As we enter 2022, social change and human rights funders across Europe are anticipating a transition from the lockdown cycles of the past two years to a period of reconnection. There is a strong desire to meet with peers and partners again, to bring together communities, and to breathe new life into plans that were put on hold while funders addressed the immediate challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In that sense, it feels like a year of possibilities, in which funders could push forward with bold new agendas.
However, funders and their partners alike are also struggling to come to terms with the impact of the pandemic on their work, with concerns about wellbeing and mental health coming very strongly to the fore. There are fears that the push to get back to ‘business as usual’ will mean that some of the transformations in funding practice over the past two years will be lost and that lessons learned will not be consolidated. Hope that the pandemic experience, coupled with stronger popular movements for racial and gender justice, are pushing towards a moment of greater structural change is waning for some funders, as old patterns and practices begin to reassert themselves.
In this context, the overriding hope for 2022 is that we, as a community of funders, take the lessons of the past two years and move forward into a new future informed by all we have learned. Rather than stepping back into the past and picking up exactly where we left off, let us step into the future with care for all of those who have worked so hard to keep their communities intact during a crisis and work alongside them to shape the next phase. We have collectively learned so much about what it takes to get resources where they are needed quickly and nimbly and how to give those on the ground the flexibility they need to respond to challenges as they arise. I hope we can maintain that ethos of service to the field as we look ahead.