July 24, 2018; Fast Company
Last September, in NPQ, we profiled a book by Atlantic Philanthropies founder Chuck Feeney, who famously promoted the philosophy of “giving while living.” This involved spending down the entirety of the corpus of the foundation during the founder’s lifetime. In that article, we noted that one lesson of the booklet on Feeney’s philosophy that the Atlantic Philanthropies published last year was that “a limited life foundation may create an incentive to find ‘perpetuity’ in other ways.” For example, $2.8 billion—or 35 percent of total grants—went to capital projects. As foundation president Christopher Oechsli explains, Feeney “liked creating tangible assets and institutions to use like major tools. Buildings also appealed to him…because of his oft-asked question, ‘What have we got to show for our investments?’”
But as Ellie Anzilotti points out in Fast Company, buildings aren’t the only way that the influence of Feeney and the Atlantic Philanthropies will extend beyond the foundation’s close in 2020: “In 2015, The Atlantic Philanthropies seeded over $660 million to the Fellows program.” Again, using $8 billion in total giving as a baseline, this is a not-insignificant investment, amounting to roughly eight percent of total foundation assets.
Today, seven cohorts of fellows across the world are at work on issues ranging from racial equity to social and economic equity to health equity. The organization recently announced that the program has now grown to 267 fellows worldwide, and will continue to expand over the next several decades. They anticipate that the Fellows program will grow to over 1,000 global fellows strong in the next 20 years—long after the philanthropy has shuttered for good.
Of the seven cohorts, the first of these that was launched was the Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health. The goal of the fellowship is to support “social and public health solutions to reduce the scale and adverse impact of dementia,” which currently affects 50 million worldwide, with the impact greatest on vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.
“The fellows,” notes Anzilotti, “are generally mid-career professionals who have a proven track record of impact in a specific area, and who are determined to better understand and further their work in a global context.”
The Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity cohort seeks to dismantle anti-Black racism in the United States and South Africa. It is staffed by Columbia University in New York City and the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, South Africa. Additional partners are the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California, Berkeley, the Center for Community Change, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
A third program, based in Melbourne, Australia, is The Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity, which aims “to tackle the challenge of persistent inequality and social exclusion in Australia and the Pacific, particularly among Indigenous communities.” A program on a related theme, the Atla