x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Foundation fine tunes its focus

The Emirates Foundation is changing the way it gives out money to maximise its contribution to Emirati life.

Peter S Cleaves, CEO of the Emirates Foundation.
Peter S Cleaves, CEO of the Emirates Foundation.

Abu Dhabi // The Emirates Foundation is changing the way it gives out money to maximise its contribution to Emirati life. In future, the UAE's leading philanthropic institution will concentrate on three instead of six main areas: youth development, knowledge creation, and society and heritage. Dr Peter Cleaves, the chief executive, said focusing on these areas would be the best way to achieve the goal of a better life for Emiratis. Hitherto, the foundation has awarded grants under the headings of youth development; education, science and technology; environment; social development; arts and culture; and public awareness. In addition, it funds the Tawteen Emiratisation and Takatof social volunteering programmes.

Launched in 2005, it offers financial and technical support to projects designed to improve the quality of Emirati lives. Its money comes from annual donations and an endowment fund supported by the Abu Dhabi Government and private companies. "The foundation cannot do everything and be all things to all people," said Dr Cleaves. "We are really focusing on Emirati society. "So our aim is to contribute to a situation where Emirati intellectuals, scientists, researchers are world class and interacting with the world as equals."

He said the foundation hoped, "through these main themes to help fill gaps in the country's knowledge-based and research capacities, promote the culture and traditions of the nation as well as build Emirati leaderships - both individuals and institutions". A big advantage of the change was that it would make it easier to monitor performance. "It is a lot easier to measure how all these grants are contributing to development than if we have a broader range of activities," he said.

Under the theme of youth development, the foundation will seek to improve the leadership skills of young Emiratis with the goal of their becoming future business and political leaders. It will also support projects or workshops that would integrate them in the private sector and help them develop their own businesses. In the area of knowledge creation, the foundation will attempt to position the UAE as a leader in technological understanding and innovation by providing grants to researchers in the field of education and social affairs.

The findings of the research are meant be used to establish databases to help with policy. Knowledge creation initiatives also include science and technology research competitions, research on Emirati youth, and education research. Educational initiatives will seek to improve the school curriculum and develop school libraries. The foundation will also encourage parental involvement in school affairs, and that of students in extra-curricular activities.

The foundation's grants for society and heritage are intended to address family challenges, provide marriage counselling, help people with special needs and support new social organisations. Another major goal for the foundation is to involve businesses in social projects. Since the institution was founded, 59 companies have taken part in this initiative. From 2005 to 2007 the foundation awarded 35 grants, rising to 107 in 2008, and 177 in the first quarter of this year.

Dr Cleaves said the trend was due to increased trust in the foundation's ability to deliver. "Once a few had applied and received the funding in a relatively efficient manner, they told their colleagues," he said. "The trust grew and when the trust grows, response on our part grows as well. "For example, the last time we had the arts competition, we had 44 applications. That gives us an opportunity to respond in kind.

"Also, we have built up capacity to handle the workload. We have systematic grants approval procedures and this has helped increase the number of grants. This helps a lot." Last month, members of the Emirates Foundation helped to plant mangrove trees in Egypt as part of a UN environmental programme. In June, the foundation announced the Family Challenges competition, in which grants of up to Dh250,000 were made available for projects that highlight the issues of neglect, physical, sexual and psychological abuse of children. The total budget for the scheme is Dh2 million (US$550,000).

Last March, it launched a Dh5m grant scheme for organisations that help people with disabilities. @Email:hhassan@thenational.ae