It would be strange to talk about 2020 without referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, its dramatic consequences and the way it has impacted on all areas of society, the economy, social relations and the role the public plays in society and, of course, in the Social Sector. As it did in the financial crisis of 2009, the response of the Social Sector has been exemplary and shown once again how essential it is to the functioning of society and the economy. We should not forget that it contributes 1.45% of our GDP, an amount that places it on the same level as sectors such as metallurgy or telecommunications, or that it employs 3% of the workforce in Spain.
The Fundación Botín, like everyone else, has been affected, although it is true that this crisis has enabled and impelled us to reflect on our strategy, an exercise that has reaffirmed the objectives our social programmes work to achieve, even more relevant today than ever. Thus, our Spirit of Solidarity programme has focused on accompanying Spanish social organizations in facing the specific challenges that this pandemic has posed for them. To do this we have opened a listening channel, thanks to which we have identified their most pressing needs, those that have been aggravated over the last year, and responded to 200 requests together with the more than 30 collaborating companies which support the programme. Furthermore, everything indicates that in the next few years it will be possible to engage more deeply in the process of transformation of the 263 social organizations that, working together in a network and innovating more and more, are succeeding in significantly improving their efficiency and their social impact.
This very special year has also shown how essential it is that our public institutions function properly – something that the Programme for Strengthening the Civil Service in Latin America has been pursuing for more than 10 years. Through this initiative, the Fundación Botín seeks to contribute to reinforcing the public sector in the region through a network of young public servants with more than 350 members from 20 countries. In this way, and in spite of the overall context, during 2020 we maintained this commitment and the 11th iteration of the programme saw 20 students from 13 Latin American countries get together in Spain, in full compliance with all the regulations and safety measures, to take part in blended learning sessions in Santander and Madrid.
12 May 2020 is a date that will long be remembered as the day on which the Centro Botín reopened after the confinement. We like to think that its opening – the first in Spain and one of the first in Europe – was a sign of confidence and hope after many very difficult months, enabling people to enjoy once again the centre’s artistic, educational and cultural activities and manifesting the conviction that, now more than ever, the arts play a fundamental role in our personal and social development.
Despite all the limitations, the range of artistic, cultural and educational provision offered by the Centro Botín in 2020 was embodied in a varied programme of 251 activities spread over 40 weeks, including concerts, film cycles, dance and theatre shows, different types of visits to exhibitions, workshops, courses and more. In order to carry out this programme the art centre adapted its procedures and the running of its activities to ensure its visitors’ tranquillity and safety, and in so doing achieved a public approval rating of 4.7 out of 5, an occupancy percentage of 88.9% and an average of six activities a week throughout the year.
In Responsible Education, the possibility of remote working and the obligation to do so allowed us to contribute to making the situation more bearable by accompanying education centres and creating new content for use not only in schools but also at home. In the same spirit, we have created new online spaces for training, encounter and reflection to help teachers to address together, in a coordinated fashion, the new challenges that confront them and in doing this in the furtherance of emotional and social education and creativity.
But if this year has delivered anything of value it is that society as a whole has realized the importance of science and, very especially, of technology transfer in biomedicine, which is what our economic and social recovery will fundamentally depend on. This year has confirmed – and made more acute – the need to modernize our technology transfer systems, something that the Fundación Botín has been working on for more than 20 years now. For all these reasons, the Fundación Botín will continue to be strongly committed to this endeavour and, more specifically, to the creation of companies that develop products or services based on the research of our scientists.
We are convinced that, for all the severity of its impact, this crisis will strengthen our society, and that this will undoubtedly contribute decisively to the development of Spain and Europe. We must not lose hope. We know that we are on the right path and we are better prepared than we were ten years ago, but we still face the major challenge of continuing to promote greater and better collaboration between social organizations and between sectors, not only at the national level, but also globally, and in a coordinated manner, all working together to build a far better society for the future.
Chairman of the Board