The resources of Oak Foundation originated from an interest in the Duty Free Shoppers business which Alan Parker helped to build. Today, the Foundation comprises a group of philanthropic organisations based in various countries around the world.
Oak Foundation was formally established in 1983. Early grants were made in Denmark to organisations supporting single mothers and torture victims (1983) and in Zimbabwe to groups supporting vulnerable children and families, primarily at community levels (1984). Grants continued to be made annually in several countries until a new phase for Oak Foundation began in the early 1990s, when annual grant-making increased and staff were hired to run substantive programmes.
The first two programmes to get underway were Environment and Child Abuse, followed by four other programmes – Housing and Homelessness, International Human Rights, Issues Affecting Women and Learning Differences. There is also a Special Interest Programme, which funds efforts identified by the Trustees that do not fall into the other programme areas, and two national programmes in Denmark and Zimbabwe.
Five of Oak’s programmes also fund initiatives in India, and, in 2012, Oak Foundation joined this work under the banner of the Joint India Programme. Since its establishment, Oak Foundation has made more than 3,600 grants to not-for-profit organisations across the globe. Oak Foundation has its main administrative office in Geneva, Switzerland and a presence in seven other countries: Bulgaria, Denmark, India, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States and Zimbabwe.
Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged.
Oak Foundation value partnerships, both as a funder and as a grant-maker. As a foundation, they participate in the US-based Council of Foundations, the European Foundations Centre and other membership-based organisations and associations. As a grant-maker, they encourage their partners to work together to leverage programme strengths and resources. See more