María Eugenia Garcés: A Case Study in Strategic Private Philanthropy



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María Eugenia Garcés, one of the leading members of an influential Colombian business family, has a strong commitment to supporting philanthropic initiatives that seek to bring peace and development to her native country.

In mid-2003 she and her family decided to join the Global Philanthropists Circle (GPC) on the advice of her relative, Lizzie Eder Zobel de Ayala, who had married Jaime Zobel de Ayala, a leading businessman in the Philippines. Lizzie knew that María Eugenia and her siblings Elena Garcés, Enrique Garcés and Emma Garcés were in the process of setting up the AlvarAlice Foundation in Colombia, and was convinced that GPC could provide a space in which the Garcés family could share their experience and aspirations with other leading philanthropists.

In an interview for this study María Eugenia said she knew instinctively that GPC could be important in the development of her philanthropic work in Colombia. She anticipated that the contacts with other philanthropists from many countries facing many similar challenges would provide her with contacts, ideas and learning that would enable her to build a strong new family foundation and leverage additional financial and human resources.

This brief case study describes how membership in the GPC has impacted on the thinking of María Eugenia and her family and has helped to develop a strategic focus to the work of the AlvarAlice Foundation.  It highlights the complementary roles played by María Eugenia, her staff at the AlvarAlice Foundation, GPC members and Synergos staff in the launching of a major new strategic philanthropic initiative, the Alliance for Restorative Justice, Co-existence and Peace. This illustrates how María Eugenia and her family and a relatively small team of staff and supporters were able to use a new private foundation as a launching pad from which to leverage resources and convene all sectors around an issue of critical importance to the future of their country.

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