history and benefactors. Other foundations have faced accusations from MPs for their grants

Foundations are also under pressure from those who want them to face up to aspects of their own histories and work. Younger people – whether working with funded projects or as members of staff in foundations – will also have higher expectations from foundation leaders and trustees. Foundations are no longer islands, immune from the tensions in society around them.

But identity and belonging can also be drivers of positive change, helping foundations achieve their missions. Building on people’s identity and desire for belonging to positive and thriving communities can help projects and programmes to achieve much more.

We want to help foundations navigate these issues so they can pursue their missions to maximum effect. Our conference on 6 and 7 October focuses on these issues and includes great speakers giving their insights on this. 

We also have a fantastic range of workshops, covering how children and young people can have their voice heard; working with micro-organisations; the role of heritage in community regeneration; the role of research; and how funders have collaborated to reach out to communities in need. 

These aren’t just issues for larger funders. Smaller family foundations will be thinking about how to be true to their founders’ missions in a changing society. Community foundations will be looking to ensure their work reaches out to all groups in their community. And specialist funders will want to ensure their work lands with the partners they work with rather than face challenge if polarisation continues to increase.

You can book your place at the ACF conference and join foundation staff and trustees from across the UK by logging into our website and booking here.