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Letter from our President

Oak Foundation / Foundation

Dear partners, 

As the leaves start to change colour and the days shorten here in the Northern hemisphere, we are reminded that the end of another year is approaching. With this in sight, we consider how, much like the oak tree, our partners have demonstrated great strength and resilience over the past year as they continue their efforts to address the world’s most pressing issues.

As a grant-maker, we recognise 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. Given the backdrop of the pandemic, we have not been able to meet in person with many of our partners, as our regular site visits have come to a standstill. Nonetheless, we want you, our partners, to know that we are here for you. We value tremendously the great work you do, all the more given the current climate.

Throughout 2021, we have been focused on: responding to the challenge of the global pandemic; supporting our grantee partners’ campaign efforts; and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. This letter highlights these areas and I hope that it gives you some insight into our current approaches and thinking at Oak.

Covid-19 grant-making
To respond to the effects of Covid-19, we have directed over USD 6 million in additional resources to 56 organisations this year, so far. This represents a diverse mix across of all our programme areas across the globe. In total, Oak has granted USD 29 million in additional support to help organisations respond to the challenges of Covid-19 over the last two years.

Supporting campaigns
We believe that safety, transparency, and accountability can be built into the technology we use every day. One example of the importance of demanding accountability that links to our support to campaigns is the recent implementation in the UK of the Age Appropriate Design Code. This was the result of an impressive campaign led by our grantee partner 5Rights. The code has the potential to completely transform the way that companies collect, share, and use children’s data, requiring them to offer children a high level of privacy protection by default. The most prominent technology firms have since committed to implementing measures to protect children’s privacy and safety. This significant victory reassured us that it is possible to make progress on the most intractable issues. Our Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Programme is increasingly focused on supporting innovative campaigns to protect children and hold governments and corporate actors more accountable.

In addition, the Environment Programme’s new strategy provides a roadmap that supports our partners to safeguard the future by restoring our connection to nature, and changing the ways we feed and fuel our world.  As a complement to this work, the Environment Programme is supporting seven new campaigns designed to accelerate the implementation of our new strategy, and improve our ability to nimbly evaluate and adjust investments. You can find out more about these campaigns here.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion
We are also increasingly integrating an equity lens into our work and partnering with organisations that take an inclusive approach to providing services and changing systems.

To this end, our programmes are starting to intentionally align their funding in recognition of how historical and continued racism harms those we are trying to support. For example, our Learning Differences Programme aims to help improve education for all students, particularly those with learning differences who experience further marginalisation due to racism and poverty. Our Housing and Homelessness Programme is supporting projects focused on housing and racial equity, the impact of Covid-19 on housing opportunity and inequality, and strengthening the voices of people with lived experience.

A significant number of our Issues Affecting Women Programme’s partners in the UK, US, and Brazil are led by and for women of colour. The programme will ensure that increasing engagement with organisations and funds promoting racial justice is a goal for its strategic refresh early next year. Our International Human Rights Programme is deeply engaged in promoting dialogue on greater diversity and inclusion, with respect to governance, staffing, and programming. The Environment Programme’s recent strategy refresh puts people at the heart of our work. It aims to engage at the intersection of race, equity, gender rights, and climate justice. And, Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Programme is increasing support to both existing and new partners working to transform into more inclusive, diverse, and equitable organisations. It supports marginalised communities that are negatively impacted by the traditional child welfare system in the US and Bulgaria, as well as organisations that work to promote healthy relationships and an inclusive society for LGBTQI youth living in Switzerland.

Within Oak, we continue to explore bigger systemic issues around race, equity, and inclusion, with the belief that our organisation is stronger when we create space for a diverse staff who bring different life experiences and perspectives to our work. Our vision is to help build a fairer playing field that provides equal opportunity for everyone. Afterall, a tree is not a forest, and we know that we can accomplish far more together.

I encourage you to read our most recent newsletter. It will give you some insight into our vision and the work of our partners. We hope you enjoy learning about the efforts of our staff and partners around the world as we continue to collectively strive towards an equitable, just world that is inclusive of everyone, regardless of colour, creed, gender identification, or sexual orientation.

I speak on behalf of the Trustees and all of Oak staff when I write that we are looking forward to continue working with our partners as we build this positive future together.

Douglas Griffiths

President, Oak Foundation