2021 represents a year of change for the Hear the World Foundation. For the first time, we invited external members to join to complement Sonova’s internal expertise. We caught up with our new Board member Beate Eckhardt, philanthropy and foundation expert, for a short interview.
You joined the Hear the World Foundation Board at the beginning of 2021. What was your motivation?
I am very familiar with the Hear the World Foundation (HTWF) through my former position as Managing Director of SwissFoundations, the umbrella organization for Swiss funding foundations. As a relatively young corporate foundation, the HTWF has quickly built an excellent reputation through its activities and explicit networking in the foundation sector. The interface between business and philanthropy offers great potential for synergies and mutual inspiration. This is an arrangement I am keen to advocate. Plus, I am moved by the Foundation’s strategic focus. We experience the world through our senses – they enable us to communicate with other people. This makes it all the more important that the Hear the World Foundation supports children in low- to middle-income countries with hearing loss, so they can access the same opportunities for development as their peers. I am honored and delighted to be involved with this objective as a member of the Foundation Board.
What core competencies from your previous professional life can you bring to the Foundation in an advisory capacity?
As a foundation and philanthropy expert, I support founders and foundations with the strategic orientation of their social impact. Charitable foundations have limited resources and often face far greater needs than they can meet on their own. Strategic considerations and good networking, therefore, play a pivotal role. This type of networking is offered, for example, by the SwissFoundations Corporate Foundations working group and the European C Summit. I was able to help found and shape both initiatives. In addition to strategy and networking, modern foundation governance and transparent public relations are key components of good foundation work. Last but not least, I hope that my training as a systemic consultant for organizational transformation and change will enable me to contribute useful knowledge and experience in the design and facilitation of development processes.
Our society is in a state of flux. What role will philanthropy and foundations play in the future?
In a world that is increasingly global, interdisciplinary, digital, and interconnected, the challenges are also becoming more complex and diverse. Macro trends such as demographic developments, migration, digital transformation, and climate change no longer stop at national borders, and demand innovative and networked solutions. Boundaries between topics and content are also becoming increasingly blurred. Thanks to their freedom and scope, foundations can play a decisive role here. They can act as agile drivers of innovation, promoting systemic change, anticipating and initiating new trends as thought leaders, or act as a supportive and stabilizing force. Foundations take on a wide variety of functions and it is clear to me that we will need to harness all our strengths to overcome the challenges ahead. In terms of voluntary social engagement, the significance of foundations cannot be overestimated.