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How the Foundation is re-shaping the business of social change

Today, we celebrate Foundation Day. As a French national, it is interesting to notice that this is the day France celebrates Bastille Day. And I think in a way the Thomson Reuters Foundation has done a little revolution in corporate philanthropy.

As the corporate charity of Thomson Reuters, our goal is to inform, connect and ultimately empower people around the world by leveraging the unique skills and values of the enterprise.

To some in the charity world, this concept is sometimes difficult to grasp. It's based on the misconception that charity and business are not meant to intertwine. They are seen as the Cain and Abel of modern times.

I take quite a different approach. To me it's all about understanding the concept of giving. What does Thomson Reuters give back to society? How does it do it? And why?

When I joined the Foundation in 2008, Thomson had just acquired Reuters, grafting its legal, accounting and science expertise into a news agency known across the world for its outstanding journalism. The new company, Thomson Reuters, had a much wider business scope, burning ambition, and tremendous talent. I saw this as an incredible opportunity for both the business and for society at large.

profit and social progress go hand in hand, not their own ways. They happen together

I thought I was presented with the possibility to catalyse this energy to create something unique, something capable of having real impact across society. For this precise reason I completely reshaped the Foundation's approach to philanthropy. The problem, I thought, was in the very concept of giving: why should the Foundation spend its money to buy blankets for an NGO (which was the case) when instead it could offer its expertise to do something with a long-lasting impact?

I looked around me and soon realised that even though the move to strategic philanthropy had begun, many international companies were still stuck into this old concept of giving: giving as a levy. A cheque which leaves the company's coffers to travel somewhere across the developing world neither with a clear destination or a mission.

I have now been leading the Thomson Reuters Foundation for the past eight years, giving the organisation one ambitious goal: action for impact and we do that through our four programmes that completely work in sync. The organisation no longer gives grants.

Instead it has taken the lead in bringing business and society together by offering access to a number of innovative services which use the company's unique set of skills to trigger change and empower people. It's a new model, one very close to the principles of shared value introduced by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer.

The idea is that profit and social progress go hand in hand, not their own ways. They happen together. There is no reason why a company cannot boost its competitiveness while also creating value within society. For this to happen, a change of mindset must take place, along with a complete re-evaluation of the links between global society and global corporate performance. It is very much possible as we prove every day.

I believe the Thomson Reuters Foundation is real evidence of that.

I hope you use this opportunity to find out more about our work and how we create impact around the world.


Find out more about TrustLaw

Find out more about Trust Women

Find out more about the Foundation’s coverage of the world’s  under-reported stories

Find out more about Media Development 

Find out more about the Thomson Reuters Foundation training solutions

Find out more about the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

Find out more about the Stop Slavery Award

Monique Villa is a journalist, business leader and women’s rights advocate who joined Reuters in 2001 as managing director of media after a career as an Agence France-Presse correspondent and manager. She became chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation following the acquisition of Reuters by Thomson Corporation in 2008. This article was first published elsewhere. It appears here with the permission of the author. ■