22. 04. 2024 Philanthropy

Impact Talks: Philanthropy Becomes Essential for the Protection of Democracy and Civil Society Support

Does civil society and democracy need support from philanthropists in the current situation? This was one of the topics discussed at the seventh Impact Talks event at the Umelka Gallery, where the Public Against Violence movement formed in November '89 as a decisive civic force.

The values of the Velvet Revolution echoed through the entire evening of inspiring discussions. These values were reflected by several aphorisms of Tomáš Janovic. One of them, uttered by the moderator at the beginning, was: “The attempt at totality succeeds on the first try. The attempt at democracy must be repeated constantly.” 

Sociologist and university educator Oľga Gyárfášová referred to civil society as the guardian of democracy. In a standard society where politicians are responsible, make good decisions, and come up with innovative public policies, people often don’t realize all the functions of the civil sector. “A critical moment comes when things start to get complicated, and the pillars of liberal democracy are challenged,” she pointed out in the discussion titled Does Democracy Need Philanthropists? 

Active Citizens Are the Hope for the Country

Michal Meško, co-owner of the Martinus chain of bookstores, considers supporting civil organizations a natural part of socially responsible business. “I perceive entrepreneurship as an opportunity for self-expression, but primarily for creating values. Entrepreneurs, in particular, are known for often delving into rough waters. Value is created through a difficult path; otherwise, it wouldn’t be a value,” he said, pointing to surveys showing that companies are among the most trustworthy institutions, and their voice is increasingly respected. 

“The synonym of the word philanthropy is trust.”
Martin Vohánka

In a debate on the role of philanthropists, Matúš Kostolný, editor-in-chief of Denník N, talked about the need to support not only civil society and independent media but also minorities and nature conservation, which is currently under great pressure. “Civil society, that is, active citizens, is always the enemy of power that wants to limit freedom and operates on the basis that people with less access to information are more obedient. The current power does everything so that the journalists and civil society cannot control them,” he described the current situation. According to him, active citizens are the hope for the country. 

Philanthropy as Part of Human Nature

The involvement of philanthropists is crucial for maintaining democracy, confirmed Martin Vohánka, a businessman and founder of the BLÍŽKSOBĚ Foundation. One of the biggest Czech philanthropists supports, in addition to culture and disadvantaged groups, projects focused on education and the protection of democracy. According to him, the synonyms of philanthropy are trust, partnership, equality. “If I donate money and someone uses it, they give value to it. In the relationship between the donor and the recipient, one provides the means, the other provides the meaning. They are therefore completely equal,” he explained his philosophy. 

Martin Vohánka is one of the biggest Czech philanthropists.He also shared his goals, which include philanthropy as a part of every human’s nature. “I would consider it a tremendous success if, during my lifetime, we managed to free Czech society from stereotypes, passivity, resignation, and the feeling that we cannot influence our own destiny,” he said.

Vohánka left Umelka with the message that the only possible way to protect democracy is through active cooperation between civil society and philanthropists. Martina Kolesárová, Executive Director of the Pontis Foundation, spoke in a similar spirit. “Each of us has ways to protect democracy. The role of philanthropy – both on a bigger or smaller scale – will be one of the key ones, not only because of the financial support but also the moral one,” emphasized M. Kolesárová.

Impact Talks

Impact Talks is a series of informal discussion evenings about philanthropic stories, social innovations, and strategic views on helping, brought to you by the Pontis Foundation since 2020. 

Read also about the previous topics of Impact Talks: 


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