Veronica Colondam champions the field of social entrepreneurship in Indonesia with the establishment of YCAB Foundation in 1999

Veronica Colondam was the youngest ever recipient of the UN-Vienna Civil Society Award, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and received accolades throughout her career including Globe Asia’s Most Powerful Women in Indonesia, Forbes’ one of 10 most inspiring women in Asia and one of Asia’s 48 Philanthropists, and one of UN’s Solution Makers;  through YCAB Foundation she helms a social enterprise that aims to improve welfare through education and innovative financing, running programmes that have reached over 5 million underprivileged youth. She speaks with LUX Leaders & Philanthropists Editor, Samantha Welsh about creating a sustainable system that scales change.

LUX:  How have your spiritual beliefs informed your leadership values?

Veronica Colondam: I established YCAB Foundation in 1999 when I was 26 years old. Yayasan Cinta Anak Bangsa Foundation (YCAB) means ‘Loving the Nation’s Children Foundation’) and reflected my love for all Indonesia’s children and my aspiration to nurture intelligent and innovative young minds. As a committed Christian, I believe we are called to be the Salt & Light of this world, to be a Good Samaritan, to love our neighbour and to help all those in need. My leadership values foster a culture that prioritises Integrity, Service, Empathy, Resilience, Vibrancy, and Excellence (iSERVE.)

LUX:  Was there a catalytic ‘aha’ moment, when the scale of social injustice in Indonesia impelled you to set-up YCAB to drive change?

VC: For me it all started with education injustice.  About three years after YCAB was founded, I realized that the school drop-out rate in Indonesia was very high.  Millions of students did not complete their primary education. Further, the ASEAN Free Trade agreement 2010 put Indonesians at a competitive disadvantage as our schools did not offer teaching in tech and English.  In response, we launched our first Rumah Belajar (Rumah = house, Belajar = learning to improve English and tech literacy.  The ‘aha’ moment was when my 12-year-old daughter, Adelle took me as parent chaperone on her school community project and introduced me to the concept of microfinance.  This catalysed our YCAB family intervention model.

YCAB Foundation is the founding and flagship organisation in the YCAB social enterprise group which bases its operations on a mutually reinforcing and financially sustainable social change model

LUX:  What was the thinking behind that?

VC: We implement a family intervention model that empowers both mothers and children – ‘prosperous mothers smart kids’.  We can transform low-income families and lift them sustainably out of poverty. We focus on the mothers because research shows the critical impact of a mother’s prosperity on the household.  Economically-empowered earning mothers are in a better position to support their children’s education, reducing high school drop-out rates and lifting the family unit.

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LUX:  Why is YCAB’s microfinance model sustainable?

VC: This comes down to the integration of financial support with educational advancement.  We deploy capital to fund low-income women entrepreneurs ensuring their children’s education is a precondition for loan access.  This dual focus on immediate financial aid and long-term educational goals fosters a cycle of empowerment.  Additionally, YCAB’s transition into a self-reliant social enterprise, where profits from its ventures are reinvested into its mission, underpins its sustainability. The model’s success is evidenced by its recognition and supervision by the Indonesian Financial Services Authority, highlighting its impactful and sustainable approach to breaking the cycle of poverty and promoting community welfare

YCAB’s change model has one clear mission which is to improve welfare through education and innovative financing. YCAB aims to vitalize underprivileged youths to become self-reliant through economic empowerment and education, bringing them from mere subsistence to sustainable livelihood

LUX:  Twenty five years on, how successful has YCAB been in mobilising resources throughout Asia?

VC: We mobilized more than $120M US to reach over five million low-income young people, together with hundreds of thousands of mothers. This is equivalent to a per capita increase from $2 to the threshold of an aspiring middle class at $8.

LUX:  How did YCAB evolve from a not-for-profit to a social enterprise model?

VC: Honestly, I didn’t know anything about the concept of social enterprise back in 1999!  In fact, the term “social enterprise” only began gaining recognition in Indonesia about 12-15 years ago. I initially founded YCAB with financial sustainability in mind and after the first year, I started-up a company as the first business unit of the foundation.  Over time, we developed several business units to support the foundation’s mission and around 10 years’ later, after my INSEAD program, I realised we were operating under a social enterprise model.

LUX:  Where does microfinance fit within social impact entrepreneurship?

VC: Microfinance operates as a business model and enables the poor to access capital. This embodies the essence of social entrepreneurship, where business and social impact are integrated into the model. We leverage our for-profit businesses to support the mission of YCAB, the foundation, so we operate our education program under the YCAB Foundation structure, and the economic empowerment program for mothers (or MFi) under YCAB Ventures, a company licensed by the Indonesian Securities and Exchange Commission (OJK) since 2015. Under the Ventures structure mandated by OJK, we engage in equity-like investments to support SMEs and have expanded into impact investment. This structure allows us to consolidate all our companies that support YCAB’s mission into a portfolio — from our original business units to new impact investments. The Ventures structure provides us with the flexibility to engage in financing (MFi), investments across all business units and new impact ventures, all while advancing our agenda of empowering families out of generational poverty towards a prosperous future.

YCAB believes in the power of education to improve welfare. To date, YCAB has brought impact five millions underprivileged youths and hundreds of thousands of low income families

LUX:  YCAB’s partners rank among the world’s leading corporates;  what is it about your approach to partnerships over 25 years that secures engagement at this level?

VC: We are commited not only to meet the needs of our beneficiaries but also to align closely with the objectives of our partners, some being the world’s leading corporations. One key aspect of our partnership strategy is our engagement with governments. Sustainable change requires collaboration across sectors, so partnering with governments allows us to leverage their resources, expertise, and influence to optimise our impact. Furthermore, our board members bring their expertise, networks, and insights to the table which enhances the value proposition for our partners, because partnerships are strategic, impactful, and mutually beneficial. Successful partnerships are built on a foundation of trust, collaboration and a shared commitment to driving positive change.

Read more: Zahida Fizza Kabir on why philanthropy needs programmes to achieve systemic change

LUX: Was there any time that you overcame a barrier that, in retrospect, catalysed a systemic solution to a particularly challenging social problem?

VC: The first standout catalytic moment was our shift in focus from preventing youth drug addiction to primary prevention through education and soft skill development, addressing the root causes of youth curiosity toward substance abuse. However, gaining access to schools, the focus of our target audience was a significant challenge. In 2002, in a pivotal moment for YCAB, I and our board member Professor Rofikoh Rockim met the former Minister of Education, Mr. Yahya Muhaimin. He granted us his influential letter of recommendation so we could access schools and campaign with authority. This shows the impact of personal connections, advocacy, and strategic partnerships that sparked transformative change and empowered communities throughout Indonesia.

The second catalytic moment was the covid pandemic. During lockdown, we could only help people who had basic literacy and smartphones to access e-support, including e-donations.  We also used a WhatsApp-based chatbot. This revolutionised the financial literacy of mothers, the clients of our MFi program.  The pandemic also opened the door to financing social goods using capital market products, such as mutual funds. To coincide with YCAB’s 25th Anniversary in August 2024, we will launch financial products that offer financial returns with social impact. This is gamechanging because with philanthropy in Indonesia, there is generally no tax deduction for donations aside from Islamic zakat giving which is regulated by a national zakat collection body. For non-religious non profits like YCAB, giving is not tax deductible so private corporate CSR donations are taken from EBITDA, contrary to public-listed companies.

YCAB is now exploring ways to implement the last link in its change model, that is, to create a sustainable system whereby students who graduate and become entrepreneurs or employed can pay it forward

LUX:  What is impact exactly for a social impact entrepreneur and how can you measure it fully?

VC: At YCAB, we embed impact measurement into all our programs. With our microfinance initiative, for example, we conduct our “welfare survey” with our beneficiaries tracking our impact on their increased earnings, business expansion, and perhaps most significantly, the educational opportunities their children receive as a result of our interventions.

LUX:  Finally, how do governments and financial institutions benefit by partnering with SIEs?

VC: We are not sitting behind our desks, we are out there in the heart of communities, listening, learning, and understanding their real needs. These grassroots connections mean our initiatives are genuine and address issues where they make impact, right where people live and breathe. We are always pushing boundaries, finding fresh ways to tackle age-old problems. When governments and financial institutions join forces with us, they are tapping into that spirit of innovation. When we innovate together, that vision becomes more than just a dream – it becomes our shared reality.

ycabfoundation.org

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Reading time: 8 min
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Philanthropic pioneers across education, conservation, health and culture , on key issues in the rapidly changing world of philanthropy. In association with UBS Optimus Foundation

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Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo is the founder and President of Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. After graduating in Economy and Business at Turin university, she approached the world of contemporary art as a collector, in the early 1990s.

The cultural educationist

Who: Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

What: Founder and president, Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation

Where: Italy Achievements: Creating one of Italy’s leading contemporary art foundations and cultural education programmes together with the Italian Ministry of Culture; creating a new environmental and cultural centre from the island of San Giacomo, Venice.

LUX: How does educational philanthropy work effectively?

PSRR: In the educational workshops of the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation – the non-profit contemporary art centre I have led since 1995 – children are involved in activities designed to develop creativity, collaboration and mutual trust.

The challenge is precisely to imagine and then structure, within a contemporary-art museum, a dynamic learning and growth experience for a small group. I think it is very important to think of the museum as an educational agency, capable of promoting an education based on respect, coexistence, plurality. Philanthropy comes later and accordingly.

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Works from “Visual Persuasion”, an exhibition by Pauline Olowska at the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation, Turin, 2023-24

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Works from “Visual Persuasion”, an exhibition by Pauline Olowska at the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation, Turin, 2023-24

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A father and daughter looking at the camera

Self-portrait of Nachson Mimran and his daughter in Gstaad, Switzerland; October 2022; photographed by Nachson Mimran

The philanthropist entrepreneur

Who: Nachson Mimran

What: co-founder, to.org

Where: Switzerland Achievements: Developing a game-changing organisation combining philanthropy, investment, startup accelerator and socialenterprise multiplier.

LUX: Are the lines between philanthropy and profit-with-purpose getting blurred?

NM: Operationally, these lines cannot be “blurred” but business can support philanthropy. Our investment arm, TO Ventures, invests in teams that are building high-growth, high-impact, early-stage technology businesses across sectors to solve critical challenges for society and the environment. Returns from the TO Ventures programme finance the TO Foundation.

Additionally, in 2022, my brother Arieh co-founded with our nephew Joshua Phitoussi a dedicated decarbonisation fund, TO VC, spun out of the TO Ventures programme. Wasoko – a TO Ventures portfolio company – is Africa’s leading e-commerce B2B platform.

Working with major suppliers like P&G and Unilever, Wasoko accesses lower prices for mom-and-pop retailers across the continent, who can order fast-moving consumer goods on demand, allowing end customers to access goods more consistently and at more affordable prices. The company also recently announced that it is in merger talks with MaxAB, another TO Ventures portfolio company

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In 2019, Olivier Wenden was appointed by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, Vice-President and CEO of the Foundation. Prior to this, he served as the Foundation’s Executive Director and Secretary General from 2014.

The national foundation director

Who: Olivier Wenden

What: CEO and Vice Chair, Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation

Where: Monaco Achievements: Launching an ocean fund; running an annual ocean-week initiative bringing together investors, NGOs, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and institutions; creating a new Ocean Innovators platform.

LUX: How do you measure the impacts of your projects and initiatives?

OW: We ask each project we fund to complete final reports highlighting the results achieved in relation to the initial objectives. The indicators depend on the nature of the project itself and may, for example, indicate the surface area of a protected zone at sea or on land that the project contributed to extend, or the number of people in a community helped by a solution deployed.

Each year, we use this and other data to draw up an impact report, which we give to our benefactors so we can be transparent about the financial grants committed and the results achieved. Finally, we carry out audits on projects in the field to ensure that everything is aligned with our values and according to the established agreement.

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Jessica Posner Odede is the CEO of Girl Effect, an international non-profit that builds media girls want, trust and need — from chatbots to chat shows and TV dramas to tech. Girl Effect’s content helps girls make choices and changes in their lives.

The female enabler

Who: Jessica Posner Odede

What: CEO, Girl Effect

Where: Kenya Achievements: running an international foundation bringing lasting education, enabling tools and enlightenment on fundamental health and education questions to girls in developing countries.

LUX: How do you leverage technology to achieve change?

JPO: Working online and offline, we move cautiously. We built a generative AI chatbot in a week to speak to girls about health and related questions for which they did not otherwise have access to answers; it spoke the way the kids speak, but it also “hallucinated”.

It made up information, whole sets of things that were just not true. So until we can launch a generated AI chatbot that doesn’t have the risk of promoting misinformation, we are using a much more manual chatbot.

Nonetheless, this project is a powerful example of how AI actually enables millions of girls across the world to access new opportunities and new services, and to enable themselves at massive scale, which we could have never done before.

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A captured moment with Girl Effect, which supports girls in developing countries at every stage and pressure point in their life journeys

Read more: Hansjörg Wyss on his pioneering work in conservation

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Ben Goldsmith is a British financier, philanthropist and environmentalist who has been at the forefront of campaigns for more rewilding in Britain and Europe. He founded and chairs the Conservation Collective, a network of locally-focused environmental foundations.

The conservationist

Who: Ben Goldsmith

What: Founder and chair, Conservation Collective

Where: UK Achievements: bringing together 20 individual conservation and environmental initiatives around the world under a single umbrella that provides expertise, leverage and effective tools.

LUX: Why does the environment matter?

BG: Environmental degradation is in a spiral with human suffering.

It’s always the poorest who suffer the hardest and the most when it comes to environmental pollution. The most obvious pathway to lifting people out of degradation is restoration.

More fish in the sea means fewer hungry people, healthier soil means more resilient food supply. Climate change is about a surfeit of carbon in the atmosphere; more nature means more carbon drawn out of the atmosphere.

julie packard

Julie Packard is executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which she helped found in the late 1970s. She is an international leader in the field of ocean conservation, and a leading voice for science-based policy reform in support of a healthy ocean.

The ocean conservationist

Who: Julie Packard

What: Vice Chair, David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Where: US Achievements: Establishing and directing the gold standard for sustainable seafood; transforming the small fisheries industry in parts of Southeast Asia; funding education and research into ocean conservation in the US; founding the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

LUX: What have you learned through your educational programmes?

JP: When we opened the Aquarium 40 years ago, I thought the hardest part would be keeping the animals and exhibits healthy.

It turns out that our biggest challenge is on the dry side of the exhibits – how to engage people and get them to care on a personal level.

Our research has shown that it starts by drawing people into the awe, wonder and joy found in the ocean realm, then engaging them in learning more, casting a positive, hopeful vision of the future, giving people a way to help turn that vision into reality.

That’s true whether we’re talking to Aquarium guests about using less unnecessary plastic, or working with business partners to show the benefit to their bottom line of embracing sustainable seafood purchasing practices.

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A mauve comb jelly, aka mauve stinger, seen at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Into the Deep” exhibition

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Tom Hall is the Global Head of Social Impact & Philanthropy at UBS

“We have to be smart about how we allocate both philanthropic and investment capital, and we have to work in partnership with all of civil society”

Maya Ziswiler is Chair of the UBS Optimus Foundation

“How can you take advantage of your passion with rational thinking to ensure you’re actually having an impact, and working with others to maximise that?”

In association with UBS

ubs.com

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Reading time: 7 min
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neera nundy

Neera Nundy is Co-Founder of Dasra India

Dasra, or ‘enlightened giving’ in Sanskrit, was co-founded in 1999 by Neera Nundy and her husband Deval Sanghavi as a venture philanthropy fund in India to invest in early stage non-profit organisations working in SDG areas of gender equality, urban resilience and sanitation. In twenty-five years, Dasra has unlocked over $350 million US for 1500+ non-profits and impacted over 180 million people through its trusted ecosystem, one recent start-up GivingPi being India’s first Family Philanthropy Network.

LUX: You are a recipient of multiple awards from inter alia the Canadian Governor General, Forbes India, Forbes Philanthropy, Vogue India, and you partner with Harvard, Stanford, USAID. How did you embark on this journey as a change-maker?

NEERA NUNDY: In hindsight, while it feels like there was a clear strategy in fact the pathway was more zigzag than linear! Twenty-five years’ ago, when we started, I was very young, an analyst at Morgan Stanley who had just graduated in statistics, followed by business school at Harvard then UBS.

With all this access to privilege, not of wealth but I mean privilege of education and exposure to diverse experiences, I was always asking myself if there was something I could do that would make a difference in the world? Whilst I was born and raised in Canada but I felt a deep connection to India. My mother had founded a school for tribal children in India, I went back myself when I was ten to boarding school, so I had a sense of identity and belonging and I wanted to make a difference there.

kids in school

Visit to partner Satya Special School in Muntrampattu, Puducherry advocating for the inclusion of children with special needs in education, employment, and society.

LUX: How did your background in finance influence your approach to unlocking capital for good?

NN: I really started out on this road with my husband. We met at Morgan Stanley as analysts in1999. If you think about financial services, there are so many different kinds of ways to move capital around and, to move philanthropic capital, you also need intermediaries. We are one of India’s few infrastructural bridge builders, helping organizations on the ground working with the most vulnerable, working with communities and growing their impact. We did not have funding at the start, so the real skill we had was helping organisations institutionalise. So from a management side, what the private sector takes for granted, we asked how could we enable organizations to strengthen themselves institutionally so that their impact could grow? Very quickly we realised that all of that costs money and you need flexible money so we decided to use some of our capabilities to raise money from families and corporates. At that time in India the CSR mandate had also emerged so our role evolved to connect philanthropy to organizations doing great work on the ground.

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LUX: How did Dasra evolve from a social impact bridge-builder to a leading non-profit collaborator impacting over 180 million lives?

NN: Over the first decade, it was honestly all about survival. We were a very small team trying to raise money and make ends meet. We started Giving Circles so that there would be some funding. We had families pool money and support non-profit organisations who are the pioneers now in their field like Educate Girls SNEHA, The Audacious Project, Magic Bus, ARMMAN and we had a good feeling that we had in some way contributed to this success. The next decade became about staying relevant, accelerating our impact rather than just raising money. So over the last 25 years, although we have influenced around $350 million USD and motivated our teams, we have always focused on impact. That is why we moved our work from 1-2-1 relationships to more platform-building, growing networks, holding ourselves more accountable on outcomes. That’s really when we launched our first alliance, Girl Alliance, a collaborative fund for adolescent girls, focusing on girls from 10 to 19 years old. Only fifteen years ago, you would meet someone in CSR asking if they wanted to fund adolescent girls and the men around the table would not get why this was important as for them it was over as the girls would soon be married. So it was for us to create a market. Some of what we have done in 25 years is to create markets for different issues, bringing them together, evolving platforms for a real array of organizations trying to support the unlocking of philanthropy but also supporting organizations on the ground. It may feel that Dasra does a bunch of different things but it is because the sector needs it.

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Industree partners’ project, GreenKraft, Tamil Nadu, a virtually 100% women’s collective engaged in creating and selling handicrafts made from recycled banana bark.

LUX: Who is the audience, the target group?

NN: I’ve really tried to emphasize the part of our vision where a billion thrive with dignity and equity, that at the core of all we do must be in service of the most vulnerable, supporting them and investing in creating thriving communities. To do that you need to bring together and invest in NGO leaders, invest into funding and philanthropy and build that trust between the three of us.

So are we in service of the funder or in service of the NGO leader? Neither but we need both of them to be part of being in service of the community. To do that, we make the issues more visible, help them engage, show them the impacts on the ground. Ultimately though you need funding! So you are still in the most immediate sense catering to the needs of different funders and the needs of NGO leaders and bridging them.

In terms of hierarchy, though, I would say first, the community, then the NGOs, and then the funders. We are in a privileged position that we can take a stand with funders and say there is a right and wrong and we can support you in doing a better job by working with you.

LUX: You also work with leaders from the smaller NGOs and minorities, engaging with communities and collaborating bottom-up: how did that come about?

NN: That’s also been a journey for us over the last 25 years. When we started we were much more proximate when we had Giving Circles and were working with NGO leaders. These were all very small organizations then. Educate Girls was only in 50 schools and when we started working with them they became or established and now they are in thousands of villages and impacting around two million girls.

About 10 years ago we started working with various established organizations and the ecosystem grew because everyone was funding the same organizations and spotlighting them. Then we shifted on the back of Covid, with all those challenges within communities experiencing the pandemic, the way proximate leaders risked their lives to support communities and to support India, we felt strongly there was now a new role for us. We decided to go back to the grassroots, to some of the more proximate organizations and to continue to support the next generation of organisations and that is the $50 million USD Rebuild India Fund.

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SEEDS partners training local communities in construction principles and practice to build robust safe homes, schools and infrastructure.

LUX: What do they want, the leaders of the next generation of organisations?

NN: They want to make what was invisible more visible, be engaged and be part of the nation building. India is only going to flourish if we move this group. We are a sort of nexus between what next gen and what they want to contribute to, showing them the effectiveness of listening to communities and working bottom-up to make change.

LUX: How important is an intersectional approach in bringing about successful outcomes?

NN: Around 15 years’ ago when we moved toward a platform-building model, we started our work around adolescent girls and there was real awakening in India with a new focus on outcomes. A girl needs an education, health, and employment and although funding is sectoral that does not mean you deliver ultimately for this girls’ empowerment via these separate lenses.

You need extensive health interventions to make other outcomes sustainable. Our ‘10 to 19’ anchored outcomes for a collaborative fund, so an education funder can come in, a health funder can come in because the kinds of outcomes we had were keeping girls past grade 10, delaying marriage, delaying first pregnancy, increasing their independence and employability. So multiple funders can come in because you are delivering on the outcomes.

We are supporting a particular State, or a number of different organizations and the measurement is providing a view on and links to these outcomes. So there is a role for us as an intermediary, or backbone collaborator, or systems orchestrator that can be enabling, to show where funding might take a certain shape for good, show the need in the community for these girls, and bridge the parties. That has been a lot of what we’ve been working towards and to make change you need that intersectionality.

LUX: Is that intersectional approach also appropriate with climate change and the disproportionate adverse impacts on women and children in the Global South?

NN: Climate is a tough one to get our country to engage with, especially if you move down this path to energy transition. We do not want to compromise economic growth. If you want to buy a washing-machine there are emancipatory benefits for a woman in saving her time from washing clothes. There is a role you need to play to shape the intersectionality. So climate and gender, climate and health, climate and livelihood, being able to link the impact of climate on these sectors. What we call intersectionality will actually unlock greater interest and potential for both funders and organizations to engage.

Read more: Hansjörg Wyss on his pioneering work in conservation

LUX: Is intersectionality offering new opportunities that change the model of family-giving in India?

NN: It has been evolving and I think it’s a newer category at least in India, where promoter-led giving ie business leaders are also family-owned businesses. Corporate giving is aligned with family-giving and this synergy is still evolving. Family philanthropy has deep history in India. Wealthy families have been part of our Independence movement, the cornerstone of our religious structures and organisations, and they have invested back into their communities through education, institutions, and hospitals.

Families, especially those with a family office structure, give to communities based on their personal values and their corporate governance. Rather than advising them to be more strategic, we recommend they continue to with their philanthropy, which some may say is traditional, but also explore with them what has been happening in their chosen field of philanthropy, so can they engage in these intersections for the most vulnerable? Again we are spotlighting needs. We now have 300 families in this Giving Pi giving network, 80 of them Indian families.

LUX: Who are the emerging philanthropy leaders among India’s next gen?

NN: Women really understand the intersectionalities and it is really exciting to see around 70-80% of the family offices are women-led. While they may not have created the wealth, they represent their families and are the decision-makers for where their families will direct and engage their philanthropy. That dynamic is shaping and forming a whole new way of giving. To be honest it is more collaborative.

There is a real appetite to want to build the community. These women want to engage with gender-focused philanthropy, with climate as an emerging issue, arts and cultural philanthropy which has always been there and is growing further, and with mental health. So these are the four themes we are seeing emerge in this community that is giving now around 200 million USD each year to India for India.

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Vanavil (Rainbow) Trust, Tamil Nadu: Revathi Radhakrishnan, managing trustee, in conversation with mothers from Boom Boom Mattikarar and Narikuravar nomadic tribes, about their children’s education.

LUX: How important is trust to collaborative philanthropy?

NN: Trust has always been a cornerstone for anything we do, whether in business or philanthropy, in philanthropy even more so because you may be quite removed from the lived experience of what’s happening in these communities, or not know what it takes to make this kind of change.

You have to be patient, it takes longer to measure impact, and costs a lot. So there is a lot of complexity. Ultimately, delivering on the impact really rests on our trusting that we are all aligned with the intent of where we’re all trying to get to, the change we want to see, and it is dynamic so it needs flexibility.

All players have to come in with those values and sometimes that is missing in the hustle and the urgency. So coming to the table with that trust and willingness to be flexible on all sides is important.

LUX: Finally, what is the relationship between trust and finance?

NN: Trust and finance are closely linked to the extent that you can structure finance in a way that enables trust. So trust means you do not have expectations of each other or of the work, yet you can structure the finance and the philanthropy with that flexibility. It is not about just giving money.

Trust-based philanthropy has taken on this kind of mania that you can write a cheque without understanding where it was spent but you have to ask how it made the difference. Trust is about clear communications, expectations, measurement and requires financial structures like blended finance, alternative business models and transparency about the areas which need subsidisation.

www.dasra.org

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Reading time: 11 min
A blonde woman wearing a white shirt and white trousers standing next to a table with a blue vase and a red ornament
A blonde woman wearing a white shirt and white trousers standing next to a table with a blue vase and a red ornament

Beatrice Trussardi, President of the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and founder of the Fondazione Beatrice Trussardi

In the fifth part of our Italy art focus series, curated by Umberta Beretta, LUX speaks to Beatrice Trussardi who as President of the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and more recently founder of the Fondazione Beatrice Trussardi, produces public encounters with art in unexpected places

LUX: Was art always a passion?
Beatrice Trussardi: My family had creative friends such as artists and directors, so I grew up in that environment. But it was when I went to New York for university, then worked in the Met, the Guggenheim and MoMA, that I found my path. I went back to Milan to the fashion business, and started my new mission at the family foundation in 1999.

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LUX: After New York, did Italy seem a little stuck in the past to you?
BT: In Italy we have so much artistic heritage, but there were only a few contemporary foundations in Milan: my family’s, Prada’s, a few others. After returning from New York, I wanted to bring contemporary art to the public. In 2003, Massimiliano Gioni and I had the idea of making the foundation nomadic, to connect historical buildings and open spaces with contemporary art, bringing art to Milan and making it available to everybody. We took that idea international with my own foundation in 2021.

A theatre with a projection of a face of a boy on the stage curtain

Ludwig, 2018, by Diego Marcon, from “Dramoletti” at Teatro Gerolamo, a puppet theatre in Milan, 2023

LUX: And you wanted to support artists as well as the public?
BT: We always say we make the hidden dreams of artists possible by producing and exhibiting site-specific art projects and exploring powerful subjects, such as migration and human rights. We have worked with many artists including Jeremy Deller, Ibrahim Mahama and Paola Pivi.

Two cars crashed into a mosaic ground with people standing around it

From “Short Cut”, by Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, Ottagono at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, 2003

LUX: And it becomes ephemeral?
BT: That is what interests us. We don’t collect the pieces, the artists are free to take them anywhere, to lend the pieces or to sell them. Everything stays in the memory.

A woman wearing a red outfit standing next to an artwork of a woman

Beatrice Trussardi with work by Dorothy Iannone, Suck My Breasts, I Am Your Beautiful Mother, 1970/71

LUX: Does this make a unique experience?
BT: From the first exhibition 20 years ago, we wanted people to say, “What is that?” about the art and the location, because when we choose a location, it’s been abandoned or used for other purposes, so when someone finds an artwork there it is unexpected. It promotes discussion, an educational aspect that is part of our mission.

A man working on a grand piano in an old fashioned room

Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on Ode to Joy for a Prepared Piano, No 1, 2008, by Jennifer Allora from “Fault Lines” by Allora & Calzadilla at the Palazzo Cusani, Milan, 2013

LUX: What are your favourite moments?
BT: It is always exciting because it is agile and about catching a particular historical moment. Every time it is different, special, extraordinary.

Read more: Italy Art Focus: Giovanna Forlanelli Rovati

Between lockdowns in 2020, we did a very interesting project, The Sky in a Room, with Ragnar Kjartansson in the Chiesa Lazzaretto, a 16th-century church in Milan, which was built without walls to allow the sick to attend during the plague. The church is in the middle of a field, and only 15 people could be inside at a time, to watch and listen. That was an historical moment, and very, very touching.

Find out more: acaciaweb.it

This article comes from a section of a wider feature originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 issue of LUX

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Reading time: 3 min
Two men playing with a basket ball standing next to a van filled with basket balls
Two men playing with a basket ball standing next to a van filled with basket balls

The 2023 edition of Art Dubai will feature 24 Dubai-based galleries, the largest number the fair has ever had, reflecting the continued growth of Dubai’s artistic ecosystem and its increasing reputation as a global creative and cultural hub

The most significant art fair in the Middle East opened today with a focus on artists from South Asia. LUX reports on the multi-sensory experience that Art Dubai is currently offering to its visitors

Art Dubai has traditionally bee a blend of art from the Middle East from surrounding regions and the rest of the world. This year the focus is firmly on South Asia, specifically countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, whose thriving contemporary art scene is informed by ancient cultural and craft influences as well as much more modern societal conversations and clashes.

A woman looking at a red and pink light installation

Art Dubai is featuring over 130 contemporary, modern and digital gallery presentations from six continents

“South Asian artists are receiving reinvigorated attention on the world scene due to a new generation of collectors, artists and galleries. Many of the most interesting artists from the region have been creating significant works for years or even decades, as the recent Pop South Asia exhibition at Sharjah Art Foundation, hosted by Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, demonstrated. Although there is a current growing interest in South Asian art, it is also important for collectors to understand the cultural and historical nuances that inform it.”

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

“People in these countries have been creating notable art works in a variety of mediums for a very long time and we should be careful to avoid a simplistic western-orientalist perspective that it is just being ‘discovered'”, says Durjoy Rahman, LUX partner, philanthropist and founder of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation.

A man looking at three squares of art in blue, yellow and purple

The 2023 fair includes over 30 first-time participants and more than 60% of the gallery programme is drawn from the Global South

Rahman’s foundation supports both the Sharjah Art Foundation and Art Dubai.

The programme is unlike other art fairs, delivering daily performances and food-based experiences spanning Dubai to South Asia.

Read more: Rana Begum and Durjoy Rahman on South Asian art’s global ascendancy

People in costumes standing on a stage holding bowls of food

The focus on the Global South has been heightened by a new commissioned performance programme in partnership with leading South Asian galleries and institutions

The themes explored at the fair include those of community, celebration, hope and connection. Among the significant galleries involved in the South Asian focus at Art Dubai are Galleria Continua, Efie Gallery and Unit London.

Art Dubai is open from Wednesday 1st-Sunday 5th March 2023

Find out more: artdubai.ae

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Reading time: 2 min
James Chen standing in front of plants
James Chen standing in front of plants

James Chen, Chairman, Chen Yet Sen Family Foundation and ‘Vision for a Nation’

‘Moonshot Philanthropist’ James Chen speaks to LUX about the importance of risking capital for a mission that matters

James Chen is on a mission to tackle a major problem that most of humankind doesn’t even realise exists. There are more than two billion people worldwide who suffer from debilitatingly poor vision, with no recourse to help. And yet all it would take to transform their lives is a simple pair of prescription glasses. Poor vision is a life sentence that could easily be lifted, with just a little help. In what he refers to as ‘moonshot philanthropy’, Chen – softly spoken, thoughtful and himself a wearer of prescription glasses – set out to change the world.

During his eighteen-year philanthropic journey, Chen has pioneered developments in optical technology through his company Adlens and overseen its implementation in the developing world through his NGO, Vision For A Nation. In July this year, largely due to pressure from his campaign Clearly, the UN adopted a Vision for Everyone resolution, which was unanimously agreed upon by all 193 member states. By recognising vision as a basic human right, the resolution will kickstart a global effort to help 1.1 billion people with poor vision by 2030. Here, Chen speaks to LUX about his mission.

LUX: You were influenced by your father to become involved in philanthropy. Tell us about that.
James Chen: When my father retired from business, he devoted himself to philanthropy in his hometown. I think a lot of people at that time were very generous, [but] they [only] wrote cheques. The difference with my dad was that he actually went there himself, a few times a year: he made that seven-hour trip [to his hometown], got to know the people and their needs. He set up schools, hospitals, town halls, and everything in between. Later, when he got old and stepped back from it, [I used it as] impetus for setting up the family foundation. Personally it was very gratifying to work with the family, and to build on his legacy, in China. But I wanted do dig into something meaningful globally. I had no idea what it would be.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: So how did the problem of vision come onto your radar?
Jame Chen: I came across this Oxford professor [Dr. Rob Stevens] who invented adjustable-powered lenses, and it immediately clicked with me. I grew up in Nigeria, where our family business still is, and for most of my career I’ve also been in developing Asia. The thing that struck me was that very few people wore glasses there – either because they don’t need them, or they don’t have access to them. When I met this professor, I could see how I could help solve the problem.

people trying glasses in Rwanda

Thanks to Chen’s campaign Clearly, the UN is aiming to help 1.1 billion people with poor vision by 2030. Image by Sarah Day

LUX: Adlens is the vehicle you created to tackle this. What was that journey like?
James Chen: I formed Adlens with [Dr. Stevens]. We wanted to develop the technology and apply it commercially in the developed world, and socially in the developing world. My team spent two years knocking on the door of the World Bank, which ultimately rejected us. The industry and professionals said that it couldn’t be solved, but their model of delivery of glasses is to high resource environments: that model falls over in the developing world. That’s why we set up Vision For A Nation, an NGO, to test our model in a low-resource environment. We picked Rwanda, and developed a protocol to train nurses in three days to do a good enough eye test, and to dispense glasses. In five years, we screened 2.5 million of the 12 million population in Rwanda and dispensed 300,000 pairs of glasses. We left at the end of 2017, [having] done the thing that the policymakers said couldn’t be done.

LUX:  How did you scale that model?
James Chen: Instead of replicating the program one country at a time, I knew that this was a global problem: we had to think differently. That’s where I applied my risk capital to start the Clearly Campaign. Our target was to get policymakers to understand what we called ‘the problem that the world forgot’. We said, ‘if you have uncorrected poor vision, how are you going to achieve your sustainable development goals?’. For someone who has poor vision, it’s probably going to affect their educational outcome, their productivity; even gender equality is affected by poor vision. That’s the crux of our campaign.

LUX:  This concept of philanthropy and vision, had anyone done that before you?
James Chen: No one [has] thought of it in terms of a bigger scale. That’s why I had a brick wall when I first started looking into this. People do these programs [where they] go to a village and take glasses, but that doesn’t, to me, solve the problem. Poor vision is always put into the health silo: in the priorities of what governments have to tackle in developing countries, there’s a whole list of things that are perceived as higher priority than blurry vision. But there are 2.2 billion people in the world who have poor vision, of which, for at least 1 billion people, all they need is a pair of glasses to correct it.

Read more: Gaggenau’s Jörg Neuner on embodying the traditional avant-garde

LUX: Why do you think it took a philanthropist with no prior knowledge of the sector, instead of scientists and governments, to solve the issue?
James Chen: A key problem in the world of aid is there is very little risk capital available. As a philanthropist, I am in the privileged position of being able to take risk with my capital. If it’s successful, it’s hugely impactful. If it fails, I can absorb that loss. It’s now my prime mission [to incentivise] the high net-worth community to do the same. I coined this phrase ‘Moonshot Philanthropy’, and I came up with a tagline: ‘privatise failure, socialise success’.

James Chen giving a speech

Chen delivering a speech at a Sightgeist event in London

LUX: What would you say to people to encourage them to do ‘Moonshot Philanthropy’?
James Chen: Recognise the superpower that we have as ultra-high net worth individuals: we can deploy our own capital, and we can take as much risk as we want. Most of the high net-worth community do not deploy that superpower.

LUX: Do you think there is enough dialogue between philanthropists?
James Chen: No. There’s still a lot of scope [for that]. There’s all this noise around impact, investing, and social enterprise, and lots of donors have become confused. Most people who call themselves philanthropists are really doing charity or patronage. With the ‘Moonshot Philanthropy’ idea I want to plant that seed so that there is a model for people to use. I think I’m in a unique position to reframe this, to help people to grasp it. That’s the good thing about philanthropy: it’s different from business. In business you’ve got a great idea and then you try to maximise the value. In philanthropy, if you think you have a great idea, share it, and let people run with it. That’s the best way to scale it.

LUX: What’s next?
James Chen: I’m very focused on proving the link between vision correction and its impact on things like productivity and education outcome. We need to provide the evidence base so that governments will invest. It’s not just helping me by doing all this; I’m bringing more awareness, and capital, and support to the whole sector.

Find out more: jameschen.vision

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Reading time: 6 min
Man standing in front of painting

Durjoy Rahman with Kiefer’s Cell (Diptych) (1999) by Atul Dodiya. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Bangladeshi entrepreneur and art collector Durjoy Rahman is on a mission to make the world a better place through artistic dialogue and cultural collaborations between artists from the Global North and South. Rebecca Anne Proctor reports

It was mid March 2021 and the world was slowing waking up from a long sleep after the global lockdowns and travel restrictions that had been enforced to curb the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Dubai, the megalopolis Gulf city, was already open and it was kicking off with Art Dubai, one of the first in-person art fairs the art world experienced in the past year. As big art-world personalities flocked to the United Arab Emirates, so too did a rising star from Dhaka, Bangladesh – Durjoy Rahman. The art collector and textile and garment entrepreneur used the occasion of Art Dubai to present one of his latest art initiatives that uses contemporary art to champion social issues. The Dubai Design District featured a large-scale installation of elephants by Bangladeshi artist Kamruzzaman Shadhin and Rohingya craftspeople from the Kutupalong refugee camp. Titled Elephant in the Room, it made its international debut in Dubai. The work, unmissable by those visiting the futuristic Dubai Design District, originated in the desire to forge a dialogue about human and environmental displacement. The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine state thought to number around one million people who remain unrecognised as citizens or as one of the country’s 135 recognised ethnic groups by the country’s ruling party. By exhibiting a work with the involvement of Rohingya people, Durjoy hoped to draw attention to their cause.

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From the Indian subcontinent, the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation (DBF), founded in 2018 in Berlin and Dhaka, is one of a handful of collector-led foundations in South Asia working to support creatives, the majority of which have been set up during the past decade. There’s the Bengal Foundation, founded in 1986 and based in Dhaka, which acts as a non-profit and charitable organisation; the Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cosmos Group conglomerate; the HerStory Foundation, a not-for-profit that supports gender equality through storytelling, illustration, design, and dialogue; and the Samdani Art Foundation (SAF), a private arts trust based in Dhaka, founded in 2011 by collector couple Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani. In neighbouring India, several collector-led foundations have sought individually and collectively to foster India’s rich art scene. These include the Gujral Foundation, founded by Mohit and Feroze Gujral; Kiran Nadar Museum, founded by collector Kiran Nadar; and the Devi Art Foundation, founded in 2008 by Anupam Poddar and his mother, Lekha Poddar. In Pakistan, the Lahore Biennale Foundation and the Como Museum of Art, the country’s first private museum of contemporary art that opened in 2019, are notable.

elephant sculptures

Elephant in the Room (2018) by Kamruzzaman Shadin and Rohingya craftspeople from the Kutupalong refugee camp, installed at the Dubai Design District in 2021. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Despite the region’s fast-growing economies, major gaps between rich and poor still exist, as does a lack of infrastructure and funding for arts and culture. Art foundations such as the DBF have been pivotal in supporting artistic research and practice. What defines these foundations, which are critical to the expansion of modern and contemporary South Asian discourse, is their ability to take risks and to experiment. For a world increasingly defined by borders, this approach is crucial and one that Durjoy has not taken lightly over the past several years. Cultural awareness and collaboration has been key to his vision for the DBF’s mission.

His support for the exhibition ‘Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan’, which opened at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge in 2019, is a case in point. Through sculpture, painting, performance, film and photography, the exhibition told the stories of migration and resettlement in South Asia and internationally, engaging with the painful memories of displacement and the challenging notion of ‘home’ following the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 and the independence of Bangladesh in 1971.

hanging textile artwork

Gbor Tsui (2019) by Serge Attukwei Clottey. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Passionate and energetic, Durjoy never stops, not even during a global pandemic. In a year when many art collectors, galleries and institutions had to do business at a slower pace, Durjoy was busier than ever in Dhaka. The textile entrepreneur, who runs the Bangladeshi garment and textile-sourcing business Winners Creations Ltd, was actively staging new exhibitions, online and live, to support his foundation. Its mission is to promote art from South Asia and beyond, part of the so-called Global South, to forge a critical dialogue within an international context.

Cultural exchange, particularly between artist and arts practitioners from South Asia and beyond, is paramount to the DBF’s vision. Its recent projects, such as ‘No Place Like Home’, a Rohingya art exhibit consisting of Shadhin’s Elephant in the Room and pieces created by Rohingya refugees living in the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh, aim to raise awareness of the plight of displaced communities, is just one of many that Durjoy and his foundation have initiated over the past three years.

Read more: In the Studio with Idris Khan

“Art creation can keep the conversation going on important issues,” said Durjoy from his office in Dhaka. “The Rohingya crisis is an example. When it first took place, the news was everywhere. Now, three years on and it doesn’t make the headlines. Through exhibition art made by Rohingya we can keep the conversation alive and hopefully it will result in some change.”

Durjoy, who since 1997 has been collecting art with a strong focus on supporting artists from Bangladesh and South Asia, has long believed that artists from the sub-continent haven’t been given the recognition they deserve on the global stage. The first work he bought was by Bangladesh Modernist Rafiqun Nabi, a famous cartoonist and visual artist known for his creation of the character Tokai, a street urchin. “He produced this character to show the everyday struggle in Bangladeshi society,” explains Durjoy. “He used Tokai to express his visions about what was happening around him. I have been a big fan of his ever since I was young.”

sculptures on a table

art collection

Works in Durjoy Rahman’s collection include Le Baron Fou (2009) and La Baleine (2014) by Novera Ahmed (top), (below, on the wall) Gasp (2013) by Charles Pachter and (sewing machine) 100 Years Old (2018) by Tayeba Begum Lipi. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Durjoy now has more than 70 works by Nabi in his collection of 1,000 or more works of South Asian and international art by the likes of David Hockney, Lucian Freud and Bangladeshi modernists such as Safiuddin Ahmed, as well as South Asian antiques including Ghandharan art and works from the Pala Dynasty dating from the 9th to 11th centuries in Bengal. His collection exemplifies his worldly interests, his love of art and other cultures, and his desire to bring artists from around the world together in unison and creative dialogue. Since his first purchase of Nabi’s work, he has sought to support and collect works by emerging and established Bangladeshi artists in particular, which has become the prime objective of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation.

Over the years, Durjoy noticed a shift in attention from the global art community towards what was taking place in South Asia. “The heightened curiosity towards the East and what is taking place has influenced many artists from the sub-continent to produce works that are more socially charged, that illuminate post-colonial thought and impressions and the continual struggle with notions of identity and statehood,” Durjoy explains. In 2018 he finally took the plunge and established his own foundation with the mission to further the visibility of artists from the Global South – those, as he says, who are often disadvantaged, who don’t come from areas with much art education or infrastructure. Durjoy staged projects, art residencies and exhibitions that support his cause and, importantly, foster creative and cultural dialogue between the artists of South Asia and other areas in the Global South with those elsewhere in the world.

Read more: Helga Piaget on educating the next generation

“I sensed that there needed to be a platform that could represent artists from South Asia as I felt they had not yet been recognised internationally in the way that they should have been,” he says. He admits that at first it was challenging, given his hybrid role of collector and director of a foundation. “It might have looked in the beginning like I was trying to promote the artists in my collection, but then I realised that I could work with artists who were not already in my collection and whose practice and work I appreciated. I truly believe we need to play a more important role in shaping the art system originating from the sub-continent and making a bridge between South Asia and Europe.”

Durjoy first set up a base for the foundation in Berlin in 2018. He was advised on the decision by well-known art advisor Marta Gnyp, known for her work with contemporary African artists. “I admire Durjoy’s curiosity, open-mindedness and his ability to learn extremely fast,” said Gnyp. “This, in combination with the ambitious, focused and very well structured programme of his Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation, makes him one of the forces that will shape the future of the South Asian art world.” Later that year Durjoy set up the office in Dhaka where he now has a team of 10 people working for the foundation. He launched his initiative with the unveiling of his donation of Indian artist Mithu Sen’s powerful and nostalgic installation MOU (Museum of Unbelongings) (2011–18) to the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in Germany as part of their permanent collection. “This was how we made the announcement of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation, by having Sen’s installation mark one of the first times that a work by a South Asian artist who happens to be female is in the permanent collection of a European institution,” he adds.

installation artwork

MOU (Museum of Unbelongings) (2011-18) by Mithu Sen. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

This gift to the Kunstmuseum followed a serendipitous meeting between Durjoy and Dr Holger Broeker, head of the collection and senior curator there. Earlier that year, the museum had staged ‘Facing India’, a show marking the first museum exhibition in Germany to present works by women artists from India. The works included in the exhibition, by Vibha Galhotra, Bharti Kher, Prajakta Potnis, Reena Saini Kallat, Mithu Sen and Tejal Shah, questioned the idea of borders of all kinds, whether political, territorial, ecological, religious, social, personal or gender-based. Broeker and Durjoy met by chance one evening in Berlin at GNYP Gallery. “When I asked him about the focus of his collection,” remembers Broeker, “he told me about his project to promote art from the Bangladeshi region and India in Europe and America, and that he himself had already exhibited Western art in Bangladesh in return. He wanted to intensify this idea of cultural exchange within the framework of foundation. An extraordinarily intensive and fruitful communication developed between us and Durjoy donated Sen’s magnificent work to us for our collection.”

Sen’s powerful installation forms the beginning of the Kunstmuseum’s Indian art collection, which now includes works by Tejal Shah, Gauri Gill and Prajakta Potnis. Uta Ruhkamp, the museum’s curator, said, “Mithu Sen finds an international but unconventional visual language that reaches beyond markers like nationality, religion, wealth, skin colour, caste, family, education and language that people use to distinguish themselves from others in both ways, whether feeling superior or inferior. Sen’s installation contains a personal collection of objects and artworks from all over the world. She curated it her way, creating ‘joint’ artworks by combining objects, narrating stories, and suggesting a colourful world free of hierarchies. No label, no categories. It is a global statement, the vision of a world that does not yet exist.”

man speaking into microphone

Artist Serge Attukwei Clottey with his work Gbor Tsui during the exhibition ‘Stormy Weather’ at Arnhem Museum. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Durjoy, an entrepreneur, lets nothing get in the way of his goals. The number of projects, exhibitions and residencies his foundation has staged in just over three years is startling and impressive. One is example is DBF’s support of Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey in the production of a large artwork featured in the 2019 exhibition ‘Stormy Weather’ at the Arnhem Museum in the Netherlands on the theme of climate change and social justice. After the show, Clottey’s work entered the museum’s collection.

Testament to Durjoy’s desire to support artists in need are two initiatives he launched during the pandemic. One is called Bhumi, which was a collaboration with the Gidree Bawlee Foundation of Arts aiming to help rural communities that make crafts, art and land art. The other programme is Future of Hope, for which Durjoy asked nine artists to create work in response to present global challenges. The works were displayed at the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation last October 2020. “The crux of Durjoy’s mission is to raise awareness of the Global South and supporting and promoting emerging and established artists from that region, but to do so in dialogue with artists from other places around the world,” said Iftikhar Dadi, artist and a professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University in New York. “I love his energy, dynamism and openness.”

light artwork

Shapla from the series ‘Efflorescence’ (2013-19) by Iftikhar Dadi and Elizabeth Dadi. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

One example of Durjoy’s mission to raise awareness of such artists is the 10-year Majhi International Art Residency Program. ‘Majhi’ in Bengali means boatman or the leader or guide. He is the one, explains Durjoy, who steers people on the boat on a certain course. “My vision is to take artists from South Asia and the Global South to Europe every year to work with artists there so that they can exchange thoughts and ideas.” The first edition of the Majhi International Art Residency took place in Venice in 2019 and the 11 artists selected included Dilara Begum Jolly, Dhali Al-Mamoon, Rajaul Islam (Lovelu), Noor Ahmed Gelal, Uttam Kumar Karmaker, Kamruzzaman Shadhin, Umut Yasat, Chiara Tubia, Cosima Montavoci, Andrea Morucchio and David Dalla Venezia. They are from different regions of the world: six were born in Bangladesh, one is of mixed Turkish and German heritage, and four are Venetians. During their stay, the artists were invited to reflect upon the question: “Does life in these uncertain times of crisis and turmoil make art more interesting?” The question was a response to the title of Ralph Rugoff ’s 58th Venice Biennale that year, ‘May You Live in Interesting Times’. The first residency resulted in a dialogue of works that achieved exactly the aims of the foundation, with the artists choosing the title of the final exhibition.

The residency continued in Dhaka as part of the annual 15th Contemporary Art Day organised by the Association of the Italian Museums of Contemporary Art and supported by DBF. ‘The Scent of Time’ exhibition was hosted at Edge, The Foundation and featured work by the residency’s artists.

artist drawing in front of canvas

artist at work

The Mahji International Art Residency in Venice, 2019, with artists David Dalla Venezia (top) and Umut Yasat. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Durjoy recently acquired a second work by Morucchio for his collection, a digital print on aluminium titled Merlyn. Durjoy says he was attracted to the artist’s work that drew attention to the dangerous effects of mass tourism in Venice, the subject of Morucchio’s project ‘Venezia Anno Zero’ documenting the serenity of the city during lockdown.

“Majhi, the boatman, travels from one destination to another – just like the artist going to the residency, he does not stop in one fixed place,” explains Durjoy. While 2020 posed numerous challenges, Durjoy made sure the Majhi residency continued. “When 2020 closed the world, we didn’t stop,” he says. “Because we already have a strong presence in Berlin, we decided to stage to residency there as part of Berlin Art Week.” The residencies, like Durjoy’s multifaceted vision, always involve numerous factors. For the Berlin exhibition, he invited a food and music collective to enliven the venue.

Read more: Gaggenau’s Jörg Neuner on embodying the traditional avant-garde

The foundation is now gearing up for its next location, Eindhoven in the Netherlands in October 2021. The theme is ‘Land, Water and Borders’. While Durjoy admits it is a challenging topic, it is ultimately one that reflects the present post-colonial struggles the world continues to experience. He says that, like the residency in Berlin, they will incorporate sound and acoustics into the residency that will take place during the Dutch Design Week. “It’s important that we make everything current,” he adds.

Durjoy’s cross-cultural efforts to elevate artists from South Asia are also apparent in his foundation’s recent partnership with the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, where international artists join a residency programme with an emphasis on experiment and critical engagement. “The objective of this partnership is to promote the exchange between artists from South Asia and the international artists’ network of the Rijksakademie and the strengthening of the position and visibility of artist from South Asia,” explains Susan Gloudemans, the Rijksakademie’s director of strategy and development. The first Fellowship is for Rajyashri Goody from India, who started her residency in September 2021. Rajyashri has been selected from 1,600 artists from 115 countries for one of the 23 residency positions available. The Fellowship covers the living expenses of the artist and is a direct way of contributing to the professional development and breakthrough of a promising artist. “The importance of DBF’s support of the Fellowship programme goes beyond the individual artist,” Gloudemans adds. “We know from experience that this line of support will increase the participation of other artists from the region in the Rijksakademie programme and that the local art scene in Bangladesh and South Asia will be able to benefit from the exchanges and collaborations that result from it.”

group of people standing underneath arch

Durjoy Rahman with the artists and curators from the residency’s 2019 edition. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Durjoy’s passion and endless enthusiasm for his foundation’s mission is contagious. A silent artistic revolution seems to be taking place in Dhaka and Berlin, one that is urging artists and arts practitioners to become more open-minded in their approach and vision through artistic and creative dialogue. These are results, as Durjoy knows, that can only come about when people from various cultures and nations are brought together to speak, work and learn from each other. In March 2021, the DBF hosted ‘From Here to Eternity’, a one-day online symposium looking at topics such as gender, sexuality and race in relation to art and photography; the transnational consciousness in cities of the UK, North America and India; and artistic responses to social and political change. Along these same themes was DBF’s support for renowned Indian photographer Sunil Gupta’s show ‘From Here to Eternity: Sunil Gupta. A Retrospective’ at The Photographer’s Gallery (TPG) in London in 2020–21. “Given the scarcity of cultural organisations promoting the work of visual artists from the Global South, the Durjoy Foundation is filling an important vacuum within cultural relations,” says Francesca Pinto, the director of business development at TPG.

The North-South divide is a present reality reflecting centuries of colonialism, tensions and political feuds. If trauma is inter-generational, then to heal the resulting pain means looking at its origins, and Durjoy’s work through DBF attempts to make past wounds less painful through an understanding and recognition of the other through art. It starts, as he is demonstrating so passionately, by raising awareness about challenging socio-political and economic subjects. As he puts it: “When the headlines no longer carry these stories, then art can continue the narrative.”

black and white street photographs

portrait of man by fence

Images from Sunil Gupta’s series ‘Christopher Street’ (1976) from Durjoy Rahman’s collection. Images courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, Stephen Bulger Gallery and Vadehra Art Gallery. Copyright Sunil Gupta. All Rights Reserved, DACs 2021. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

How to define the Global South?

There is still much discussion over how to define the ‘the Global South’, a term coined in the late 1960s but being increasingly used today. The concept of the Global North and Global South (or North-South divide) describes a grouping of countries according to socio-economic and political characteristics. The Global South usually denotes lower-income countries, once referred to as Third World countries, while the Global North is often equated with developed or First World countries. However, this distinction can be misleading. Nations in the Gulf of Arabia, for example, are in the Global South but can be characterised as Global North countries. “During the Cold War we had the Third World model, which referred to the first world, second world and third world,” explains Ifkhtiar Dadi, a professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University. “Since the 1990s, the Global South has emerged as a working definition to look at the realities of these regions over the past 30 years since the end of the Cold War. I feel it is the most neutral and effective term today but the critique against it is that it evacuates the politics of an unequal world.”

As borders continue to be disputed despite an increasingly globalised world, the ideas of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ continue to be questioned. Dr Devika Singh, a curator of International Art at Tate Modern who specialises in art from South Asia, illuminates the paradigm in the book Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, published to accompany the exhibition of the same name at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, UK. “The notion of homeland belongs to the realm of the imagination and to seemingly distant, yet constantly revisited, pasts,” she writes.

“It also belongs to our present times of suffering and anxiety often spawned by national borders. The imposition and safeguarding of borders disrupt not only the long histories of human movements and exchanges, but also shared pasts, languages, and cultures. Displacement, whether forced exile or voluntary expatriation, and the notions of home and nation, therefore, appear intrinsically connected.”

Find out more: durjoybangladesh.org

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue.

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Reading time: 18 min
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Surina Narula with a group of children

Surina Narula, founder and patron of the UK-based Consortium for Street Children

Based between London and Delhi, Surina Narula has founded philanthropic endeavours as diverse as Jaipur Literature Festival, the Consortium for Street Children, and the TVE Global Sustainability Film Awards, among others. The governing principle underlying them all? A passion for learning and justice. Here, Narula speaks to Samantha Welsh about personal responsibility and the importance of South Asian representation.

Surina Narula is on a mission for social justice. Having dedicated the best part of three decades to delivering aid to women and children in the UK and India, she is also a patron for South Asian art and a fervent advocate for sustainability through the medium of film. If those causes sound disparate, they are deliberately so – for Narula is dedicated to equality above all else.

LUX: When did philanthropy become a way of life for you?
Surina Narula: I don’t think I had anything specifically in mind [when I started]. I just believed in justice and in a fairer world. It all changed when I had to fight for justice for my sister’s murder, which made me think a lot about human rights and justice for all. I realised it’s a very unfair world in India, where only people like us, with money and contacts, get any kind of justice. So, I started advocating for the most vulnerable sections of society. I knew it would take an entire lifetime to make a tiny difference, but it didn’t mean I had to stop enjoying my life. It is a basic responsibility for every able-bodied person to engage and make a difference.

LUX: Your work spans literature festivals to film awards, sustainability to women’s rights. Is there a single philosophy underwriting them all?
Surina Narula: You could say that everything I’m engaged in is interconnected. Everything is for a cause but also satisfies my desire to learn. [That’s why] I started fundraising through art exhibitions, theatre productions and literary festivals. I first began with working for street children through the Consortium for Street Children (CSC), based in London, and then looked at communities supporting children through Plan UK and helping charities like Women and Children First. My focus now is on advocating for environmental causes and global sustainability through the Television for the Environment (TVE). I felt the environmental crisis was becoming the greatest cause of human suffering, with the worst affected always being women and children. My philanthropic journey has been a continuous and evolving process.

Surina Narula sitting on a green couch in a green dress

Surina Narula celebrating Diwali at COP26

LUX: Your own involvement in these projects frequently transcends setting up foundations and providing aid. Why is it important that you engage on a deeper, more personal level?
Surina Narula: The personal commitment comes from a love of life. I don’t think the idea of foundations, charity, aid is what excites me; they are a means, not an end. It has been a privilege to be on the boards of many organisations, because I meet amazing people who devote their lives to work for the causes they are passionate about. I love meeting these people and learning from them.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: You are a fearless advocate for women’s rights and ask difficult questions around religious strife, marriage and prostitution. Does it ever feel like you are fighting a losing battle?
Surina Narula: It is very difficult to measure success in these areas, but unless we have the courage to question bad practices, how can we start a dialogue? By starting a dialogue, however difficult, we can start the process of change.

LUX: Is that how the Difficult Dialogues initiative came about?
Surina Narula: Difficult Dialogues is part of a wider agenda of regional development which aims to involve the voices of key stakeholders in the process of policy formulation. Policy is eventually what really changes the plight of people, and this process needs to be structured, transparent and more inclusive. We organise events debating ‘difficult’ issues with Government, policy formulators, academics, corporates, NGOs and last mile implementers of policy, before making specific policy recommendations for the area.

LUX: What reforms have your teams been able to effect?
Surina Narula: Thanks to the work of the CSC, we have succeeded in adding a general comment in the UN Rights of the Child, guaranteeing that whenever governments discuss the welfare of children this expressly includes street children. We have also had success with Plan International, where our teams work hard in law reform to support the rights of women and girl children in the UK and India. Through Women and Children First, our teams are effectively reducing the mortality rate in newborn children in parts of Africa.

Surina Narula holding an award

In 2012 Surina founded the tve Global Sustainability Film Awards. Left to right: Giorgos Lemos, Surina Narula and Nikos Fragos. Producers of, ‘Amerika Square’, the film won the Founder’s Award at the GSFA2018

LUX: Your work is heavily focused on South Asia, as well as the UK. Why is that a priority for you?
Surina Narula: I believe it’s best to start with what you know. South Asia is closer to the language and culture I grew up in. I learned about South Asia through western writers in English. I also read Thomas Hardy and Shakespeare. They were great, of course, but I grew up imagining I was Hardy’s Tess, not Vikram Seth’s Lata. Now, I am much clearer about my own identity and have learned so much about people in our region.

LUX: Was this the motivation behind the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature?
Surina Narula: Yes, it’s about sharing the cultural richness and diversity of South Asia, and bringing our literary talents to a global audience. We encourage a wide range of entrants: the Prize is open to writers from anywhere in the world provided they write about our region. Over the last decade, it has become the definitive international prize focused on South Asian fiction writing.

Read more: Philanthropy: James Chen on providing vision for all

LUX: How do you develop such nuanced conversations across a region with so much diversity?
Surina Narula: If you know this region, it’s clear there is great diversity in language and dress. The Prize is focused on nine South Asian countries which include India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Maldives and Afghanistan. Translation has helped capture the nuance of conversations; we also celebrate our diversity by physically presenting the award in different countries by rotation.

LUX: How does neo-colonialism intersect with the storytelling of that region?
Surina Narula: Every nation in the South Asian region has suffered through our shared colonial history, as well as civil and religious conflict. The entire region is connected in this way. Before Independence, English literature and the English language were prevalent because of colonialism: we were forced to speak and write in the language of the conqueror. So the DSC Prize brings to the English-speaking world a deeper understanding of the vibrancy and richness of South Asian culture.

LUX: The TVE Global Sustainability Film Awards celebrates a different kind of creativity. Tell us more about that.
Surina Narula: Television for Environment (TVE) has been at the forefront of amplifying messages around sustainability for the last 36 years. My journey with them began ten years ago, when I was introduced to them as a fundraiser. The organic natural next step for us was to give awards for well-made environmental films, leading to the conception of the annual TVE Global Sustainability Film Awards. The awards are unique because film submissions are judged not only on the quality of their content but on their message and impact. Our greatest success was when we highlighted the film My Octopus Teacher at the TVE GSFA 2020 and won the Oscar for the best documentary.

LUX: How would you like to see the next generation taking forward your legacy?
Surina Narula: One of the greatest Sikh Gurus, Guru Gobind Singh, once said, ‘Shiva, grant me this boon! May I never, ever shirk from doing good deeds!’. He acknowledged how hard it is always to do the right thing. This is because life is all about choices: we are always trying to make choices that help us enjoy our lives to the full and to fulfil our personal responsibilities. I think the next generation has a lot going for it [in this sense]. Access to technology and economic independence makes young people more capable. If they can develop and remain compassionate, the world will be a better place.

Find out more: jaipurliteraturefestival.org

streetchildren.org

tve.org/awards

As with all of our philanthropists, readers who have their own foundations and philanthropic interests are encouraged to reach out to our interview subjects and their institutions directly.

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Reading time: 7 min
woman looking at a painting
woman looking at a painting

Bellini’s Pietà at the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, which Beretta helped restore

The role of philanthropy has never been more urgent, and is reflected in our ongoing online series. Here, Umberta Beretta outlines her work around women’s rights and art for the many

Beretta was born into a family of prominent industrialists in northern Italy and is married to Franco Beretta, who leads the famed gunmakers. For the past two decades she has been active in fund-raising for numerous non-profit organisations and foundations with a focus on art, including her work for the Italian pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale and the Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milan; medical charities, including cancer research through the Fondazione Beretta, of which she is a board member, and the Essere Bambino foundation; and on social causes such as campaigning against violence against women. The Beretta family’s involvement in art is notable also for Christo’s 2016 project The Floating Piers, which connected the shore of Lake Iseo with the island of San Paolo, owned by the Berettas, with fabric-covered walkways.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Where did your interest in philanthropy in the arts come from?
Umberta Beretta: I have always had an interest in the arts. My father Giorgio Gnutti often took me to museums or when visiting artists’ studios. My grandmother (on my mother’s side) pushed me to do volunteer work. Art is my passion and the time I dedicate to less fortunate people or causes is my way of giving back.

woman by a swimming pool

Umberta Beretta photographed by Lady Tarin

LUX: Which art projects are exciting you?
Umberta Beretta: The past year has been very complicated and frustrating, but I very much look forward to the Venice Biennale [due to take place 23 April to 27 November 2022] curated by Cecilia Alemani. I admire women who do well in the arts. My hometown of Brescia and Bergamo will be Italian Capital of Culture in 2023, so we are planning a series of cultural activities and that’s quite exciting.

LUX: How important are private and philanthropic support for the arts?
Umberta Beretta: They’re both crucial. In Italy this still has yet to be fully understood. Individuals should be given more tax incentives [to donate]. But it is in our culture to promote beauty so against all odds I think Italy will always be a motor for the arts.

Man and woman standing in front of artwork

Beretta with the Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama

LUX: How has the pandemic affected the arts in Italy?
Umberta Beretta: Tourists will always come to visit our museums. What concerns me most is the impact the pandemic will have on young, lesser-known artists, whose opportunities have frozen. And the same can be said for emerging fashion designers.

Read more: Meet the new generation of artisanal producers

LUX: What else can be done to support women’s rights?
Umberta Beretta: We can start by educating our children. I try with my son every day. All boys should be taught to respect women and all girls should be taught to demand respect. Women have the right to express themselves freely like men. In the art world, for example, women should be free to express their views on sexuality without scaring the public away. In everyday life they should be able to be mothers and have a career at the same time.

man and woman in artist's studio

Beretta with the artist Christo in his New York studio

LUX: What project has pleased you most?
Umberta Beretta: Definitely Christo’s Floating Piers. Winning the Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award in 2015 for Italy. Restoring some of the masterpieces of the Museo Poldi Pezzoli through the Restoration Club… I could go on.

For more information, visit: umbertagnuttiberetta.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 Issue. 

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Reading time: 3 min
lake in Switzerland
business man

Philanthropist and businessman Etienne d’Arenberg

Etienne d’Arenberg hails from one of Europe’s oldest families and is treasurer of the Arenberg Foundation, whose mission is the promotion of the understanding of European history and culture. He is a partner of family-owned Swiss private bank Mirabaud. He is also President of the Menuhin Competition Trust, and Trustee of several Swiss and UK charities. He speaks to LUX about European values, and the evolving perspectives and expectations of the next generation

LUX: Has the nature of philanthropy changed in the last two decades?
Etienne d’Arenberg: Both from my private banking experience at Mirabaud as well as from various circle of donors I belong to, I feel that there is a clear evolution in philanthropic practices. Firstly, there is an increasing involvement in philanthropic areas outside the traditional non-profit sector with growing interest from both governments and companies to partner with individual donors on specific issues. Secondly, and this is probably the consequence of the first point, there is an increasing focus on systemic change and transformative grant-making approaches that achieve greater leverage. Lastly, and this can become challenging for smaller institutions, there is a growing expectation for impact measurement and focus on KPIs.

Another trend that I see emerging in large donors’ circles – often business-owning families – is the need to align business and family platforms. The time where your company was polluting the rivers while at the same time your family foundation was giving to the WWF is over. There is a search for coherence between the different activities with a growing alignment between the business, the investment vehicle(s) and the philanthropic foundation. Interestingly, private banks in Geneva such as Mirabaud have been at the forefront of this trend with their founding families being very active in local communities, while at the same time promoting a company’s approach to addressing the most pressing social and environmental issues.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Tell us more about your last point – are people being judged by different criteria?
Etienne d’Arenberg: We are faced with issues of huge magnitude, both on the societal and environmental front and this is especially true in times of COVID-19. If you combine this with growing access to information, I do feel that there is a real demand from the public for more sustainable business practices and generally speaking pressure for accountability. I see this pressure mounting, especially from a new generation of customers and employees.

If you run a company that is active in socially or environmentally damaging activities, the issue is that you will not be able to shift your business focus overnight. Our role as investors – and this is what we do at Mirabaud – is to accept companies that may not yet be there, but which are able to demonstrate a forward-looking vision including a clear strategy to transition to clean, circular and inclusive business models. For a family-owned or family-controlled company such as Mirabaud, this is also a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with purpose and long-holding family values.

lake in Switzerland

The Arenberg Foundation organises concerts in the remote village of Lauenen, in central Switzerland.

LUX: Is inclusion and bringing people together an important element of philanthropy?
Etienne d’Arenberg: Inclusion is about embracing people irrespective of their difference, whether that’s race, ethnicity gender, sexual orientation or identification, religion or economic circumstances, and providing them with equal opportunities. This is where philanthropy plays an important role as inclusion often starts with access to education, healthcare or basic needs.

But inclusion is also about getting rid of bias, the “us versus them” old way thinking, and embracing the fact that our difference is something positive: this goes far beyond the tropic of philanthropy. I come from quite a traditional background, but I am proud to say that I do not feel threatened by a society that changes. Quite to the contrary and under the impulsion of my daughters, we have been revisiting family values and behaviours, making sure not to pigeon-hole people and being particularly mindful not to impose suffering by raw reflexes of exclusion.

Mirabaud has also committed itself to diversity and inclusion, making sure, for example, that we create an optimal workplace for women. The fact that we were one of the first Geneva private bank to welcome a female managing partner helped us to develop a solid framework for gender equality practices. This has nothing to do with tokenism as it is based on the strong conviction that a forward-looking institution needs different perspectives and experiences.

Read more: Sophie Neuendorf on building a more sustainable art world

LUX: With the demands that are ever growing on the state sector, does the private sector need to step in more to support the cultural and charitable activities that were previously more supported by the state?
Etienne d’Arenberg: I don’t want to be a judge of the private sector being ‘not enough’, because whatever comes is already something and some individual donors are immensely generous. As I was mentioning before, there is an increasing need for approaches that achieve greater leverage and I believe that public-private partnership will play a greater role in addressing the need for systemic change.

The private sector can also act as a catalyst for change, raising awareness on specific issue and campaigning direct governmental support. I have been following the work of a UK charity which focuses on children food poverty: this is a very good example of an initially privately funded charity, who is actively campaigning for legislative change and working in close collaboration with government on food delivery. I am sure that we will see more on this in the future.

sailing event

The Bol d’Or Mirabaud regatta on Lake Geneva

LUX: Does the next generation of wealth owners have different priorities for philanthropy?
Etienne d’Arenberg: Traditionally, family businesses or wealth owners have been quite active in their communities, and Mirabaud is no exception, both at the bank and at the partners’ level. Ask many Geneva-based NGOs, charities, cultural or sport institutions and they will tell you about its commitment.

I feel that the type of issues Generation Z cares about are a little bit different and I see this with my daughters. Their preoccupations are centred around inclusion, mental health, environment and racial equity. They will tell you bluntly that they are not prepared to work for a company that does not match their ethics or values, even if that means foregoing a number of lucrative jobs. To my view, this is quite representative of a generation that is much open to a new set of issues.

What is also changing is the active role they are ready to take. I think that the generation of philanthropists who will just sign a check is slowly over, and we will see a new generation of individuals who will want to take a much active role, starting earlier in life as volunteers, advocates or activists, and using a wider range of engagement tools.

As I said, Mirabaud has demonstrated a 200-year-old interest in the communities in which it operates and I sense that as a bank we are particularly interested in understanding this new generation, not only because they are our future clients and employees, but also because they are shaping the future we will be operating in, as a company.

Read more: Lamberto Frescobaldi on 1000 years of tradition and wine

LUX: Do Mirabaud’s philanthropic contributions focus on culture and the arts?
Etienne d’Arenberg: First and foremost, concerning contemporary art, in recent years we’ve been sponsors of FIAC in Paris among various other renowned institutions. We’ve also sponsored the Zurich Art weekend, which is, in a way, the pre-Art Basel event, in a more intimate setting. Even if we are an institution that celebrated its 200th birthday in 2019 (so we are 202 years old now) our motto is always “to be prepared for now”. As in, immediately at your service, to sponsor and to be interested in today’s world and that’s why we are interested in contemporary art. We know the value of looking into the past, and taking lessons into the future.

The second thing to remember is that culture is not something which always pertains to art. If you look at the enthusiasm of the public, art is not always the biggest thing, sports, for example, are part of the culture of a nation. We are sponsors of the largest inland regatta competition in the world, the Bol d’Or Mirabaud on Lake Geneva, and it’s a fascinating competition, because the lake has very particular wind conditions that are ever-changing, it is not a one-sided Caribbean type wind that comes constantly from one side and doesn’t change that often. Here again our motto “prepared for now” completely makes sense.

LUX: The concept of Europe is an important one for your family foundation. Why?
Etienne d’Arenberg: When we think about Europe, our family thinks of the continent which includes Switzerland and the United Kingdom, not only the European Union. The concept of Europe is indeed very important for our family, as it includes a set of value that are dear to our heart: human dignity, rule of law, equality and democracy to name a few. This sounds wonderful and noble, but the truth is that it is quite vague in practice.

What we have been trying to do with our family foundation is to revisit these values in the light of today’s challenges and explore new ways to shape our common future.

I am personally convinced that Europe has a key role to play in shaping the post-COVID recovery, and building a new social contract based on these long-lasting European values and at a very modest level, we are trying to be part of this conversation.

Etienne d’Arenberg is limited partner of family-owned Swiss private bank Mirabaud and is Head Wealth Management United Kingdom.

Find out more: arenbergfoundation.eu, mirabaud.com

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Reading time: 8 min
woman and child

Nadya Abela is the founder and CEO of the Nadezda Foundation in the Russia and the UK

Philanthropist Nadya Abela established the Nadezda Foundation in her hometown of Tver in Russia in 2015 to provide disadvantaged children with much needed medical care and educational support. In 2019, a sister foundation was registered in the UK. In the first of our new philanthropy series, she speaks to Samantha Welsh about her motivations, the process of setting up a children’s charity and the challenges presented by the global pandemic
woman with blonde hair

Nadya Abela

LUX: When did you first have the idea to set up your Nadezda charity fund in Russia and why? What prompted you to also to launch the foundation in UK? ​
Nadya Abela: When my youngest son was born here in London, I start realising more and more that being a parent is enormous responsibility and hard work. I felt lucky that my boys had good medical and educational infrastructure available for them here in UK. When I start comparing that to what was available back then for children in Tver, Russia, I realised there was a huge gap between the two.

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I flew home in the summer of 2015  and visited a few children’s hospitals, orphanages and educational centres for underprivileged children. Right there and then I decided to set up a foundation that would concentrate on children’s health and education issues in my hometown and other cities in Russia.

A few of my dear girlfriends (who are now on the committee at Nadezda Foundation) and I had been discussing similar issues here in United Kingdom for a long time and so we decided to set up the UK foundation in 2019, which also helps children who also find themselves in difficult life situations.

LUX: Is there anybody in the world of philanthropy and fund raising who inspired you?​
Nadya Abela: Regular people, who give their time and money to support causes that are dear to their hearts or families, always inspire me.

LUX: What exactly does Nadezda Foundation do and how do you ensure you get optimum results? ​
Nadya Abela: Our foundations concentrate on children’s health and education. I believe those two factors are most important in creating positive future for them and for society in general.

LUX: How much of your time does it take?​
Nadya Abela: Quite a lot, especially prior to important fundraising events.

LUX: Have you always been passionate about the welfare of underprivileged children and young people?
Nadya Abela:  Ever since I started my modelling career at the age of 18, I always wanted to adopt a little boy or a girl, to take them away from life in orphanage and create a safe and healthy environment for them to live in. I have not done it yet, but hope that one day it will be possible. For now our charity foundation and I directly help lots of children, and we know that we change some of their lives for the better.

children in classroom

children's playground

Some of the children the Nadezda Foundation helps (above), and one of the playgrounds built in Tver, Russia for children with autism.

LUX: Do you think that the role of private philanthropy is becoming more important, with increasing limitations on government funding?​
Nadya Abela:  Absolutely. It is always very direct because it involves less bureaucracy.

LUX: What are the biggest obstacles and challenges you have faced?​
Nadya Abela: In Russia at the beginning, it was difficult to get people and big companies on board with fundraising. People were skeptical, or too busy with their own problems. Now, five years later, the situation has changed completely. I have people calling me directly and asking how and where they can help, which is an achievement on its own.

In UK, the hardest part was legally registering the foundation. It was a lengthy and costly affair, but now everything is fairly straight forward.

Read more: British artist Petroc Sesti on his nature-inspired artworks

LUX: Is there anything that concerns you about the path ahead for your foundation?​
Nadya Abela: With Covid and current restrictions it is nearly impossible to do any fundraising so our work and the help we can provide is very limited. It is absolutely devastating and takes us back to square one so many children are not getting help they so urgently need.

LUX: What are your proudest achievements?
Nadya Abela: ​Seeing my two sons want to help with my charity work and support other boys and girls who are currently living in difficult situations.

woman outside hospice

Nadya outside EACH (East Anglia Children’s Hospices) for the whom the foundation raised £25,000 in 2019.

LUX: How will Covid-19 affect what you do?​
Nadya Abela: Covid does not affect what I do. The ministers who make wrong decisions, kill economy and therefore, affect the wellbeing of whole nation and future of our children.

LUX: Do you enjoy running your foundation?​
Nadya Abela: It keeps me grounded and yes, when we see how our work has changed children’s and their families’ lives, it does feel good.

LUX: Do you have specific examples of children or young people who have benefited?
Nadya Abela: ​There are lots of stories and projects from both of our foundations, which you can see on our websites. They all important, no matter how big or small so I wouldn’t want to single one out.

LUX: How would you encourage people to get more involved in supporting vulnerable children and young people?
Nadya Abela: You can go and visit schools and share your knowledge and experience. All children love to learn and they also love it when they feel that grown ups are interested in what they have to say. Find out what their biggest dream is, and help them to achieve it. We do not always have to raise lots of money to help change a child’s life.

LUX: What would you warn people about who are interested in setting up a charitable foundation?​
Nadya Abela: Depending on the cause, it can be very emotional and take up lots of your time especially if it’s something you’re really passionate about, but it’s all worth it!

LUX: Have you any advice for LUX readers who might want to get involved in philanthropy?
Nadya Abela: Just do it and don’t look back!

Find out more: nadezdafoundation.org.uk; fondnadezda.com

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Reading time: 5 min
Grand university building and lawn
Grand university building and lawn

California Tech University (Caltech), where Kevin Xu has endowed the new Neurotechnology Center, due to open next year

As a business leader, scientist, activist, media owner and philanthropist, Kevin Xu is the embodiment of a Renaissance entrepreneur. Andrew Saunders delves into the businessman’s master plan
Man leaning against a hotel chair in a suit

Kevin Xu

He may not quite be a household name – at least, not yet – but the chair of the MEBO group of regenerative wound care businesses, Kevin Xu, is a force to be reckoned with in the many spheres of his interest all the same. International entrepreneur and mentor; scientist, academic and researcher; advocate for better commercial relations and greater mutual understanding between the US and China; media owner; committed global philanthropist recognised with an Empact 100 award from the UN.

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As if that wasn’t enough, Xu also manages to fit in being a contributor to leading business titles including Forbes, Wired, Inc and Business Insider. No wonder he says wistfully that he doesn’t get much time to keep up with the fortunes of his favourite basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks, these days.

It’s an eclectic and impressive line-up of interests for a man whose ‘day job’ is running one of China’s leading biomedical therapeutics businesses, burns treatment specialist MEBO International. But the thread that unites his diverse activities is his personal credo: if you help someone, they will help others in their turn. “I believe in reciprocity and leadership,” he tells me. “I believe that if I can help an individual to lead a different life, then that person may reciprocate back to society when they become a success themselves. That’s why my interests are wide-ranging and don’t have any restrictions – not ethnicity, region, social status or gender bias. It’s all about individuals who I can help and make a difference.”

To aid him in that quest he also possesses two other valuable assets: a packed international diary and a 24-carat contacts list. He was born and raised in California, but we meet in London – he came for Royal Ascot, but also for meetings with charities and NGOs he’s interested in – before he headed to Japan for that country’s first-ever G20 summit. He’s on the advisory board of the California-China Trade Office, serves on the Asian Advisory Board at the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology, mentors young entrepreneurs at MIT, is the founder of the Kevin Xu Initiative at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago and has endowed a new Neurotechnology Center in California Institute of Technology. The list goes on.

Perhaps the relationships he is most proud of, however, are his ties to two former US presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. He’s a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and a contributor to the Obama Foundation, and recently spent a fortnight with Clinton in the US Virgin Islands, working with the 42nd president of the United States in connection with its efforts to help rebuild the region after the devastating 2017 hurricanes.

President Bill Clinton with Hillary and another man

Kevin Xu (pictured with Bill and Hillary Clinton here), is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative.

His view is that great world leaders all share a concern for humanity – and human life – above all. “True leadership involves a value system that puts people’s lives first. Clinton and Obama have that humanitarian aspect and so have other world leaders I have met – people like Pope Francis and [former UN secretary general] Ban Ki-Moon.”

Xu’s connection with the two former presidents was forged in the aftermath of the traumatic death of his father, MEBO founder Dr Rongxiang Xu, in 2015. “It was an accident – an awful shock,” he says. “It was a moment when I realised the power of mentorship. Presidents Obama and Clinton stepped up and carried me through that time – they sent condolence letters and said they would be role models to teach me how to carry on good leadership.”

At the age of 27, Xu not only had to cope with the loss of his father, but also with being parachuted into the pilot seat of the business that Dr Xu had built and run for 30 years. “My biggest fears when my father passed away were firstly that I didn’t know how to run his business in China, and secondly that I didn’t know how to create connections with people there. I grew up in the US, I didn’t know anything about China.”

Read more: Louis Roederer’s CEO Frédéric Rouzaud on art and hospitality

The business was well established in China, where Dr Xu first developed his pioneering moist environment burns therapy (MEBT) in the 1980s. Based on traditional Chinese medicine, the therapy capitalises on the human body’s innate ability to regenerate its own tissues, in a carefully controlled environment. Even deep-tissue, third-degree burns can be successfully treated without the need for painful or disfiguring skin grafts, says Xu. “My father decided to become a burns surgeon because he realised that burns are the most painful conditions people ever face – both pain from the burn and pain from the treatment.”

By the time Xu took over, the business had trained almost a million doctors in the use of its therapy, and had a network of 65,000 hospitals in China alone. Picking up the reins was quite a responsibility.

Barack Obama shaking hands with a businessman

Xu works with former US president Barack Obama

When President Obama invited Xu to stay with him and be part of the official delegation for the US state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015, doors were opened that might otherwise have remained closed to him for years. “Obama helped me to make a whole new group of connections between the US and China that are different from those of my father’s era. I met President Xi almost every day.”

That meeting led to MEBO being selected as one of the Chinese government’s official partners on the UN’s Every Woman Every Child initiative, providing medical experts to help deliver the global programme for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health in many countries. As Xu explains, there were ten such official Chinese partners, and nine of them were already chosen by the time he and President Xi met. “I believe in serendipity, and that happened serendipitously. President Xi decided to have MEBO as number ten.”

His network of A-grade connections is also helping to bring the MEBO burns treatment to the US, via California-based company Skingenix, of which he is also CEO. The road to approval is not an easy one; when the process began in the early 2000s, the FDA regulator didn’t even have a category for treatments based on Chinese medicine. Thanks to the new regulations implemented under the administration of another former president, George Bush Jr, it does now – the category of ‘botanic drugs’ – and the approval process is ongoing.

Read more: Travelling beyond the beaten track with Geoffrey Kent

What have his experiences taught him about fostering better understanding between China and the US? “It’s like the psychology of dating – the US way of dating and the Chinese way of dating show exactly how they each do business,” he suggests. “If a Chinese person takes you seriously and wants to marry you, they will take things slowly, because they want to get to know you. If a US person wants to marry you, you are more likely to get into a fight early in the romance – they are more willing to say something that might hurt you, because they care about you.”

They are two ways of achieving the same goal he says, the main difference in both love and business being that the Chinese approach involves taking a long view. “Eastern people think further ahead, but they don’t always state their full intention at the start. They use connotations to imply it, and that can cause misunderstandings with western people.”

People having a meeting around a table

Xu leads a mentoring meeting at the University of California, Berkeley

Another leadership challenge Xu has faced is the fact that many of the experienced executives who help him run MEBO are from his father’s era, and are considerably older than their current boss. “My key advice to young entrepreneurs running a company with older people is not to take your youth as an advantage, but a disadvantage. Be humble and learn what they are thinking. Treat them like your parents, people with more experience than you.”

And what of his co-ownership of Californian media outlet LA Weekly, which he acquired in 2017 alongside several other local investors? Where does this fit into the plan? “I bought it because I understand the importance of media. I love the city where I grew up, but there is too much focus on entertainment, movies and gossip. There is also a more humanitarian side to the city, it just needs bringing out. If I want to change the way people think, I must change the media. Since I bought it, it has become more focused on philanthropy and the arts – a channel for distributing positive energies to people.”

So once again, it may look random from the outside but it’s all part of his plan. What’s the ultimate aim? “I have two goals. My goal for MEBO is that the technology should be available in every country, so that when the world needs us, we will be there. My personal vision is that I want to create a new balance between peace, stability and the self. I want to use science and a new way of thinking to regenerate the world, just as MEBO regenerates the body.”

You heard it here first.

Management by horoscope

Cover of LA weekly magazineEast also meets West in one of Xu’s more unusual leadership techniques – using astrology to recruit the right people. “I like horoscopes because I studied neuroscience, and my favourite part of history is Greek mythology. In the company, I know the horoscope signs for most of my people and I place them according to their strengths. Scorpios are more meticulous, for example, so they are suited to finance work, whereas Leos and Aries are more outspoken – it is easier for them to develop new markets.” What does his own star sign indicate? “I am Libra – that’s why I like balance,” he says.

Find out more about the MEBO group: mebo.com

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Reading time: 8 min
Portrait of Founder of venture capital and investment company Global Group Johnny Hon in front of artwork

Dr Johnny Hon

Johnny Hon, founder of venture capital and investment company Global Group, is on a mission to lower cultural and trade barriers between east and west to encourage commerce, charity and cultural exchange. The entrepreneur and philanthropist, based in London and Hong Kong, speaks to LUX Editor-at-Large Gauhar Kapparova
portrait of LUX Editor at Large Gauhar Kapparova

LUX Editor-at-Large, Gauhar
Kapparova

LUX: The Global Group seems to have diverse interests and ambitious plans.
Johnny Hon: I founded the Global Group in 1997 whilst completing my PhD at Cambridge University. It has since grown to become a leading venture capital, investment and strategic consultancy with offices in London and Hong Kong. Over the past 20 years, the Global Group has evolved from financing high-yield technology companies to expand into private equity, angel investment and financial services. The company’s diverse interests and areas of expertise range from fine art to FinTech, biotechnology to entertainment and leisure. The future of the Global Group is exciting – we’re a rapidly growing company that responds to opportunities, rather than limiting ourselves to specific sectors. We are always looking for exciting, interesting opportunities, whether that’s a start-up in the UK or supporting the growing appetite for excellent quality wine in China.

LUX: You catalyse and facilitate trade between Europe and China. This seems to be important to you at what must be an essential time to be doing it.
Johnny Hon: We live in an increasingly global era and this is changing the face of modern business. The Global Group has always worked with European companies looking to enter the Asian market, as well as Chinese clients and high net-worth individuals with aspirations in the European market. I believe now, more than ever, it’s essential to encourage trade and mutual engagement between Europe and China and in particular to usher in a new golden era of Sino-UK relations.

In my opinion Brexit can open up vast potential as it will provide overseas investors with more opportunities than ever to enter the market. We have our European office in London, and I think it will always be the financial heart of Europe. I encourage Chinese clients to invest in the UK’s businesses and future, and vice versa, and feel optimistic about the future of global business.

Global businessman Johnny Hon shakes hands with HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

Johnny Hon at the charity première of the stage show 42nd Steet with HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

LUX: You have a broad portfolio of business, philanthropic and diplomatic interests. Please tell us more – it seems you are in effect an ambassador between east and west at a very high level?
Johnny Hon: The main mission of the Global Group is, as our motto says, ‘Bridging the New Frontiers’. We work to remove barriers between the East and the West, and I am passionate about reflecting this in my personal and business interests.

I am British-educated but was born in Hong Kong, and I’m deeply proud of my roots and Chinese heritage. I have always felt like I represent both cultures and I have tried hard to act as an ambassador – a gateway – ever since I set up my company. The Global Group challenges expectations and concerns about doing business in China, and I also embody this role in my diplomatic work.

I am the Honorary Consul for Grenada in Hong Kong and the country’s Ambassador-at-Large. I take huge pride in the private consultancy and advisory work I do with state leaders, prime ministers and presidents from countries around the world.

Charitable giant cheque handover on stage in Hong Kong

Johnny Hon’s broad range of philanthropic and diplomatic work includes charitable fund raising

Philanthropy is a vital part of my work and an endless source of motivation and inspiration for the Global Group. One position that fills me with particular pride is my role as the first ever Diamond Benefactor of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. I am responsible for growing the scheme throughout the AsiaPacific region and introducing Chinese students and young people to such exciting life skills as teamwork, enterprise and leadership.

I’m also a Founder Benefactor of London based think tank Asia House and Vice President of the 48 Group Club, which works to raise awareness of Chinese business and innovation in the UK and promote positive relations between the two countries.

In all areas of my life – business, diplomacy, philanthropy and personal – I take great pride and pleasure in my ambassadorial role.

LUX: Does the West have much to learn from China, and vice versa?
Johnny Hon: We can all learn and benefit from a global outlook. China is now a hub of technological advancements and entrepreneurial spirit. The West can learn from its productivity levels, dedication to innovation and broad acceptance of technology, especially regarding the fourth industrial revolution.

The West, and the UK in particular, is inspiring in the approach it takes to investing in future talent and it is the home of some of the world’s greatest educational institutions. It is also an outstanding provider of services, especially in the financial and legal sectors.

From East to West, I am passionate about education and how it is already changing the business landscape. Right now, over 300 million people in China are learning English and the UK has the world’s second largest population of Chinese students studying overseas. I think we should all look to China and how it is encouraging, supporting and inspiring a global outlook for the next generation.

LUX: Tell us more about your philanthropy and your plans in that area.
Johnny Hon: Philanthropy and social responsibility is at the core of the Global Group. It bolsters my sense of purpose and motivates me to work even harder.

I have always wanted to give back. When I was reading for my PhD at Cambridge, I realised that I would be able to have more impact as a businessman than a doctor, and this started my philanthropic career.

Two Asian business men standing in front of 48 Group Club sign

Amongst many philanthropic roles, Johnny Hon is the Vice President of the 48 Group Club

We’ve now donated to over 160 charities worldwide and my projects have ranged from setting up Oxford and Cambridge University scholarship schemes to sponsoring the first London production of the China National Beijing Opera Company at Sadler’s Wells through the Hon Foundation for Music and the Performing Arts.

It is particularly rewarding to be able to combine my passion for the arts with my interests in raising awareness of Eastern culture in the UK, supporting the Global Group’s mission to bridge the gap between the East and West.

LUX: Please tell us about other areas you are developing in your business that are exciting you right now.
Johnny Hon: Sitting at the helm of a rapidly expanding company that is growing in numbers, clients, countries of operation, and team members, is hugely exciting in itself.

Looking at investment opportunities and areas, right now, there is a fascinating trend for Chinese investors to look to British heritage companies. China has a growing consumer society with an increased disposable income and appetite for British luxury goods such as whisky and smoked salmon. There’s a huge market there for UK companies to work with China, and vice versa, to develop this and other opportunities.

This year, we are building on the sustainable side of the Global Group, with a focus on our shared global future. We are focusing on technology that sets out to tackle challenges posed by issues such as population growth and its environmental impact, including green technology, agricultural technology and biotech, for example.

Investing in something that could improve life quality and expectancy means that I have the potential to make a real impact and change the lives of many millions of people for the better, which is both exciting and awe-inspiring.

johnnyhon.com

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Reading time: 6 min