The Challenge

Most philanthropic organisations work in silos, pursuing their own mission and intervening in clearly defined areas, organising their own calls for projects, and evaluating their impact independently from others. However, issues such as integrating refugees are complex social problems that require a truly holistic and cooperative agenda in order to make an impact.

The Practice

Faced with the above challenge above, the Sanofi Espoir Foundation sought to strengthen dialogue, coordination sharing cross-sectoral practices and knowledge among foundations. In 2018 the Sanofi Espoir Foundation established a Foundations Committee acting as a unifying force of initially more than 20 foundations with a 360° perspective to provide a comprehensive response to a selected societal challenge, the integration of migrants/refugees.

Up to today, the Foundations Committee  has engaged in various critical actions:

  • Jointly mapping out all their action lines to identify which areas were covered and which were left out, both in terms of issues and geographical coverage (2019);
  • Partnership with an external organisation – the Observatory of Immigration and Asylum of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) – to act as both the committee coordinator and technical monitoring service (20219);
  • Ten members of the Foundations Committee decided to pool their funds to pilot a project for learning French, in collaboration with local players in Correze (2021).


The project aims to strengthen the synergies between actors (associations, foundations, and local institutions) and complement existing government actions in the region. The pilot initiative will be evaluated in mid-2022. Once evaluation results are available, they will be widely disseminated and the intention is that the project can be rolled out in other French regions.

Insights/ Advice to Peers

When the Committee was created in 2018, about twenty foundations wanted to participate in this collective adventure. It quickly emerged that several foundations found themselves limited by their field of action or their over-strict rules of governance and had to withdraw (due to the geographical region of operations, type of beneficiaries, over-sensitive topics, etc.).

One of the first challenges of this Committee was to unify all stakeholders around a common theme and goal. Several agreed to make concessions on behalf of the collective (by broadening the spectrum of beneficiaries, operating in a region outside its usual scope, supporting an action beyond the usual “call for projects” etc.).

Five tips that could be helpful for similar projects:

  • Such a collective approach works best when applied to complex social problems.
  • Take sufficient time to agree on the framework and the main objective before moving forward and testing the pilot project.
  • Apply a holistic approach that addresses the beneficiaries’ individual multiple circumstances and constraints at the same time.
  • Think in terms of “decompartmentalisation” and “collective” action, because pooling skills and resources is a key success factor. Solving a complex problem will be easier when working with several partners, and will also resonate more visibly, especially in the media.
  • It is important to involve a neutral, independent and legitimate coordinating structure to oversee the shared subject matter.

Further Resources


Amélie Moritz
Healthcare program senior Manager