The Atlantic Philanthropies

February 2013
Letter from the President & CEO

The Journey To Lasting Impact

Our founder, Charles F. Feeney, has been known to tell people to “think big.” It’s not just an idea; his life story is one of bold moves that have had big impact. Two years after establishing the Atlantic Foundation – the first and largest of The Atlantic Philanthropies – in 1982 in Bermuda, Chuck transferred virtually all of the Feeney assets in Duty Free Shoppers to the Atlantic Foundation, irrevocably and anonymously. That’s big! His commitment to philanthropy has enabled all that Atlantic, together with our grantees, has done over the past 30 years – and all that we will continue to do until we complete our grantmaking by 2016 and close our doors by 2020.

It is our mission that Chuck’s gift and Atlantic’s work inspire others to take a Giving While Living approach to their own philanthropy. We will offer the lessons we've learned and hope they can help inform and improve future efforts to bring about increased opportunities and lasting change in the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people.

What It’s All About

I joined Atlantic as President and CEO in September 2011, but I have a long history with the foundation, the General Atlantic group businesses that generated the endowment, and with Chuck. Since returning to Atlantic, my goal has been to conclude our work in ways that do justice to Chuck and his values and to leverage the three decades of Atlantic’s grantmaking experience to maximum effect.

As it was put in a recent interview in Forbes magazine, Chuck is a “show me” not “tell me” person. He likes to “kick the tires.” He has always expected exceptional effort and pushed for exceptional results: “What have we got to show for it?” is a common challenge that Chuck poses to us. Have we made good use of the money? Can our grantees make a difference – a lasting difference? Our work at Atlantic is guided by these exhortations – and our staff translates them into our grantmaking efforts on a daily basis.

The greatest reward of my job is being able to step away from the office and visit the sites where exceptional people do transformative work. I get to kick the tires and see how Atlantic’s grants, through the efforts of committed people, translate into meaningful advancements in opportunity, equity and human dignity. In that work, I see not only the values and determination of our founder and staff, but also the focus and dedication of our grantees.

United States Creating Opportunities for
Inclusion and Success

In November, I traveled to Arizona to meet with several grantees to appreciate better how Latino immigrant communities struggle with issues of economic opportunity and family security. Atlantic recognises immigration as a global issue which, if left unaddressed, has serious economic and human rights consequences. While in Arizona, I crossed the border into Nogales, Mexico, where I met Roberto.* In fluent English, Roberto explained how he spent 14 years in the United States as a fully productive, self-employed landscaper, married a U.S. citizen and had four daughters – all U.S. citizens. In a twist of fate, he was arrested in a case of mistaken identity. Though he was able to establish his innocence, the police discovered a false identification card in the course of their search and charged Roberto with two felonies. Without access to legal advice, he was deported – and separated from his family. Roberto’s crime, essentially, was to seek a better life, provide for his family and contribute to the U.S. economy. His story reflects a broken immigration system in the U.S. that inhibits economic development and fuels racial discrimination and fear. Roberto, his family and the United States all lose out from the failure of the country’s leaders to be both visionary and pragmatic with comprehensive immigration solutions. We are encouraged by the building national consensus for reform, and are hopeful that positive changes are on the horizon.

*Roberto's name has been changed to protect his identity.

In Oakland, California, I met several students whose opportunities for success are being improved as a result of their involvement with Elev8, an Atlantic-supported initiative to strengthen community schools by enhancing family engagement, school-based health services and after-school programmes. Luis, a senior at the Coliseum College Preparatory Academy who emigrated from El Salvador, lives in an Oakland neighbourhood where gang violence and recruitment are prevalent and where it can be difficult to extract oneself from gang affiliations. He is now a peer mentor in an Elev8 programme called the History of Street Gangs in the United States, which brings at-risk young people together to analyse the root causes of violence and poverty, gives them the tools to make good decisions and develop into empowered citizens.

Since becoming involved with Elev8 five years ago, Luis’s grade point average has improved from a failing 1.5 to a perfect 4.0, which he has maintained for the past two years. His success has inspired other students in the class to improve their grades as well. But the impact of Elev8 doesn’t end there. I also saw young people getting their first dental check-ups, observed families engaged and investing in their futures, and met an inspiring young woman named Anastasia, a South African immigrant student with special needs who is a member of Oakland’s All City Council, a small panel of students who are helping to make policy decisions. And the impact won’t be fleeting, thanks to a partnership with city and county school and health officials to strengthen and sustain these proven approaches beyond Atlantic’s life and support.

Republic of Ireland Recognising Children’s Rights and Ensuring They Can Meet Their Potential

On 10 November, the people of Ireland spoke up on behalf of children. Citizens voted by referendum to amend the Constitution to allow for new laws to protect children, support families, reduce inequalities in adoption and recognise children in their own right. “It is a historic day for the children of Ireland,” said Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

A number of our grantees worked tirelessly to push for YES votes. For some, it was the culmination of nearly 20 years of campaigning. The passage of this milestone referendum strengthens their mandate to advocate for and on behalf of children to improve laws, policies and services for children and youth now, and in the future.

Many of our grantees are working with local communities throughout Ireland. youngballymun is an organisation dedicated to improving the lives of young children and families in the Ballymun section of Dublin. Watch this video to see how youngballymun uses the Storysacks® programme to help turn things around for children and their families.


Northern Ireland Removing Barriers to Strengthen Communities and Improve Outcomes for Children

For 15 years, Atlantic has supported efforts to cement the peace in Northern Ireland and overcome the region’s history of conflict by bringing Catholic and Protestant children together in schools. We have seen encouraging progress in the field of shared education in recent years. Atlantic also seeks to improve outcomes for young people, especially those who are disadvantaged, by providing access to high quality prevention and early intervention services for them and their families.

These two strategies have fused in the Aspire Programme at the Holy Family and Currie primary schools in North Belfast. Aspire offers Catholic and Protestant parents and students from both schools access to high quality services while also promoting communication and reconciliation among people from a community with a history of conflict. The programme offers a range of shared activities intended to help parents support their children’s learning and promote positive interaction and communication among children. Aspire is jointly funded by Atlantic and the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and conducted in partnership with three service providers: Barnardos and Parenting NI, both Atlantic grantees, as well as Public Initiative for Prevention of Suicide and Self-Harm (PIPS) Project. The Aspire Programme has shown increases in parental engagement and participants’ confidence and self-esteem, improvements in educational outcomes and children's behaviour, and reduced anxiety about engaging with members of the other community.

This is all tremendously encouraging, and is an example of the ways in which strands of our work in Northern Ireland are coming together for real impact at the community level.

Watch this video about a shared education approach that improved science and special education programmes for two schools.


South Africa The Road to Equal Education

Doron Issacs was in a meeting when he noticed the pulsing red light on his phone signalling a new email. The message was worth the interruption: Equal Education’s (EE) attorney at the Legal Resources Centre said the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga wanted to settle the case they had brought against her in March 2012.

Equal Education, where Issacs is the Deputy General Secretary, filed the suit after petitions, picketing, organised fasts and protests had failed to pressure the Minister to prescribe minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure throughout South Africa. The lawsuit asserted that her failure to do so was in breach of the constitutional right to a basic education, equality and dignity.

In five years, EE has grown from a small community-based organisation to be a nationally-known movement with a membership base of more than 1,000 students, parents, teachers and community members. It has led several successful campaigns to improve school infrastructure and access to textbooks and libraries in communities throughout South Africa.

As a result of this recent settlement, the Department of Basic Education agreed to publish standards for infrastructure in schools, requiring basic things like classrooms, water and sanitation. And Equal Education will continue to fight until equality in education is a reality for all students in South Africa.

Watch this video to learn more about Equal Education’s Minimum Norms and Standards campaign.


Viet Nam Improving Health for One and All

When Tran Mau Duc woke up on 2 March 2011, he had made history. Seven hours earlier, he’d been on an operating table undergoing heart transplant surgery – the first ever conducted by Vietnamese doctors without the assistance of foreign medical experts. The surgery was performed at the Cardiovascular Center in the Hue Central Hospital. Previously, the hospital was not equipped to perform heart surgery so patients had to travel to Ha Noi or Ho Chi Minh City. In 2003, Atlantic provided $12 million to construct a cardiovascular centre, equip it and train the personnel. The hospital now provides high quality cardiovascular care for the more than 20 million people it serves in central Viet Nam, a particularly poor section of the country.

The cardiovascular centre in Hue is one example of the ways in which Atlantic has worked, in close partnership with the government, to build a more equitable health care system. The work has touched every level of the system, from rebuilding over 800 provincial community health clinics and a dozen urban hospitals to training professionals and strengthening the country’s best hospitals. Thanks to the partnership with government, much of this work is now being brought to a national scale – having a transformative impact on the overall health care system in the country.

Watch this video to learn more about Atlantic’s efforts to improve the health care system in Viet Nam.

Bermuda Meeting the Needs of Older Adults

In December 2012, years of advocacy by Age Concern Bermuda were affirmed when the Government created a Ministry of Health and Seniors.

Atlantic-grantee Age Concern had pushed for such a step for a number of years, and during the 2012 election cycle organised several community advocacy forums to ensure that the candidates’ platforms addressed the needs of older adults. After the election, one of the first actions of the new Government was to create a Ministry with specific responsibility for ageing issues and a mandate to develop an ageing platform. Age Concern is already engaging with the Government to begin this work. These encouraging examples illustrate how Age Concern has become a strong voice for older adults on the island, and a recognised resource and partner for Government in addressing the needs of older adults.

Founding Chairman Programme Building for Good Minds, New Opportunities and a Transformed Economy

“In a word, this project is going to be ‘transformative,’” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in December 2011 when the city announced its partnership with Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to build a high tech applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island.

Progress since then has been impressive. Plans for the campus were unveiled in October, first classes began in January 2013 in a temporary space provided by Google, and ground is scheduled to be broken for the first building in 2014.

Atlantic is pleased to be able to support Cornell in this initiative, and I believe Cornell NYC Tech’s mark on the City of New York – and the tech and education sectors more broadly – will prove to be an example of the transformative impact we seek. As our founder Chuck Feeney, says: “Good buildings for good minds can make a big difference in the lives of a lot of people.”

Check out the slideshow above to see the latest renderings of the Cornell NYC Tech campus.

30 Years

Celebrating 30 Years of Giving While Living

2012 marked our 30th anniversary. Over the past three decades, there have been thousands of successes. Here are just a few.

Download 30th Anniversary Book

Grantmaking and Financials

Since its inception, Atlantic has awarded more than $6.2 billion to advance opportunity and lasting change for those who are unfairly disadvantaged or vulnerable to life's circumstances.

View Our Stats

Priorities for Our Final Chapter

As you may know, Atlantic is a limited life foundation. We will make our final grant commitments by the end of 2016 and close our doors by 2020. Not all programme work will continue until 2016. We will complete our grantmaking in stages, at different paces in different geographies and within different programme objectives.

Funding in our remaining years will focus on areas where we see the best opportunities to make the greatest impact within our time and resource limits. I invite you to learn more about our grantmaking priorities in each of our regions and programmes.

What We’re Learning

As Atlantic enters its final phase, we are committed to evaluating and synthesising what has been accomplished through our grantmaking, and what lessons – both successes and failures – we have learned. We hope our experiences and those of our grantees will be helpful to other donors and in particular to those who might consider a Giving While Living approach and are interested in the areas in which we fund.

Dementia: An Invisible Giant

Dementia: An Invisible Giant in Ireland, Foundation for a National Strategy

More people in Ireland have dementia than cancer and heart disease combined, yet it has been a largely invisible and underfunded health issue. 41,000 Irish people are estimated to have dementia, and the figure is expected to double by 2041. This report lays the foundation for Ireland's first National Strategy for Dementia, expected in 2013, and urges the government to more effectively support those affected by dementia through the development of a comprehensive, evidence-based strategy.

Read more

Building Tolerance

Diversity Programme for Young Children in Northern Ireland Helps Combat Bigotry and Racism

Children begin to learn prejudice as young as three years old. Atlantic grantee, Early Years, uses cartoons, puppets, curriculum, training and support to help children aged three and four see one another without labels or bias. An evaluation of the programme found that children who participated showed clear changes in their socio-emotional development, cultural awareness and inclusive behaviour.

Early Years is now taking the programme to scale across its member network of 1,200 individuals and organisations in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with support from the government and the EU. The programme is also being rolled out in other post-conflict societies.

Read more

Creating a Movement

Civic Engagement for Older Adults – Lessons About Movement Building and Exiting a Field

For nearly 10 years, Atlantic invested $120 million in the U.S. to promote opportunities for older people to work, learn and volunteer. This report offers 6 key findings about how the movement was built, what it achieved, where there were challenges—including Atlantic's abrupt departure from the field—and where the movement is now. As a limited life foundation, these lessons will inform the way we conclude our work, and we hope it might be a guide for funders that support movement building and aim to end their support responsibly.

Read more

Keeping Kids in School

Harsh School Discipline Policies Have Negative Impact on Student Outcomes

The Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University tracked nearly 1 million Texas public secondary school students over 6 years and found an alarming 60% were suspended or expelled at least once between grades 7 and 12. The study also found that suspensions and expulsions increased the likelihood that students would repeat a grade, not graduate and/or end up in the juvenile justice system. The report argues for the reduction of punitive school discipline policies to ensure that young people are engaged in learning and on the path to success.

Read more

Reconciliation and Recovery

Ex-Combatants in South Africa: A Story of Reconciliation and Recovery

A significant aspect of Atlantic's work in South Africa has focused on reconciliation in a post-apartheid environment. This report chronicles the traumatic experiences and struggles of South African freedom fighters who sought to end the apartheid system in advance of democracy and in the years following. It looks at Atlantic-grantee National Peace Accord Trust (NPAT)'s innovative approaches to trauma therapy and advocacy efforts to receive government resources and support. NPAT's advocacy contributed significantly to the establishment of a Department of Veterans Affairs in the Ministry of Defence, specifically charged with meeting the housing, health and employment needs of ex-combatants.

Read more

Thank You

We hope our grantees’ stories and the lessons we have learned can be a guide to those who seek to create opportunities and bring about lasting social change well beyond our limited lifetime. Please help us by sharing them with those who might find it useful.

Atlantic is the result of a collective effort by many people over the years, including our dedicated staff who have worked tirelessly to fulfil our mission. Many of you, grantees and partners, have joined us in this historic journey. We thank you for your creativity, vision and commitment. I encourage you to share your thoughts and reactions with me via email, or to let us know what you think on our Facebook page.

All the best for a fruitful and satisfying 2013,

Christopher G. Oechsli Signature

Christopher G. Oechsli

President and CEO
The Atlantic Philanthropies