Closing ACF Conference Speech - Carol Mack

ACF Virtual Annual Conference – Carol Mack's closing speech

Carol Mack, ACF's CEO, closed ACF's Virtual Annual Conference with a speech on 26 November 2020. This is her speech in full


Yesterday we looked long and hard at the past eight months – the Covid crisis – and what we can learn from it. 2020 has been a year in which foundations and funders have gone above and beyond in their support for the people and causes that they serve. But there is no room for complacency – and many of you are thinking hard about what we can learn from this extreme crisis to turbocharge our work in the years ahead. 

Today we brought that learning with us as we started to look forward into this new decade – the 2020s. Already it is certain that none of us will forget it. And yet, as we’ve heard today, there are some dark clouds ahead of us. This is not a matter of solving the Covid crisis and getting back to normal. We really do need to Build Back Better.

The challenges we face as a society are significant.

As we heard this morning the climate crisis has not gone away, it is continuing to unfold in plain sight. As I said when we met last year – if we do not as a sector seek to address this through our work, I fear that history and the rising generations will not forgive us. So I’m delighted that over the past twelve months 50 of you have signed up to the Funder Commitment on Climate Change – pledging to forward your missions with climate in mind. I hope that by the time we meet at our conference next year, that many more foundations will have taken this step. Please do get in touch if you’d like to know more.

We’ve also heard today about other questions that society faces and that many of you are already working on:

  • The challenge of growing wealth inequality – how can we level up between towns, cities and regions in the UK? – What can be done to address deep seated structural inequalities and prejudice?
  • How can we support culture, heritage and sport which help give meaning and identity to people and to places, given the enormous pressure those sectors are under now?
  • What is our role in supporting those who are seeking to hold back the tide of misinformation and disinformation, where the marketplace of ideas, of which we are a part, ceases to function and when truth and lies cannot be separated?
  • How can we help countries to continue to look outwards and co-operate to solve global problems, rather than turning inwards and shutting out civil society organisations and NGOs instead of working with them?

These are all big, challenging questions. But I am asking them with a sense of hope and not with resignation. Why hope? Because the response that we all have made to Covid19 shows that we can change much more than we dared to believe possible.

I’m not saying that every foundation needs to work across all of these issues. You have your own charitable purpose, your own strategies, your own governance and your own independence. You know how best to advance your mission.

But it does mean that collectively we should think about our cumulative impact and how we as the foundation sector play our role in a changing society. I believe this means that we need to think more about collaboration – because as others have said, used wisely, it can enable us to be more than the sum of our parts.

In closing I want to highlight two ways ACF can support you to do this.

Firstly we have worked in partnership with a number of you to set up the Funders Collaborative Hub. The aim of the Hub is to help you, and other funders and philanthropists answer four key questions:

  • What collaborations are happening in response to Covid19?
  • Who else is interested in collaborating around the areas that are important to me?
  • How can my funding best help?
  • Where are the emerging needs and gaps?

The Hub has online resources, a programme of events and a growing directory of funder collaborations in response to Covid. Today I invite you to think about how you might like to be involved.

And secondly, next year ACF will be reviewing our strategy for the next 5 years. I want us to use this review to think about how we can best support you in your work as individual foundations. And I also want us to have a deep conversation about how the family of foundations – our ecosystem – really can be more than the sum of its parts.

Now is a time for foundations to be more ambitious and effective than ever before in using our individual and collective resources for good. And as you do this, I, and the whole ACF team, will be with you every step of the way.

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