Funding story: Europe-wide migration and diversity

Trusts and foundations are learning from the European Foundation Centre's migration and diversity interest group.

Migration, diversity and integration are high on the agenda for policy-makers and voluntary sector groups, so they are an equally high priority for trusts and foundations.

It is widely accepted that these issues should be dealt with at a pan-European level. In 2006, the European Foundation Centre - the international association of foundations and corporate funders, which aims to get them working together more effectively - launched its Diversity, Migration and Integration Interest Group. Chaired by Sukhvinder Stubbs, chief executive of the Barrow Cadbury Trust, its two major themes are migration and migrant integration, and tackling intolerance.

"Quite a lot of foundations are already working on rights issues, including trafficking, so we felt we could add more value working around the areas of cohesion, inner-city conflict and migration policies," says Stubbs, who was also recently elected to the centre's governing council. She stresses that the group aims to be more than just a talking shop. "It's incredible when you have a room of about 20 foundations from around Europe with different perspectives," she says. "In France there is a much more positive attitude to nationality than in the UK, and Spanish and Portuguese employment policies positively welcome migrants. It has been really good to bring shared problems and perspectives to the table, and to try to identify some ways forward."

The group has agreed a small number of core areas to focus on, including extremism, community cohesion and the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. The emphasis is on solutions that involve migrants and migrant communities. The 'fostering talent' initiative, for example, encourages people from migrant communities to consider philanthropy and careers in the voluntary sector.

"One of the strengths of foundations is that they are idiosyncratic," says Stubbs. "They are driven by their own commitments and objectives. Independence enables us to do things that are not mainstream. The downside is that we can be a bit conservative, but this group is proving that there is a lot of willingness to look at good practice, learn from others and incorporate those lessons into particular foundations."

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