‘There is a changing paradigm inside philanthropy’: Clare Woodcraft, chief executive of the Emirates Foundation in Abu Dhabi. Delores Johnson / The National
‘There is a changing paradigm inside philanthropy’: Clare Woodcraft, chief executive of the Emirates Foundation in Abu Dhabi. Delores Johnson / The National

Emirates Foundation leads ‘transformation’ of philanthropy sector by adopting business model

ABU DHABI // The business of philanthropy in the region is being transformed – led by Emirates Foundation, the UAE’s leading youth development organisation.

The foundation is moving from short-term intervention to long-term change and has adopted “venture philanthropy”, which boosts efficiency and value for money and obtains better results.

“Through our own transition we want to demonstrate how you can increase your impact when you switch from traditional philanthropy to more strategic philanthropy,” said Clare Woodcraft, the foundation’s chief executive.

She said a revolution was taking place across the sector and venture philanthropy was becoming a trend.

“We don’t want to go into a village or town and do a nice project for 18 months. We want to create systemic long-term change.

“When we talk to other organisations, we find they are asking how can we become more impactful, deliver more value and make sure it is all sustainable.”

The foundation also spoke of its latest plans to empower youth.

These began in 2012 when it shifted from a predominately grant-making entity, donating money to third parties, to one focused on in-house programmes.

Empowering young people through social engagement and volunteering, encouraging them to seek careers in the private sector and teaching them how to manage their money are the core issues that have shaped the foundation’s agenda since then.

“When we looked at our portfolio, we found the most interesting stuff was happening in our programmes, so we phased out all of our grants and asked what were the key issues impacting young Emiratis,” Ms Woodcraft said.

The organisation has developed the Takatof and Sanid programmes, which now engage more than 30,000 young Emiratis.

Takatof volunteers help out at social centres, sports and social clubs, and Sanid is an emergency support group.

The foundation also created four more programmes to assist in youth development.

The Think Science programme aims to encourage Emiratis to go into science and technology. Kafa’at offers career development through mentoring and internships. Kayani increases job opportunities for young people with disabilities. And the Esref Sah programme promotes better management of debt and finances.

With its new business model, the foundation will develop each of these six programmes so they eventually become stand-alone organisations.

“We want each programme to build and grow as if it were a subsidiary of Emirates Foundation,” said Ms Woodcraft.

Because Takatof and Sanid have been in existence for longer they are further down the line in terms of this process, she said.

As a founding member of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development’s Global Network of Foundations, Emirates Foundation used last year’s Philanthropy in Transition summit to engage debate on the shift they hope to encourage in the field.

“I called it a revolution. There is a changing paradigm inside philanthropy where more are asking, are we really doing enough? Is philanthropy really working? Are we creating real outcomes?” said Ms Woodcraft.

To promote the debate, Emirates Foundation is hosting a forum on The Guardian newspaper’s website giving philanthropic foundations, experts and others the opportunity to share ideas and experiences.

The forum will last for six weeks but Ms Woodcraft hopes the debate will continue for some time.


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July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

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1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

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