Nine worldwide hero funds seek to strengthen bonds, sustainability

nine worldwide hero funds
Representatives of eight of the existing nine worldwide hero funds established by Andrew Carnegie met in New York City on Oct. 14, 2015.  They are, seated from left:  Gabor Toth (Italy), Hans-Ruedi Hübscher (Switzerland), Ann-Christine Lindeblad (Sweden), Sybil Veeder (U.S.), Linda Hills (U.S.), Bente Flindt Sørenson (Denmark), and Nathalie Lemieux (U.S.).  Standing, from left:  Daniel Biedermann (Switzerland), Andrew Croxford (U.K.), Douglas Scott (U.K.), David Walker (U.K.), Theo Van Santen (Belgium), Bart Brands (Netherlands), Agneta Ahlbeck (Sweden), Ulf Köping-Hoggård (Sweden), Henning Fode (Denmark), Boi Jongejan (Netherlands), Nora Rundell (U.K.), Ann McGuinn (U.S.), Dan Sandman (U.S.), Joe Walton (U.S.), Angus Hogg (U.K.), Mark Laskow (U.S.), and Walter Rutkowski (U.S.).  Not pictured is Nancy Rackoff (U.S.).  Photo by Fabrizio Toth of Rome.

Representatives of eight of the existing nine worldwide hero funds established more than a century ago by Andrew Carnegie in the U.S. and Western Europe met in New York City in October 2015 to begin the work of their new viable consortium, the Carnegie Hero Funds World Committee.

The 25 delegates, who had gathered for the biennial awarding of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, came from the U.K., Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, joining those representing the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission of the U.S.  Held in the offices of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the meeting was conducted by Mark Laskow, Commission chair, who noted that the assembly was a major milestone for the group, as personal contact had recently been established for the first time with all of the funds, including a visit by him and colleague Walter Rutkowski to the hero fund of Norway in May 2015.

Laskow set out goals for the committee, whose essential purpose is to support the continuity of its members’ work in carrying out Carnegie’s intention of honoring civilian heroes in their respective countries.  “Heroes in civic life should be recognized as well as those whom governments call heroes because they have distinguished themselves in battle,” Carnegie said, and while each of the funds is independent of the others, all are united by that mission.

Noting that the committee’s progress was greatly enhanced by nearly all of the delegates being fluent in English, Laskow suggested that the funds create data resources by which the broad prospects for the strength of the hero-recognition programs could be deduced.  The funds are in varying degrees of sustainability—two of Carnegie’s original 11 have ceased to exist—but Laskow is convinced that they can learn from, and help, each other.

“What we are not about,” he said, “is to alter anyone’s way of doing business.  What we need to do is to learn the state of the hero funds.”  Toward that end, he asked each of the funds to cooperate in supplying information—the metrics of which would range from organizational structure to awarding requirements and spending rates—with the goal of having the data assembled within six months.  “The time to do this is now,” Laskow said.  “There are not a lot of obstacles.”

The project is a “fabulous idea,” according to Commission member Linda T. Hills, great-granddaughter of the founder.  “We have an interest in keeping everyone going.”  The Danish representatives were in full agreement, immediately pledging their support, and the Dutch and Swiss delegates followed up within days with recommendations of what type of data should be sought.  The survey “will not only allow us an overview regarding the state (of the funds) in the different countries,” wrote Daniel Biedermann of the Swiss fund.  “It will first of all help us identify best practices and strengthen communication beyond the funds.”

During the meeting, each of the funds was given the opportunity to update the others on recent activities, and first-time attendees were introduced, including Biedermann; Bente Flindt Sørensen and Henning Fode of the Danish Fund; Boi Jongejan and Bart Brands of the Dutch fund; and Ulf Köping-Höggård, secretary of the Swedish fund.  Of the eight members from the Commission attending the meeting, two, Nathalie Lemieux and Joe Walton, were new to the proceedings.  Jongejan and Brands reported on their fund’s “National Heroes Day” held the previous week in The Hague, informing that they want the event to be annual to communicate the underlying message of being present for one’s fellow man.

Chairing the committee’s meetings alternates between the U.S. and the U.K., with William Thomson of Scotland filling the U.K.’s role.  Recuperating from surgery, Thomson could not be present in New York, but he provided a statement of greeting:

“It is wonderful that so many of the hero funds are able be present, and special appreciation must go to those who have made the long journey from overseas.

“The concept of recognising civilian heroic endeavor is fundamental to the fabric of a caring civil society. While each of the funds has its own individual constitution, we all have a common objective to honor and celebrate the selfless sacrifice of our heroes, and we all share a common link through our founder, Andrew Carnegie.  We also share common problems.  For some funds, the problem might be financial, for some it might be lack of public awareness, for others it might be lack of management resources. Working together through the Carnegie Hero Funds World Committee to develop closer cooperation, we can help each other resolve many of these problems.”

Andrew Carnegie’s enduring influence

Here are the 22 extant institutions founded by Andrew Carnegie, nine of them her funds.  They are his most significant contribution, both in terms of money and in enduring influence, as their continuing work reflects his generosity.

  • Carnegie Belønningsfond for Heltemod (hero fund), Denmark
  • Carnegie Corporation of New York, U.S.
  • Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, U.S.
  • Carnegie Dunfermline Trust, U.K.
  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, U.S.
  • Carnegie Foundation/Peace Palace, Netherlands
  • Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, U.S.
  • Carnegie Hall, U.S.
  • Carnegie Hero Fund, Belgium
  • Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, U.S.
  • Carnegie Hero Fund Trust, U.K.
  • Carnegie Institution for Science, U.S.
  • Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, U.S.
  • Carnegie Mellon University, U.S.
  • Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, U.S.
  • Carnegie Rescuers Foundation (hero fund), Switzerland
  • Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, U.K.
  • Carnegie U.K. Trust, U.K.
  • Carnegies Heltefond for Norge (hero fund), Norway
  • Carnegiestiftelsen (hero fund), Sweden
  • Fondazione Carnegie (hero fund), Italy
  • Stichting Carnegie Heldenfonds (hero fund), Netherlands

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