Summary: External Review of North Pacific/Arctic Programme


In 2011 Oak Foundation commissioned a review of its North Pacific/Arctic portfolio in order to assess impact to date and to determine if any recalibrations were warranted. The evaluation team, led by Mark Valentine and Andy Rowe, conducted 30 interviews with grantees and 15 external experts (representing NGOs, peer foundations, academia and government agencies). The review covered the period from 2007-2011 and addressed four key substantive areas: programme design and strategy, implementation, ‘on the water impacts’ and recommendations for future grant-making. 


The principal findings of the evaluation team were positive.  The most distinctive aspects of Oak’s grant-making in its North Pacific/Arctic portfolio include:


  • supporting efforts to shape new ocean governance frameworks emerging at local, national and international levels;
  • building the capacity of a broad array of Indigenous Peoples Organisations (IPOs) to influence regional and circumpolar resource management policy; and
  • promoting innovative triple-bottom-line strategies designed to create new models of fishery management that generate healthy profits for fisherman (thus keeping small boat owners active in the fishery), while simultaneously reducing the environmental impact of the fishery.

While the evaluation team noted it was premature to assess the full impact of Oak’s grant-making, they did note some clear successes in the previous five years. Most of these successes are in the area of fishery policy management. They include:


  • freezing the footprint of trawling in the Bering Sea;
  • securing the adoption of the precautionary principle as part of the Arctic Fisheries Management Plan, which effectively closed all US waters north of the Bering Strait to industrial fishing;
  • working to secure a by-catch cap on Chinook Salmon in the Pollock fishery; and
  • mitigating the impacts of the oil and gas activity in the Chukchi Sea through supporting use of Conflict Avoidance Agreements.


Looking forward, there are a number of incremental refinements that could occur within the existing grant-making programme. These include:


Making enhanced use of the Foundation’s convening capabilities to engage a broader cross-section of its grantees.


Engaging grantees in conversation about opportunities to shape the next iteration of the Magnuson Act when it comes up for reauthorisation.


Facilitating greater coordination among the marine mammal co-management groups.


Directing more resources toward shaping the policy frameworks that will govern the expansion of shipping in the region.


Expanding limited grant-making opportunities in other Arctic regions, including West Greenland and Arctic Canada, where Oak has the opportunity to leverage grants and existing partnerships across the North.


Mobilise funder engagement around a diversity of circumpolar governance issues. This may be particularly true with respect to shaping emerging policy frameworks dealing with Ecosystem Based Management and shipping.


Oak is in general agreement with the recommendations. The review was a healthy validation of the approach Oak is taking in the Arctic and will help inform how the programme develops. Oak will continue to engage in direct grant-making with IPOs and will continue to grown philanthropic engagement through the Arctic Funders Group.  The programme will also work towards funding a portfolio of grants focused on Arctic shipping as well as fostering improved coordination between marine mammal co-management groups in Alaska.


The website will be updated with any changes to Oak’s grant-making strategies. In addition, the full evaluation report is available upon request.