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Making the Most of Our Final Years – An Update

Resource type: News

Christopher G. Oechsli, President and CEO, The Atlantic Philanthropies |

We are now squarely on the trajectory that our founder, Chuck Feeney, and Atlantic’s Board of Directors established for us in 2002: to conclude all of our grantmaking by 2016.  The objective was, and continues to be, to solve urgent and major problems – with maximum impact – in a limited timeframe with the donor’s active participation.

To have the greatest effect within our chosen fields, we have periodically recalibrated our core programme objectives and approaches to target opportunities to achieve meaningful change.  And, to ensure that we use our remaining resources for their “highest and best use,” we’ve reduced our operating costs by a third since 2010, and they will continue to decrease, so that we can maximise grantmaking in our final years.

A year ago, we assessed how and where to focus our efforts and resources as we culminate the work in our core programme areas over our final years.

  • Some of our grantmaking has already concluded.  We made our last grants in Australia at the end of 2011; and we will complete our core programmatic grantmaking in Bermuda, South Africa and Viet Nam at the end of 2013.  We will, of course, continue to make payments and monitor results
  • By the end of 2014, we expect to have committed the vast majority of our core programme grants in the United States, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. We have already winnowed down several of our grantmaking priorities in these regions
  • We will complete all our grantmaking by 2016.

Even as we conclude core programmatic grantmaking, we will continue to seek and support prospects for systemic reform and impact in some of the fields in which we have been engaged.  To do this we will partner with and convene grantees, funders, government and decision-makers on key issues within the areas of experience where we can make the greatest difference; and strengthen select networks to develop human capital and leadership in these programme areas and institutions.

Examples of these efforts, which build on our historical experience, could include:

  • Efforts to enhance access to and improve delivery of primary health care to achieve better health outcomes in disadvantaged and vulnerable populations
  • Applying the lessons from our grantees’ work in shared education and restorative justice in Northern Ireland to other regions with histories of cultural and racial conflict
  • Building on the growing trend to reform school discipline policies and the demonstrated value of community schools with school-based health centres to improve education, health opportunities and outcomes for disadvantaged children in the United States
  • Sharing effective approaches to philanthropy – as well as examples of unsuccessful initiatives – to encourage and inform increased and better large-scale giving
  • Partnering with government to scale up prevention and early intervention models to transform children’s services and improve outcomes for them throughout Ireland
  • Assessing, developing and disseminating world-class practices of palliative care, drawing on grantee and government experience in the United States, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Viet Nam
  • Linking select institutions of excellence and promise in biomedical research to build and sustain discovery opportunities, innovative leadership and effective collaboration in Australia, the Republic of Ireland, the United States and Viet Nam.

There is no formula to complete our work, but we will seek to achieve systemic reform and impact in our remaining time.  We will strive to do that with a mix of urgency, grace and respect, recognising that even as our aspirations are high, our resources, time and abilities are limited.

We welcome input and feedback about what forums, lessons and knowledge-sharing activities can best address the systemic challenges we’ve worked on together.

It has been my privilege to be involved with Atlantic for more than two decades: to build the foundation’s endowment and to take on Chuck’s challenge to use our endowment for its highest and best use, with maximum effect.  I am especially grateful to have worked with, and to continue to work with, my Atlantic colleagues – past and present – and the Board of Directors, all of whom have dedicated their energies to making lasting improvements in the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged people.  The culmination of our journey will be a testament to their transforming work and to Chuck’s vision and gift.

With gratitude,

Christopher G. Oechsli
President and CEO