Among the Baltic States, Latvia is the only country in which community philanthropy has taken root, and which can reflect on 15 years of achievement in this realm.
Around 2000, the Baltic– American Partnership Fund set one of its goals as strengthening the culture of philanthropy in Latvia, in order to encourage the formation of new and stable financial sources to fund the activities of civic society.
The development of social participation and community philanthropy manifested itself as the introduction of a residents’ forum model and community foundations.
The origins of residents’ forums and community foundations in Latvia date back to 2001, when the Baltic-American Partnership Fund announced a project competition to implement the pilot project “Participation of Residents and Community Philanthropy”. At community level, two local organisations were chosen: the Northern Kurzeme NGO Support Centre in Talsi and the Lielvārde Foreign Communication and Education Support Office. The task of both organisations was to develop potential ideas for the participation of residents and community philanthropy within their respective operating territories.
The first pilot project phase was aimed at encouraging the participation of residents, to which end residents’ forums were organised modelled on U.S. experience. Parallel to this, this participation model was also developed in Lithuania and Estonia. Latvia thoroughly analysed the advantages and shortcomings of the model in an effort to find an approach suitable to the mentality of Latvia’s residents. It was trialled during the first residents’ forums, which took place in Lielvārde and Talsi. The results of the first residents’ forums testified to the fact that residents were interested in participating, and that a residents’ forum is a way to interest and motivate residents to participate in the formation and development of their surrounding environment.
In turn, the second pilot project phase was dedicated to mastering the concept of community philanthropy. Under its auspices, consultants were recruited from the Russian representative office of the Charities Aid Foundation, and study visits were conducted to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as work in Talsi and Lielvārde to establish local community foundations.
The process of establishing the community foundations and its result in both cities, i.e. Lielvārde and Talsi, turned out to be very different. This only served to strengthen the belief of supporters of the community philanthropy initiative that the establishment of a community foundation is unique to each individual place, and that there is no uniform prescription how to do this. However, there are a range of pre-conditions that must be taken into account in the process of establishing a foundation. An impression of this can be gained from this report on the how the foundation establishment process took place in Talsi, Lielvārde, Alūksne, Valmiera and Liepāja.
In 2008, the Baltic-American Partnership Fund concluded its operations in Latvia and the Baltics and support for the establishment of new community foundations declined. However the organisation of residents’ forums and the work of community foundations have proved that they are successful tools with which to mobilise the local community.
The Boris and Ināra Teterev Foundation launched its community philanthropy development programme in 2012. Its goal is to strengthen and develop the concept of community philanthropy in Latvia, providing support for the development of existing community foundations and initiatives to establish new community initiatives in rural areas. Since 2012, Latvia’s community foundations have already attracted EUR 1.3 million, which has made it possible to fulfil the visions of local residents in hundreds of cities and regions.
In the implementation of the programme, the Boris and Ināra Teterev Foundation collaborates with the Community Foundation Movement. Its goal is to promote community philanthropy and the participation of residents in Latvia’s regions, and to represent Latvia internationally. More information about the Community Foundation Movement.