Reimagining government philanthropy in Switzerland

For a small land-locked country, Switzerland leads the world in a number of impressive metrics. It has the highest nominal wealth per adult in the world, for example, and both Zürich and Geneva rank among the cities with the highest quality of life. It’s also one of the most generous nations on earth with a philanthropic tradition that reaches back generations. In fact, the country boasts one of the highest per capita densities of charitable foundations on the planet—roughly 12,500, by one recent estimate. For Swiss Vice General Consul and swissnex China Executive Director Pascal Marmier, SF ’08, that rich philanthropic tradition is something to be treasured—but also challenged.

Marmier offers his country’s early adoption of public-private partnerships, or PPPs, as a case in point. “In Switzerland, PPPs represented a significant advance over traditional individual and foundation-based philanthropy,” he says. “PPPs enabled individual funders, as well as science and innovation agencies and universities, to expand their impact using the established infrastructures of government entities. Private foundations achieved greater democratic legitimacy as a result of public involvement, which increased the breadth and influence of their undertakings.”

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