Characteristics of our approach
Our support for civil society organizations and initiatives that target subjects of social importance is structured into three programs: Public Interest, People & Nature, and Social Initiatives. We proactively reach out to potential grantees and invite them to submit an application where appropriate.
We support both established organizations and innovative initiatives, always looking to strike a balance between providing direct aid to target groups and maintaining our long-term vision of creating structural improvement and systemic change. Providing direct support allows us to remain close to the issue, which offers valuable insight into possible solutions. We can then apply this know-how to our support for structural improvements by tackling the underlying causes and looking at policy change.
Oftentimes, we will decide to extend our partnership beyond a specific project and instead lend them broad programmatic institutional support, thereby enabling organizations to work on the pursuit of their mission. Before deciding to issue grants, we conduct a thorough evaluation of an organization’s vision, approach, governance, and implementation capacity.
We also believe it’s important to offer them an opportunity for organizational capacity building. This can either be direct support by Adessium Foundation itself, or by providing the financial means necessary to outsource consulting or other external expertise.
In all of our partnerships, we explicitly take a back seat and let our partners remain in control. In our view, civil society organizations should remain independent and autonomous. However, we do offer constructive criticism from the start of the relationship on how our partners could improve efficiency in their work and try to facilitate this wherever possible.
We want to put our resources to use as efficiently as possible, for maximum effect. An important factor in our selection process are the costs and potential benefits of an intervention. We also want to learn from the organizations and interventions we support and invest a relatively high amount of energy in monitoring and evaluating their approach and effectiveness. We involve our partners in this process to take advantage of the opportunities this presents to improve and increase impact. We also learn from our own practical experience. By assessing our daily business, approach, and method through a critical lens, we keep finding new ways to improve upon the work we do. We are also happy to share these findings with other philanthropic funds.
We deal with major and complex social issues, and this demands a long-term approach. There are no fast or easy solutions to these problems. Adessium doesn’t believe in a quick fix; tackling structural issues and sparking systemic and other change requires a bold approach, perseverance, and long-term involvement.
In general, we issue multi-year grants based on ambitious yet achievable goals supported by a solid course of action. Most of our partnerships run for a three-year period. In our experience, three years is sufficient time to see what kind of progress has been made, and to evaluate whether an approach works, how to develop it further and whether it needs scaling up.
However, since social change often takes longer than three years, we often extend partnerships and, in some cases, several times. This is of course not a given, and the decision to renew a partnership depends in part on current developments affecting the issue and our own approach and priorities, and whether the partner organization is still best positioned to contribute to this. As with any partnership, the basic premise is to ensure organizations don’t become too dependent on us.
There are many factors that play a role in establishing a successful multi-year partnership. Even though it starts with a shared vision on change strategy, agreeing on the partner organization’s development path is also important. We sit down with our partner to examine current strengths as well as to define priorities in efforts to strengthen their organization. Although many financiers tend to focus on project funding and reducing overhead, we believe in the importance of a well-structured organization. In order for our partner to complete their core tasks effectively, it is essential for their finances, human resources, and IT to be in order.
We are very familiar with what is involved when organizations go through different phases of growth and development. One of the questions the organization may struggle with is how to redefine the initiators’ role in this process. Although implementing structures and procedures will become more important as the organization grows, it can’t lose its agility and capacity for innovation in the process. When the initiative in question is run by volunteers, the transition to a professional organization can often be a major step. We apply our experience in trying to support our partners the best we can during these types of transitions.
Our added value
Whenever we provide support, we look for the specific added value our foundation can provide.
Adessium is an independent, autonomous organization. This gives us the freedom to pick our own partners and choose our own methods. For example, by supporting projects that aren’t receiving any financial support—either from the government or from other funds. These may be initiatives we believe have the potential to innovate but involve significant risk or haven’t had a chance to prove themselves yet.
We are flexible enough to adapt our strategy and methods to rapidly changing or complicated circumstances when necessary. We ask our partners to be open and honest about any obstacles they encounter, so we can work with them to find solutions.
Our long-term involvement as a philanthropic foundation often offers us good insight in a particular field, and where collaboration between organizations can create added value. We see an opportunity to play a role in initiating and facilitating these partnerships.
We also proactively seek out fellow financial backers, and our role can vary from coordinating activities to joining forces within the scope of pooled funds. This significantly increases the impact of the different parties involved.
Joining forces with other funds not only adds to a project’s continuity, but also reinforces the support for that particular intervention. We confer with the other financial partners to arrive at a clear picture of an initiative, and also share knowledge with each other. This kind of positive, critical reflection by all financing organizations involved has a beneficial effect on project development.