Close encounters of the third sector kind

In this blog, WCVA CEO Ruth Marks talks about the Carnegie UK Trust symposium on Brexit she recently attended in Berlin.

What type of film will be topping the bill on 29 March 2019? Will it be science-fiction or a disaster movie? Certainly preparing for it is a drama that unfolds daily.


Taking time out to listen, talk, reflect and consider how civil society can evolve positively before, during and after Brexit was part of my motivation to accept the invitation of the Carnegie UK Trust to attend a symposium entitled: ‘Building the future post Brexit - civil society relationships between the UK and Germany’.

Carnegie UK Trust teamed up with the Maecenata Foundation and created a delegate list from all over the UK and Germany that was jaw dropping and the tasks we were set required energy, curiosity and an open mind.

We considered Europe post Brexit, the health and culture of civil society in Europe, especially the UK and Germany, the role of philanthropy and foundations, academic cooperation and ended with challenges and opportunities for civil society in the future.

Questions we debated included - without the EU to connect us what institutions can continue civil society engagement and how can respective governments assist? Can we look at global issues like migration, global warming and ‘precarious’ work together and would this help us create a common purpose?

I was asked to speak about civil society institutions and European cooperation from the perspective of Wales and WCVA.  Our ability to make loans to social enterprise and the need for public bodies to consider the needs of future generations attracted a lot of interest.

I learned about the work of foundations in Germany and the fact they are often linked to business and political parties, the impetus for Oxford University to set up Oxford in Berlin, the youth social action programmes supported by the German British Society, the work of the Red Cross in Germany and of coproduction in health and social care in Northern Ireland.

Next year is the 70th anniversary of the European Civil Society Movement - maybe this will provide an opportunity to build on links made at the symposium.

I will certainly be inviting everyone I met to gofod3 - the space for Welsh Civil Society to meet and share - on 21 March 2019, it will be ideally positioned as the prequel to the main showing on 29 March 2019.

Whatever happens, there is one thing for sure - that civil society organisations all over the UK, plus voluntary sector organisations and foundations in Germany are keen to maintain and build their links with colleagues across both continents and beyond.