Oak Foundation is family-led and reflects the vision and values of its founders. In all its work Oak pursues rights-based approaches, gender equality and partnership with the organisations we fund. We support civil society as a pillar of democracy and justice and nurture innovation and visionary leadership within it. We value diversity both within Oak and among our partners; we seek to be inclusive, flexible and engage with different points of view. We believe that the best grant-making reflects both careful due diligence and the willingness to take risks.


At Oak Foundation we seek to:


Respect and acknowledge the contributions of others
As a grant maker we know that we are but a small part of the changes we seek. Our role is to support and enable others to make the world a safer, fairer and more sustainable place to live. We strengthen partners with first-hand knowledge and experience of the fields in which we work. We take pride in their achievements and are honoured to support their efforts.


Promote social justice
We are passionate in our pursuit of social justice and the protection of wildlife and the environment. We seek partners who share this passion. We strive to be courageous in this pursuit by tackling difficult problems and addressing the root causes of injustice. We trust our partners and accept that change takes time and sustained effort. We aim to lift up the voices of the most vulnerable and support them to understand and pursue their rights.


Achieve high impact

We strive to be purposeful and strategic in our grant-making. We define the impact of our investments in consultation with partners and support their capacity to assess and measure progress. We believe in the power of collective action in setting and achieving ambitious goals.


Learn continuously from both success and failure
We seek to build honest relationships with partners in which both success and failure offer opportunities for learning. We strive to be respectful listeners and responsive to change, unexpected consequences and external developments that require shifts in strategy and expectations. We welcome feedback and believe learning should improve grant-making in real time.


Be authentic
We work to apply these values inside Oak Foundation as well as in our grant-making. We strive to support, learn from and value the contributions of all colleagues. We aim for a workplace in which all staff members feel respected and able to reach their full potential. We strive for an organisation in which innovation is rewarded, diversity is embraced and both success and failure are shared. We want to work as a team, across programmes and offices, in our pursuit of social justice.




Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged.


In all of our work, we are committed to social justice. To this end, we pursue rights-based approaches, gender equality and partnership with the organisations we fund.


We seek to support innovation, visionary leaders and organisations. We seek to be inclusive, flexible and to learn from different points of view. We believe that the best grant-making reflects both careful due diligence and the willingness to take risks.


We encourage our partners to work together – we believe that together we are stronger.


The resources of Oak Foundation originated from an interest in the Duty Free Shoppers business which Alan Parker helped to build. Today, the Foundation comprises a group of philanthropic organisations based in various countries around the world.


Oak Foundation was formally established in 1983. Early grants were made in Denmark to organisations supporting single mothers and torture victims (1983) and in Zimbabwe to groups supporting vulnerable children and families, primarily at community levels (1984). Grants continued to be made annually in several countries until a new phase for Oak Foundation began in the early 1990s, when annual grant-making  increased and staff were hired to run substantive programmes.


Since then we have been growing steadily and today we have 11 programmes, through which we have made more than 4,000 grants to organisations around the world. Our six main programmes are: Environment, Child Abuse, Housing and Homelessness, International Human Rights, Issues Affecting Women and Learning Differences. In addition our Trustees support causes that fall outside the remits of the other programmes through the Special Interest Programme. There are also four national programmes: Brazil, Denmark, India and Zimbabwe.

Oak Foundation has its main administrative office in Geneva, Switzerland and a presence in seven other countries: Bulgaria, Denmark, India, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States and Zimbabwe.


2016 was a tumultuous year for the world – and for the issues on which we work. Political change, social upheaval, conflict among peoples and ideologies, brutal wars, continued migration flows – we saw it all. Like all organisations, Oak Foundation struggled to understand and to adjust its strategies in response to external events.

We provided well over USD 217 million in grant-making. This included USD 20 million in a special initiative grant to form the Climate Justice Resilience Fund.


Our  2016 Annual Report highlights the grant-making and some of the most significant challenges our partners faced.


They include:


Putting children on the agenda of the world’s most powerful institutions. Our partners have succeeded in getting the World Bank to add the needs and concerns of vulnerable groups to its new economic and social standards. This resulted in swift action in the wake of a report of sexual abuse and exploitation in a World Bank road construction project in Africa. Similar efforts are underway with mega-sporting institutions.


Ridding our oceans of plastics. Without dramatic action, there will be one kilogram of plastics for every kilogram of fish in the world’s oceans by 2050. We are working with a broad coalition of partners to: redesign plastic for multiple rather than single-use purposes; encourage companies to find alternatives to plastic packaging that support rather than destroy the environment; and promote zero-waste disposal facilities. We remain committed to joining the global movement to change society’s perception and use of plastics.


Protecting migrants from destitution. In the UK, we are helping partners to reach out to the most vulnerable newcomers in big cities and to advocate for approaches that prioritise access to shelter and basic services. In Denmark, our partners offer safe spaces to migrant sex-workers trapped in exploitative situations who lack access to basic healthcare. In other countries, we support groups that: protect migrants’ rights to due process and freedom from arbitrary detention; adopt rights-based approaches to helping victims of trafficking; and promote the rights of internal migrants fleeing destitution and injustice.


Improving the lives of women. We continue to support efforts to address the root causes of inequality and to ensure that women across the world are safe from violence and free to exercise their human rights. This year our programmes worked with: a network of shelters that protect victims of domestic violence in Mexico; two global coalitions that improve responses to trafficking and severe forms of exploitation; groups that help women escape abusive marriages and work conditions in India; and organisations that support the upgrading of women’s skills – as construction workers in India and as care-givers in Zimbabwe.


Ending impunity for gross violators of human rights. Supporting organisations to hold perpetrators to account for gross violations of human rights and provide victims with the redress to which they are entitled continues to be a priority. This year saw a number of unprecedented human rights victories including: the guilty verdict for high-level Argentinean officials involved in mass torture, killings and the abduction of children; the imprisonment of President Hissène Habré of Chad for the deaths of over 40,000 people in the 1980s; and the victory for the Sepuro Zarco women who were subjected to sexual slavery by the Guatemalan military in the 1980s. We hope that these victories send a strong message of hope to those who continue to live in fear and deprivation.


Helping all students reach their potential. We supported partners to use personalised learning. If used well, it can: build the skills and understanding of teachers of a wider spectrum of learners; empower students to advocate for their needs; and create environments that bring these two together. We will be making major investments in this area in 2017. In addition, we are supporting an innovative, online university that aims to transform higher education from a privilege for the few to a basic right, affordable and accessible to all. Thousands of students – whose income or circumstances made higher education a distant dream – are now earning university degrees.


All these efforts are works in progress and we are not naive about the tasks ahead. But we remain optimistic, inspired by our partners’ determination and the progress described in this report.


The Trustees of Oak Foundation:

Caroline Turner, Kristian Parker, Natalie Shipton, Jette Parker, Alan Parker, Christopher Parker






Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. With offices in Europe, Africa, India and North America, we make grants to organisations in approximately 40 countries worldwide.


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