Statement from the UK Trustees

Foundation Update

Statement from the UK Trustees

15 Mar 2017

Future of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation was set up in 2008 to help people understand the major role that religion plays within society, and to come up with practical ideas that address the needs arising from religion's growing influence on world events.

Over the last eight years we have grown from a handful of staff to over 40 full time employees. Our practical support has directly touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and our thought leadership work has been seen by millions.

The Foundation's global schools programme has been present in over 2,500 schools from 48 countries: trained over 9,000 teachers: who have gone onto work with nearly quarter of a million students. We are working with governments to implement the values of the programme into curricula and campaigning for a global commitment on education, that seeks to get even more countries signed up to promoting greater religious and cultural understanding.

In Sierra Leone we have brought together Christian and Muslim religious leaders who have inspired volunteers to reach over 2 million people with vital life-saving malaria prevention information.

In several countries we have directly supported those challenging religious extremism within their own communities. In Nigeria, during the elections of 2015, we trained and supported activists who made faith-based appeals for peaceful elections. They reached millions of people through organising petitions, rallies, meetings and appearing on major radio and TV broadcasts.

The Foundation has established the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics, an international affairs think tank, which is now the go-to authority for policy makers and others who wish to better understand the ideology that lies behind the violence, and the groups that take part in these conflicts.

We are proud of what we have achieved, and pay tribute to the efforts of our staff, our partners and the generosity of our supporters, without whom none of this would have been possible.

As Trustees we are guardians of this work. We independently seek to ensure that it is focused on our charitable mission, to provide practical support to counter religious conflict and extremism in order to promote open-minded and stable societies.

We are pleased to have an active founder in Tony Blair. We are immensely grateful for the time and effort he spends on our work, including on fundraising and developing a long term sustainable financial footing for the Foundation.

Over the last eight years we have sought to maintain stability and sustainability in our finances. This has meant that projects can remain fully supported year on year, ensuring consistency of delivery, which has been outlined in our previous reports and recognised by those who monitor the sector.

As Trustees we have an important responsibility to look to the future of the organisation and ensure the work continues to evolve, thrive and break new ground.

This means necessarily challenging both ourselves and the senior staff of the Foundation to find the best model for future success.

We can all see that the threats on development, prosperity and peace are immense. If we are genuinely committed to making a difference, then we must be open minded about the future.

Opportunities arise from time to time that require careful consideration. Last year Tony Blair offered us the opportunity to join a new not-for-profit entity to be established by him, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBIGC).

The questions put to us were straightforward but challenging. What was best for the work that we do? What would ensure we could continue to develop in the future? Although structures and labels are of course vital for all charitable endeavours, these were the key questions for us as Trustees.

We were offered to develop the Foundation's work on a far greater scale offering the opportunity for greater impact. Globalisation can be a driver for prosperity and peace. But too often, ineffective governance and extremism stand in the way of progress. The TBIGC will focus on helping countries and their people take on these challenges.

Having gone through the plans in detail we judged that this presented an exciting opportunity to take our existing work to the next level. Working with our new colleagues in this organisation, such as those from the Africa Governance Initiative, we will focus on particular countries where extremism is a major challenge. Increased access to new ideas and connections will better equip our teams on the ground and strengthen our fundraising approach, all within a fully transparent and auditable structure.

Following detailed consideration, including legal and regulatory consultation, we have decided to merge the Foundation's staff and work into this new not-for-profit entity, the TBIGC.

This will mean that over the next few months, the Foundation will monitor the assets which have been transferred, and then will be wound up and dissolved as a charitable entity. We are grateful to the Charity Commission for their regulatory advice. The Commission is satisfied that we as trustees are acting reasonably in making this decision.

Our objective as Trustees has always been to fulfil our mission in a sustainable manner and have the greatest impact possible. Fulfilling that objective has been the driving force behind this important decision and we are confident we have acted in the best interests of all concerned.