Annual Letter From The Trustees


2014 was a banner year for Oak Foundation, with USD 245.78 million granted to over 300 organisations in 45 countries. This included an unprecedented five-year commitment to climate change mitigation and a contribution to the frontline response against Ebola. These two grants – the first dealing with the cataclysmic threats of climate change and the second addressing one of the most serious public health threats of our time – represent the breadth and depth of the challenges we face.


Through partners that span every continent, we continue to support efforts to empower the poor, protect the vulnerable, promote human rights, end violence and exploitation and preserve the world’s natural resources. During 2014 we looked back over the last five years to assess our progress in meeting these goals. Not surprisingly, change is slow and in most cases many years down the road. Nonetheless, the results confirmed that our strategies – and those of our partners – are making a difference. In particular:


  • Complex problems require a mix of approaches that combine global advocacy with local action (e.g., working on climate change mitigation has moved us to go beyond the technical aspects of greenhouse gas emissions to issues related to justice, poverty and adaptation).
  • Improvements in services are more significant – and more sustainable – when they are reinforced by changes in underlying systems (e.g., ending homelessness, in countries as diverse as Scotland, Denmark and Zimbabwe, is most successful if local authorities recognise their responsibility to bring innovations to scale).
  • In many situations, policies are necessary but not sufficient to create change; their adoption must be supported by public awareness and enforcement (e.g., monitoring laws and/or executive orders to protect Arctic waters from shipping or to stop over-fishing in Europe to ensure implementation).
  • Changes in laws and policies must be accompanied by shifts in social norms (e.g., challenging child marriage in India, addressing social tolerance of the sexual exploitation of children in Eastern Europe and Africa and developing alternative models of masculinity that encourage men to engage positively with their children and families).
  • The environments in which human rights defenders work are becoming more restrictive, requiring innovation and broader coalitions (e.g., using social media to build public support for the roll-back of homophobic laws in Russia and strengthening organisations that represent and empower exploited workers such as tomato pickers in the United States and domestic workers in the United Kingdom).
  • Leadership is key to building and sustaining strong organisations (e.g., providing teachers in the United States and beyond with the skills and coaching necessary to work confidently with diverse learners, giving education and travel fellowships to young conservation leaders in Belize and strengthening women’s rights groups in Central America).

The actions described in our Annual Report reflect these lessons, among many others. We choose partners who share our commitment to results and our impatience for change. We hope that, while much remains to be done, the report demonstrates their successes, creativity and dedication to making a difference.


The Trustees of Oak Foundation: Kristian Parker, Caroline Turner, Natalie Shipton, Jette Parker, Alan Parker, Christopher Parker