Il centro della filantropia!
October 13th, 2006I have the opportunity in a few days to travel to Milano by the invitation of the Fondazione Cariplo and Bernardino Casadei the manager of Progetto Fondazioni Comunitarie (community foundation project/plan) in the Lombardy Region in northern Italy. Six years ago I traveled to the first community foundation established in Italia through the Transatlantic Community Foundation Exchange Program funded by the German Marshall Fund, the King Baudouin Foundation in Belgium, and the C.S. Mott Foundation. The Lecco Foundation is on Lake Como and has been quite successful. The Executive Director is Emilio Amigoni - a man of boundless energy and good humor. He was a great host and his knowledge of history is extraordinary.
In 2000, Bernardino was busy trying to encourage various cities/towns/provinces to create foundations for their communities. He was working on the U.S. model which he had discovered years before when he was in New York City and did some research at the Foundation Center. He found that the Council of Michigan Foundations was hosting their annual conference in Grand Rapids at that time. He was interested in learning more about this form of philanthropy and being a curious and smart gentleman, he hopped on a plane to GR and showed up!
That is when I met him and while he was determined, he also has a great sense of humor and that combination has made him a positive force in growing philanthropy in his country. In spite of my inability to speak italian, though I am working on it everyday, it was an inspiration to me to see how people were so eager to learn more about community foundations.
We fast forward to 2006 and now the private foundation that has generously provided incentive funding to various community foundations in the Lombardy Region, is celebrating its 15th anniversary. The Fondazioni Cariplo is this foundation and its formation was detailed by Bernardino in August 2001 in a case study written for an international project entitled, WINGS-CF. Here is his description:
"The Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde (Lombardy Provinces Savings Bank Foundation) - Fondazione Cariplo - is the direct descendant of the Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde which through the 19th and 20th centuries became the largest savings bank in the world. The Cariplo Foundation was formally created in December 1991 as part of the restructuring process resulting from the implementation of the Amato-Carli Law to rationalize and privatize Italy's lending institutions. The effect of the law was the savings banks were transformed into a for-profit corporation whose shares would be owned by a new nonprofit corporation, which adopted the title of "fondazione" (foundations). . . The strategic goal of the Cariplo Foundation is to become the leader in social and economic development within the territory it serves."
I can't think of a better way to become a leader in social and economic development in one's area than through the formation of community foundations and apparently northern Italy agrees as now there are 14 foundations throughout the region and they are doing great work. It is truly becoming a center for philanthropy - though I always contend that Grand Rapids, Michigan is the Center of Philanthropy! Il Centro della Filantropia!
I am to speak on "Involving and transforming the community" and I am so excited to share our practices to the foundations in Italy. The Grand Rapids Community Foundation is becoming known as a strong and positive community change agent through its grantmaking, initiatives and resource development. The leadership of the board of trustees and staff is unparalleled and I'm honored to be representing such a remarkable foundation. I hope to bring back significant learnings from the experiences of our colleague organizations in Italia! Arrivederci!