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Our values

We pursue 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.


Respect and acknowledge
the contribution 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 biodiversity 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.

Our mission

3 globe icons depict Oak's mission: global outreach, social impact, and environmental stewardship, each symbolised by location, heart, and thermometer illustrations.

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. Through our grant-making, we support others to make the world a safer, fairer, and more sustainable place to live. With offices in Europe, India, and North America, we make grants to organisations in approximately 40 countries worldwide.

Our history

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 seven global and four country programmes, through which we have made more than 6,300 grants to organisations around the world. Our seven programmes are: Environment, Prevent Child Sexual Abuse, Housing and Homelessness, International Human Rights, Issues Affecting Women, Learning Differences, and the Special Interest Programme. Our four national programmes are located in Brazil, Denmark, India, and Zimbabwe.

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

Why are we called Oak Foundation
The Trustees named the foundation after the oak tree because the tree embodies strength, resilience, longevity, and protection. The hope is that the foundation will flourish from generation to generation, reflecting the interests of those generations.

Justice, equity, inclusion, and diversity

At Oak Foundation, we believe that justice, equity, inclusion, and diversity are essential for building strong, thriving communities where everyone can reach their full potential. We are committed to these principles in our grant-making, in our internal operations, and in our relationships.

Our understanding of diversity

We recognise that there are many definitions of diversity. At Oak, we are committed to embracing diversity in all its forms (e.g., ethnicity, race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, tribe, caste, socio-economic status, age, among others) and respect different ideas, approaches, and views. We are committed to understanding and acting on diversity in many ways, including internally and within our grant-making strategies.

Our commitment: internal operations

We are committed to recruiting a diverse roster of consultants and candidates for positions at Oak Foundation. We work to foster an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive. We celebrate each person for who they are and what they bring to their roles at Oak. We believe that great ideas can come from anyone at any level of the organisation. We believe that innovation, creativity, and growth take place best in an environment that promotes healthy debate and rewards divergent opinions. We value different learning and personality styles and are mindful of our power and biases within Oak and with our grantee partners.

Our commitment: grant-making

We recognise that systemic barriers and discrimination have historically disadvantaged some communities, and we strive to address these inequities through our grant-making and partnerships. We commit to deepening our support to organisations and initiatives that promote equity and justice for all, especially those that are led by and serve communities that have been historically marginalised. This includes supporting intermediaries that represent a diversity of expertise and ideas and diversity of people and cultures. We also commit to supporting organisations and initiatives that empower individuals and communities, build resilience, and create more equitable and just systems and structures through our grant-making programmes and through our capacity building and organisational development support.

We strive to have grant-making strategies and approaches, and internal policies and practices that are based on the principles of equity and inclusion. This means identifying and removing barriers for our partners and staff, and providing support to those who need it most.

Our commitment: learning practices

We understand that achieving justice, equity, inclusion, and diversity requires ongoing education, reflection, and action. Therefore, we commit to continually examining our own practices and policies to ensure that they align with our values and to learning from the diverse perspectives and experiences of our partners and those we serve.