Symphasis Foundation: An Own Foundation with Minimal Time and Effort
Two years ago, Silvio and Gaby Inderbitzin established their own foundation, called Edusiga, under Credit Suisse's umbrella foundation Symphasis. Their capital now helps a number of young Kenyans to earn their high school diplomas each year, giving them a life of greater opportunities.
Three years ago, you sold your company and then established a foundation. What prompted you to do that?
Thanks to the success of our company, we are in a good position financially. Living in Switzerland, we were able to take advantage of the fantastic start-up conditions available here. Not everyone has this opportunity! We want to help other people who have not been this lucky to get started in life.
Why did you decide to set up your own foundation? After all, you could have chosen to support existing charitable organizations?
That is something that we have already been doing for years. We now want to make a bigger contribution that will have a lasting effect. Having a say in how the money is spent is important to us and having our own foundation enables us to do that.
And in return you get a lot more paperwork?
We thought that too, at first! But now we have set up our subfoundation under one of Credit Suisse's umbrella foundations, Symphasis. The umbrella foundation handles all of the administration, as well as any regulatory aspects in relation to the authorities, and including most of the costs. That leaves us to do the fun part: the annual award meeting, where we decide what we want to use the money for over the next year. Although other banks also offer umbrella foundations like this, with Credit Suisse we were completely unrestricted when it came to deciding the purpose of the foundation.
And what did you decide on?
The purpose of our foundation is: "Supporting the education of children in need, particularly in developing countries." The decisive factor was the refugee crisis, which really moved us. But we didn't want to just provide emergency relief. Instead, we thought about how the situation could be improved over the long term and came to the conclusion that education is a sustainable way of ensuring that young people have a better start in life.
Could this also be a way of influencing politics?
Maybe indirectly. While we cannot prevent a war, by securing a higher level of education we can improve the chances of living a self-determined existence. That isn't a guarantee in itself, but it is an important prerequisite for peaceful coexistence.
Which organizations are you currently supporting?
Primarily Aiducation. This is another area where we have benefited from the experience of Symphasis because the umbrella foundation has been working with Aiducation and monitoring their work for a long time already. Aiducation enables young people in Kenya to attend fee-paying high schools, thereby closing a gap in access to university education. The organization focuses exclusively on motivated students who are in the top ten percent of their school year.
While we cannot prevent a war, by securing a higher level of education we can improve the chances of living a self-determined existence.
At the start, it was important to you to know exactly how your capital was being used. To what extent is that now possible?
We have a very detailed insight. But before we made a definitive decision, it was important to us to learn how Aiducation worked, and to find out more about the Swiss management team and one of the young Kenyans taking part in the program. With this in mind, we met one of the graduates who, after completing his school education, went on to set up a bike courier service in Mombasa. He now has three employees. Another graduate went on to study at university and then used a loan from Aiducation to establish a fish farm in her home village. I was impressed by the achievements and I myself am now an ambassador for Aiducation.
Are you able to keep track of the progress of the students you are currently supporting?
Yes. We have personal login details for the Aiducation website, where we can view new references and reports every six months – and often video messages from the students too.
Research into happiness shows that giving makes you happy. Would you agree with that?
We definitely believe that! Giving can be extremely satisfying in many different ways – it doesn't always have to involve money. If, for example, you are able to pass on your experience to students as a mentor, support start-ups and help them to develop, or use your contacts to open doors for someone, that is a fantastic feeling.