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2021 Learning Lab for Changemakers

Get to know the participants

The 2021 Learning Lab group is six practitioners from Albania, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Serbia and Spain who work in the CFs or CF support organizations. The ECFI Learning Lab is a distance learning program available to practitioners from the CF field in Europe who are interested in advancing their development work skills through individual engagement with a CF field relevant topic and regular interaction with their peers and the program staff. The 2021 Learning Lab is focused on the topic of CF Sustainability. Collaborators have been selected via an open application process in the Spring 2021 and their engagement in the Lab lasts until end of December. In combination they bring to the table variety of experiences, skills and backgrounds in international development, academic research, philanthropy promotion, anthropology, social work and business administration.

The 2021 Learning Lab cohort will touch the CF sustainability issue at the microlevel (organizational level) and macrolevel (ecosystem/national level). Several collaborators will review the international experience to draw lessons from the comparative perspective. The issues of motivation, community engagement and enhancement of the strategic role of the CF are among the specific topics to be explored.  Another major line of inquiry is the understanding of adaptation strategies of CFs in the context of changing civic space, Covid-19 pandemic and rising authoritarian and populist politics and how a meaningful support may be provided in these contexts. 

© Kostandina Keruti

Kostandina Keruti, Albania

Partners Albania 

Mrs. Kostandina Këruti is Program Manager at Partners Albania, responsible for the management of the Philanthropic Activity and Support Infrastructure program, and research work related to enabling the environment for civil society development.

Kostandina will explore practices and adaptation approaches of CFs in pandemic and shrinking space contexts.

Kostandina brings 15 years of working experience in nonprofit and academia. Her previous experiences relate to research on foreign and security issues; project design and evaluation in youth and environmental fields.

Kostandina joined Partners Albania in 2011 and has been involved in NPO capacity-building programs; public awareness activities and events related to the promotion of philanthropy, and social enterprises. She has been also in charge of the management of sub-granting schemes for NPOs related to re-use of confiscated assets from organized crime for social purposes, and seed funding support for social enterprises.

Researching the development of civil society organizations has been a personal and professional interest of her. As part of the research team, she is engaged in different initiatives, particularly in the preparation of the Monitoring Matrix on Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development, an annual comprehensive report issued since 2013.

As part of the Philanthropic program, she is working towards promoting and developing philanthropic activity through research and creation of support infrastructure, focusing on supporting the development of community foundations and crowdfunding activities in Albania.

Kostandina Këruti holds a Master for Business Administration (MBA) from the Canadian Institute of Technology and is an alumnus of the International Fellow Program, Graduate Center, City University New York (CUNY).

© Gyuri Hámori

Gyuri Hámori, Hungary

Roots and Wings Foundation

Gyuri will interview emerging CF leaders from Hungary and abroad to better understand how CFs can maintain organizational independence, autonomy, and motivation in an unfriendly context and what a smart support can mean in these contexts.

Gyuri has an M.A. in philosophy and a B.A. in philology. He has worked with a variety of NGOs focusing on developing educational programs, building communities and organizing cultural events in Hungary and internationally in Central & Eastern Europe and Rwanda. Gyuri is currently working in Hungary with community foundations as the program lead at Roots and Wings Foundation. His focus in the Learning Lab is how to motivate, inspire and develop communities to work for their own good and take the handle in a non-supportive political environment.

© Ilaria de Cave

Ilaria de Cave, Italy


Ilaria is the Coordinator of Institutional Activities at Assifero, the Italian membership association of grantmaking foundations (family, corporate, and community foundations) since September 2017.

Ilaria investigates the question how can a CF maintain the existing relationships and at the same time develop new ones, while bringing in younger generations?

She manages members and prospective members and is in charge of Servizio Civile Universale and administrative issues.

Ilaria joined the philanthropy sector after covering the role in an Italian network of around 100 organizations focused on international cooperation and sponsorship (human and economic relationships among families and children in less developed countries) for seven years.

She studied in Rome, holding a bachelor's degree in Anthropology and a Master's degree in International Cooperation and Development at La Sapienza University. She also holds a Master’s degree in management of Third Sector organizations at Pontificia Università San Tommaso d’Aquino.

© Irina Șerban-Atanasiu

Irina Serban-Atanasiu, Romania

Galati Community Foundation

Irina addresses the CF sustainability issue from the perspective of alignment of strategic and operational management towards a greater strategic role of a CF in the community.

Born and raised in Galați, a city blessed to be port by the Danube, in the South-Eastern region of Romania, mother to Alma, a 4,9-year-old daughter that teaches me every day to be a better self. I’m happily married to my faculty colleague, and we love to hike or travel by motorcycle. I’m a sports enthusiast, love cats and puzzles.

I’ve been building my career in the NGO work since studying Philosophy and Sociology at University, curious on how communities work and on the context provided by the accession in the European Union. My early experience was in cross-border partnerships, implementing EU funded projects that tackled mostly environmental issues, handling the partnership communication, events management, and moving up to project management aspects.

For almost three years since working in Galati Community Foundation, I found a deep interest in working with grass-root organisations or initiative groups, designing new funds and mapping communities for grantmaking. I find it very rewarding to work with this agile environment, surrounded by generous people that want to make a change and to witness it through the initiators that we support. Working in the CF is the clearest evidence that you can make a difference just by acting first, setting an example.

© Dragan Srećković

Dragan Srećković, Serbia

Initiative Group Pancevo

Dragan seeks to understand how broader external factors - especially shift towards or fortifications of conservative narratives, restricting legal environment for civil society, and polarization, alienation, and the lack of trust - are affecting communities and their dynamics from the point of view of CFs.

Dragan Sreckovic has more than sixteen years of experience in the development and humanitarian work, gained dominantly working in the Western Balkans and other countries in Eastern Europe. He is particularly interested in local philanthropy, solidarity economy, grassroots, community development, and different forms and models of people organizing in which broad participation and democratic governance are valued, experimented with, and practiced. 

Dragan’s experience and expertise range from qualitative and quantitative research, monitoring and evaluation, grants management, organizational development, project & program development to team coordination and facilitation.

Dragan is an activist and works as a freelance consultant. With a group of friends, he is assembling a community foundation in his hometown  Pančevo in Serbia. 

Valentina Ferrara
© Valentina Ferrara

Valentina Ferrara, Spain

Spanish Association of Foundation

Valentina explores and reviews approaches in international experience that facilitate the group dynamics, enhance skills and maintain motivation in emerging CF initiatives

Born and raised in Venice (Italy), she has been living in Madrid for the past 20 years. Currently coordinating the Program to support the creation of Community Foundations within the Spanish Association of Foundation, Valentina has been involved in the international development and humanitarian sectors since 1991. Soon thereafter, she became founding board member in Italy and in Spain of Care & Share, an NGO dedicated to the protection, care and education of children in need in India, where she has collaborated alongside other local organisations advocating for the defense of the rights of the most vulnerable especially with aspects related to juvenile justice. She has worked over 10 years evaluating humanitarian aid projects as a researcher and as responsible for institutional relations and fundraising. Expert in Non-profit Management, Valentina holds a Master’s degree in the Evaluation of Programs and Public Policies.

James Magowan

Co-ordinating Director