Lavinia Jacobs: Traditional Values With A New Approach
A conversation with Lavinia Jacobs, Chair of the Jacobs Foundation, on her new approach to philanthropy.
What are your key motivations for joining the family foundation at such a young age?
My father often took us on field visits to make us understand that education is very important, and we understood very quickly that our lifestyle in Switzerland wasn’t a reality for most children. A lot of children never have a fair chance. Once you understand these inequalities, you want to make a change.
I completely share my father’s vision that every child should have similar opportunities, regardless of origin and financial status. The Jacobs Foundation has made this commitment to have a real impact on society, focusing on two important aspects in the field of child and youth development: promoting research that receives no public funding, and bringing together institutions and people involved in the development of the next generation.
How important is succession planning in a family foundation to transfer authority from one generation to the next?
It is very important. And it works best when involvement starts early and jointly. My older brother joined the board of trustees of the Jacobs Foundation 22 years ago and was appointed chairman in 2004. I joined the board in 2007, and my younger sister has been a member of the board since 2012. We always had a clear plan when to let the next generation take over. In 2015 I became chair of the board of trustees, and my older brother now holds the position of honorary chairman. This way, we make sure that everybody is involved and experience is passed on.
Is there anything that you are doing differently from previous generations who managed the foundation?
We want our financial resources to achieve the greatest possible impact. This means joining forces with compatible strategic partners, making our funding go further and to greater effect. Our commitment to transforming children’s lives has not changed, but we are more focused on achieving our goals. We have a Medium Term Plan 2016-2020 with planned investment of up to CHF200m.
“We want our financial resources to achieve the greatest possible impact. This means joining forces with compatible strategic partners, making our funding go further and to greater effect”
Chair, board of trustees, Jacobs Foundation