Atlantic Philanthropies winding up charitable operations
Atlantic Philanthropies, founded in 1982, is to complete grant-making by the end of 2016 and cease operations in 2020, its board decided at the start of July 2012. The decision is being relayed to grant recipients, and some will be told their support is being discontinued before the 2016 deadline. However, no major Irish projects are affected in this way.
Atlantic Philanthropies said in a statement yesterday the focus of the charitable giving would now be sharpened to maximise the benefit that could be achieved with his remaining resources; €1.83 billion remains to be disbursed, of which €750 million is committed to existing projects.
Atlantic has invested more than €5 billion in grants internationally since it was founded by Mr Feeney in 1982. The largest single recipient of his generosity in the Republic and Northern Ireland is the higher education sector, which has received almost €667 million in support.
Since 2004 Atlantic has focused on three Irish programmes – ageing; children and youth; and reconciliation and human rights.
Despite the imminent withdrawal of the State’s biggest philanthropist during a period of economic turmoil, Mr Feeney expressed confidence about Ireland’s prospects.
“I particularly value the commitment and spirit of generosity among the many people I have come to know through Atlantic’s work across the island of Ireland. These are challenging times. I admire the resilience of the people on this island and remain optimistic for the future.”
The biggest single beneficiary of his generosity in Ireland has been the third-level sector. For years he provided millions of dollars for infrastructure, with the strict condition that the source of the funding stay secret. His foundation provided seed money for new libraries, science buildings and student villages on practically every campus. The list includes libraries in four colleges, student accommodation in three, sports centres on five campuses and a veterinary college at UCD.
Many groups working with older people have Atlantic to thank for ongoing support, including Active Retirement Ireland, the Irish Senior Citizens’ Parliament, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Carers Association. Another initiative that benefits from funding through Atlantic is the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda). The study is charting the health, social and economic circumstances over a 10-year period of more than 8,000 participants living in Ireland aged 50 or above.
NGOs working with children and on human rights issues have also benefited, including Amnesty International, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Children’s Rights Alliance.
Going forward in the the final phase AP funding line will be turned off on some projects as the emphasis shifts to areas that will prove sustainable long after the financial assistance runs out. Mary Sutton, Atlantic’s director in the Republic, says it has a lot of work to complete. “We will be sharpening our focus for maximum impact in the final years,” she says
Children and Youth
The Republic of Ireland has made progress in recent years in acknowledging and addressing the developmental needs of children and young people. Ireland signed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child in 1992. Provision for children was previously spread across multiple government departments, but since 2011 the Department of Children and Youth Affairs is tasked with implementing strategy and bringing greater coherence to policymaking for children and young people.
However, policy implementation to date has been weak, services are fragmented and do not meet the needs of all children and families, and issues such as poverty and early school leaving remain significant problems. The economic crisis has compounded this situation.
Ireland has one of the lowest levels of provision for early childhood care and education; and mental health, family support, and other preventive programmes for young people are underdeveloped and underfunded. Moreover family support services tend to be reactive and patchy, and the resources invested in schools addressing disadvantage do not appear to be yielding consistently better outcomes.
As well as focusing on the very early years of a child's life, Atlantic also supports approaches that intervene early before problems develop, during older childhood and adolescence.
As a limited life foundation, AP are investing in areas where we believe Atlantic can achieve significant progress in the relatively short time we have remaining.
Transform Children's Services Through Prevention and Early Intervention
In its remaining years, Atlantic is funding grantees that provide children and young people with the support and tools they require to be healthy, do well in school and to help ensure that they have bright futures. Grantee efforts include advocating for the widespread adoption of evidence-based and outcomes-focused prevention and early intervention approaches and for the provision of timely and high-quality services. Rigorous evaluations of these services are part of the support so that more children in the Republic of Ireland and other countries can benefit from prevention and early intervention approaches