Supporting our partners
Alongside our grant-making, we strive to be purposeful, supportive partners. To this end, we work with our grantee partners to provide additional support if needed, such as: capacity building, to strengthen organisations in areas that regular grant-making doesn’t cover; child safeguarding, in the interest of protecting children; monitoring and evaluation, to be able to better understand what works and what does not; and communications, to help ensure transparency around our grant-making, and elevate the great work of our partners. 2021 was a busy year for all of the teams working on these areas. We have given an outline of their work here.
In 2021, Oak established an Organisational Development Fund to allow our current grantee partners to have access to small pots of funding for capacity-building projects. These include projects that help our partners to develop good leadership and management skills, as well as fundraising and social media strategies, and projects that help our partners to develop policies and best practices for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
In addition, because we believe in the importance of exiting funding responsibly, we developed a ‘capacity-building for exit’ programme in Ethiopia. This was as our Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Programme was preparing to conclude its support to some of its partners in Ethiopia. We hope that it will help to leave our partners there more resilient and able to continue their work without our support. INTRAC, an organisation that works to strengthen civil society to challenge poverty and equality, worked with Ethiopian consultants, who implemented the programme, including research on leadership transitions.
Following the training, staff from the various not-for-profit organisations shared how they felt clearer about the directions their organisations were going in. They have updated their strategic plans, or created new ones. Their finance systems now meet requirements, including the government’s. In addition, some of the organisations have developed their own financial sustainability plans and have access to diverse funding sources.
Oak also supported a training for 13 Board Chairs in the US and the UK in 2021. The aim of the programme was to foster an exchange of experiences and ideas around key concepts of good governance in times of uncertainty and transition. This training also responded to the general lack of investment in preparing Board members to play the role of chair effectively. Despite the importance of this role for an organisation, chairs are often appointed without necessarily knowing the specific responsibilities they are expected to perform.
We believe that trainings and support for capacity-building projects are essential for the strengthening and sustainability of organisations. We want our support to be more than simply funding. We also see the importance of strengthening the work of our partner organisations. If you are a partner of Oak Foundation, please speak to your programme officer to find out more about the support you can receive.
We are determined to put children first in all that we do. In the interest of protecting all children everywhere, we ask our partners to do the same. In 2021, we reviewed and updated the Oak Child Safeguarding Policy, highlighting Oak’s continued commitment to implementing robust child safeguarding measures within the foundation as well as within our grant-making. The policy guides the work of our staff and details their roles and responsibilities in safeguarding. It also outlines expectations towards our grantee partners, which we have tried to communicate clearly on the online safeguarding self-audit form, and by revising our safeguarding page on our website, www.oakfnd.org.
The online safeguarding self-audit form was launched in April 2021. By the end of the year, more than 200 partners had filled in the selfaudit. This assessment helps Oak programme staff better understand how partners come into contact or work with children throughout the grant-cycle, and demonstrates the safeguarding measures our partners have in place or need to develop.
In addition, the system allows partners to request safeguarding support in case of shortcomings. We are also working to build sectorwide support to strengthen child safeguarding policies. After months of close collaboration, in March 2021, we launched the Funder Safeguarding Collaborative (FSC). Founded by Oak Foundation, Comic Relief, Porticus, The National Lottery Community Fund, and Global Fund for Children, the collaborative aims to support and strengthen safeguarding practices globally by promoting collaboration, listening, and learning among funders and partner organisations. We are excited to report that more than
50 funders heeded the call and have become members of the collaborative.
We will continue to accompany our partners on their safeguarding journeys, offering support and resources. If you are a partner of Oak Foundation, please speak to your programme officer to find out more about the support you can receive.
Monitoring & evaluation
At Oak Foundation, we strive to maximise the impact of our grantmaking. Using evidence and a reflective practice help us make better decisions and use of our resources.
During 2021, our programmes continued to: create spaces for reflection and intentional learning; and improve their ability to collect and use data. For the first time, we embarked on a three-year long developmental evaluation of seven campaigns, to help us learn as we go. Our programmes are increasingly commissioning external reviews to better understand the impact of the work we fund. We are also improving our internal portfolio tracking systems so we can have better visibility of the progress we are making in our strategies. At the same time, we have simplified our application and reporting forms, so that staff and partners spend less time on internal processes.
We believe in the power of collaboration and the need to build and share our collective knowledge. This is why, in 2021, we worked closely with many of our intermediaries and partners to strengthen our ability to learn together and from each other. We are already seeing how this way of working is improving how we fund. It also helps us to be better partners to those with whom we share the same goals.
Good communication helps ensure transparency around our grantmaking and elevates the voices of those who are the least heard. We believe that through good communications, we contribute to a better, safer, cleaner, fairer world.
In 2021, communications continued to play a central role in Oak’s operations. Many staff members had to work from home periodically because of Covid-19 related restrictions. Because of this, we paid close attention to our internal communications in order to help staff feel connected and able to work efficiently from a distance.
In addition to our twice-yearly Oakwide newsletters, our annual report, and our social media channels, the stories page on our website aims to bring to life the work of our grantee partners and their efforts to make the world a fairer, safer place. It is our honour to be able to raise the voices of the people that benefit from the great work of our partners being carried out around the world.
In addition, the Communications team helped bring to life the new Environment Programme strategy, which focuses on safeguarding our future by restoring our connection to nature, and changing the ways we feed and fuel our world. We also supported the India Programme to showcase its new strategy, which seeks systemic changes at the state and national levels so that all people have a chance to thrive.
Oak values communications as a vehicle for social change and provides funding for communication initiatives within our programmes. We also support capacity-building efforts to expand global and local efforts to improve communications. Please contact your programme officer if you are an Oak partner and would like to find out more.
Oak’s main communications channels are its website, newsletters, and annual reports, as well as our social media channels Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Follow us and check out our stories page on www.oakfnd.org/stories! We love to hear success stories from our partners so please reach out to the Communications team at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to share. We are also open to feedback – so please let us know how you think we can improve our communications.