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Research Out Now: Allianz Foundation Risktaker Pulse

The views, visions and experiences of social movement leaders, artists and other risktakers can serve as a valuable resource for civil society. In order to share their first-hand knowledge, the Allianz Foundation Risktaker Pulse has captured insights from 59 risktakers in five European countries.

July 26, 2023

Europe needs more active citizenship.

Civil society in Europe is more and more often stepping in when governments fall short. This is illustrated by the war in Ukraine, for example in the case of refugee women that are exposed to sexual violence. Civil society organizations are working tirelessly to help these women and others – quickly and without red tape. But their work comes with risks. Abuse on social media, lawsuits and personal attacks are not uncommon. That is one of the findings of the Allianz Foundation Risktaker Pulse survey that was conducted in five European countries. 

“Working in this kind of organization is not just simply a job. It takes much more energy than that because […] people are going through very traumatic experiences and once this is someone very close to you it takes a huge toll on your psychological and emotional life.”
Ðorđe Jovanović, European Roma Rights Centre, United Kingdom 

The research, carried out on behalf of the Allianz Foundation, is based on in-depth interviews with 59 risktakers representing NGOs, social enterprises and other civil society organizations in Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom. The Allianz Foundation refers to individuals who actively fight for social justice, open societies or a livable planet as risktakers. 

The interviews were conducted between March and June 2022, a period that was marked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war has dictated the focus of risktakers’ work: Funding, organizational know-how and target group–specific expertise are activated and delivered at short notice to war zones and to help those fleeing the country. It is especially when government actions fall short that civil society can step in and help. 

“Right now, the war in Ukraine I mean, [...] it’s a war in Europe, it’s a war in our backyard. And it is a very very worrying and very alarming situation and we don‘t know where it’s going to go.” - Marilli Mastrantoni, Theatre Entropia, Greece 

Their tireless dedication to helping people in Ukraine poses huge challenges for risktakers. But even leaving aside the war, many of them are coming under increasing pressure, particularly those that focus on the rights of migrants and the LGBTQ+ community. They mention regular attacks and smear campaigns on social media. But that is not all, and the risktakers and their organizations can find themselves facing lawsuits and personal attacks, too. The consequence is that some of the interviewees report that the stress and heavy workload have a negative impact on their mental health.

The exploratory study provides European civil society and its funders with valuable insights and suggestions, including in response to the question of how risktakers’ transnational networks can be used more effectively going forward.

Multiple Languages

Executive Summaries

A summary of the report is available in English, German, Greek, Italian and Polish.

Zamzam Ibrahim

Voices from the Pulse

“The most important thing is to show up in any way you can, each and every time, bringing your skills, your network and your passion. If you are not willing to be part of the solution then you are by default a part of the problem. Just by showing up, you will inspire others to do the same and that is how movements are made“ - Zamzam Ibrahim, Students Organising for Sustainability, United Kingdom (picture © Benny Johnson). 

Julia Kloiber

Voices from the Pulse

“It’s all about growing the ecosystem. Civil society organizations often have a good overview of emerging talent in the field. They know best what support new organizations need […] Unbureaucratic small grants are underestimated in terms of their impact. They can give non-profit organizations the flexibility they need when bootstrapping a project or when they have to move fast on a topic”  - Julia Kloiber, Superrr Lab, Germany (picture © Marzena Skubatz).

Caroline Hickson

Voices from the Pulse

“I think the arts and culture are huge, and that’s when I talk about scaling our efforts, that’s the thing that would really excite me. […] You have to make sure that you are not just in the cultural spaces where liberals are. We must also be actively addressing people in the middle ground” - Caroline Hickson, International Planned Parenthood, Europe (picture © IPPF).

Your contact: Head of Research Dr. Simon Morris-Lange

You have questions about our research? Please contact Simon.

Dr. Simon Morris-Lange develops and leads the research and knowledge-sharing activities at Allianz Foundation. He oversees the Allianz Foundation Study series which investigates how young Europeans envision a future society and what they are willing to do – including the risks they are willing to take – to shape this future


A picture of Simon Morris-Lange

Simon Morris-Lange © Marcel Wogram