What We Do
The Asfari Foundation’s mission is to help ensure a good education for and encourage entrepreneurship among young people from the Levant and the UK, to support them to work together to create positive change, and to strengthen civil society in their communities and countries. We will very occasionally make humanitarian donations.
The Foundation operates primarily as a grantmaker, by providing financial support to organisations that we believe are well-placed to help us achieve our mission. We also offer partners advice, networking and capacity development. Our strategy for 2018 – 2022 is set out here (Arabic) and is explained below and in other relevant pages.
We take a long term approach to our work. We are primarily concerned with addressing systemic issues that restrict the development of a resilient and effective civil society. We want to help build and support effective organisations rooted in their communities. We are also aware of all the challenges faced by young people that limit their ability to thrive and to contribute to their societies through civil society, business or social enterprise. Education is the first step on this journey.
We recognise the enormous hardship that many people in our countries of focus are experiencing. We are convinced that there is a role for the Foundation in helping to alleviate that suffering.
We believe in the power and potential of strong, effective and well-resourced civil society organisations rooted in, and accountable to, their own societies. These organisations will be able to plan, strategise and prioritise their own resources in response to the challenges they identify in their evolving contexts. Our approach to partnerships is designed to support local organisations primarily, and thus has the following key elements.
Investing through flexible funding. We believe in investing in local organisations, and in the importance of providing flexible funding to help them grow and develop, test their own ideas, and respond to needs as they identify them. Many of our grants will be in the form of flexible funding (with our partners identifying what support they need) and those partners will be those we believe have the potential to contribute to real change.
Long-term funding. Sustained support allows organisations to plan, to grow sustainably, and to have the confidence to test new ideas and approaches. Our typical partnership will therefore be for three years.
Capacity development. All organisations and individuals have the potential to grow, and we wish to support this. We will earmark around one-quarter of each grant that we provide for capacity development. We will identify needs jointly with our partners. Capacity development may take a variety of forms, including organisational development or supporting professional development of individuals within organisations.
Investing in new ideas and approaches. We are interested in supporting organisations and approaches that try to do things differently – such projects can be an invaluable source of learning. We will set aside around 10% of our programme budget to support innovative ideas and approaches.
Non-grant support. We will provide support that goes beyond the grant. This will be tailored to each individual partner, but we anticipate that it will include advice and support in networking and capacity building. We are keen to utilise the experience of previous partners, including the alumni of our past scholarship programmes; we will explore ways to draw more on these resources.
Supporting research. We believe that issues impacting the development of the region require thoughtful, in-depth analysis, and that this should be widely shared to help the general public better understand the situation, inform civil society, and encourage policymakers to take properly informed action. We will therefore at times support or commission particular research we think will increase understanding of an issue.
Diversity. We believe societies are stronger when everyone is equally involved – and that equal involvement is a fundamental right. We will therefore encourage our partners to pay attention to diversity and to ensure that minority, gender and disability issues are thought about and addressed in their work, and give priority to organisations that encourage community cohesion.
Convening. Our past partners have appreciated projects in which we convened associates old and new; we will therefore at times link our partners and alumni, bringing them together around Asfari themes to share learning and think of joint projects. We will do this through supporting specific convening projects or organisations, or occasionally convene partners ourselves.
Our work is delivered through two main programmes, the Civil Society Programme and the Youth Empowerment Programme. Information on these programmes can be found through the links below.