Aga Khan Foundation

Aga Khan Foundation


The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) focuses on a small number of specific development problems by forming intellectual and financial partnerships with organisations sharing its objectives. Most Foundation grants are made to grassroots organisations testing innovative approaches in the field. With a small staff, a host of cooperating agencies and thousands of volunteers, the Foundation reaches out to vulnerable populations on four continents, irrespective of their race, religion, political persuasion or gender.

Focus Areas
To make the most of its resources, the Aga Khan Foundation has a sharp focus, clearly defined objectives and a consistent approach to its work. It concentrates on selected issues in health, education, rural development, the environment and the strengthening of civil society.

Within its thematic areas of interest, the Foundation looks for innovative approaches to generic problems. Projects are designed to be learning experiences that contribute to the understanding of complex issues and identify solutions that can be adapted to conditions in many different regions. Replicability is essential to the creation of useful models. Wherever appropriate, approaches are tested in urban as well as rural settings, and in different cultures and geographic environments.

Evaluation and dissemination are equally essential. International teams, together with the implementers, conduct reviews at agreed intervals in the project cycle. Their conclusions are made available to Foundation affiliates, to grantees and to other interested governmental and non-governmental organisations.

The Foundation is highly selective in its programme choices. The principal criterion is the potential for bringing lasting benefit to project participants. AKF measures its success by what its grantees achieve and the importance of what they have learned for projects elsewhere.

It is equally committed to bringing valuable lessons to the attention of policymakers and others whose decisions affect the lives of the poor.

The Foundation shares what it learns with the public, raising awareness of important issues facing disadvantaged sectors of the international community.

Geographic Focus
The Foundation’s geographical spread currently encompasses activities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Canada, India, Kenya, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mozambique, Pakistan, Portugal, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Within these countries, the Foundation chooses certain regions for particular focus. Criteria include special needs in poor environments as well as the presence of capable implementing organisations. It normally intervenes where it has a strong volunteer base to ensure knowledgeable and culturally sensitive management of its local affairs.

Long-term Involvement
Most Foundation grants are to well-managed, local organisations interested in testing new solutions, in learning from experience and in being agents of lasting change. If no established group exists, the Foundation occasionally creates new organisations to tackle particularly important problems. Its mandate enables it to maintain long-term involvement in building social institutions.

In every undertaking, the goals are essentially the same:

  • To make it possible for poor people to act in ways that will lead to long-term improvements in their income and health, in the environment and in the education of their children.
  • To provide communities with a greater range of choices and the understanding necessary to take informed action.
  • To enable beneficiaries to gain the confidence and competence to participate in the design, implementation and continuing operation of activities that affect the quality of their lives.
  • To put institutional, management and financial structures in place to ensure that programme activities are sustainable without Foundation assistance within a reasonable time-frame.
  • Building self-reliance and forging new attitudes, skills and organisational abilities takes time. The Foundation has the option of making long-term commitments to a particular region or problem.

A Bridge between Two Worlds
With affiliates that are important national institutions in North America and Europe and grant-making offices in Africa as well as in South and Central Asia, the Foundation has genuine roots in both the developed and developing worlds. Experience and skills flow in both directions.

Foundation units share common objectives and approaches. They bring local knowledge, energies and resources to bear on local problems. In addition, developed country units serve to inform the public about development progress and problems. They also channel interest, skills and resources from the public and development agencies to activities in the developing world.

Institutional Support
Through endowments and capital investments, the Foundation helps to ensure the permanence of institutions that contribute to the well-being of the people they serve. It is helping to build an endowment for Pakistan’s first private university, the Aga Khan University (AKU) in Karachi, which has an international mandate and is developing international programmes. The Foundation is also helping community pre-schools in Africa to build endowments, and providing fund-raising advice and contacts to a host of current and former recipients of its grants.

The Foundation owns a large number of properties for social and cultural activities, including several hospitals and hundreds of schools and health centres in the developing world. A portion of its income is used to maintain and improve them.

Sources of Funding
The Aga Khan Foundation is the principal grant-making agency for social development within the Shia Ismaili Imamat. His Highness the Aga Khan is its founder and chairman. He provides the Foundation with regular funding for administration and new programme initiatives as well as contributions to its endowment. The Ismaili community contributes invaluable volunteer time, professional services and substantial financial resources. Other funding sources include income from investments and grants from government, institutional and private sector partners – as well as donations from individuals around the world.