Annemieke Tsike-Sossah on the Ikea Foundation’s new portfolio strategy:
Under Ikea Foundation’s new Climate and Livelihoods Strategy, the ambition is to include refugee livelihoods as part of the target groups and as a cross-cutting opportunity. Annemieke is leading the Foundation’s efforts to do this in the most meaningful way and also explore which systems-changes and global opportunities exist for the Foundation to engage with to push refugee self-reliance further along the development and humanitarian agendas. Annemieke has been with the Foundation for 8 years and took on the role of head of the humanitarian portfolio for 3 years until this new strategy started at the end of 2017. She has a background in international law and has worked with the private sector before moving into the philanthropic arm of IKEA. She has worked with organizations in South Africa and Ghana. She now lives in Sierra Leone with her family.
Q & A with Annemieke:
Q: How old is the Ikea Foundation and how was it formed? Please share the mission.
A: The IKEA Foundation focuses its interventions on improving the lives of vulnerable children by enabling their families
to create sustainable livelihoods and to fight and cope with climate change. The philanthropic arm of INGKA Foundation, the owner of the IKEA group of companies, is nimble and employs just under 50 people. The IKEA Foundation’s programmes are run by 75 partners in around 40 countries and emphasize collaboration and cost-efficiency in pursuit of two interconnected goals: protecting the planet and helping families afford a better everyday life. The IKEA Foundation has celebrated its 10 year anniversary this year. Last year, the IKEA Foundation further refined its strategy to address the root causes of climate change and poverty, two of the biggest threats to children’s futures. The IKEA Foundation’s strategic priorities aim to build momentum for climate action, ensure renewable energy for all,
support agricultural livelihoods, and promote dignified employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in impoverished communities. Strategies to support refugees are integrated across its portfolios.
Q: You’ve mentioned that most of the Foundation’s programs are located in India and the Netherlands. Is there a plan for spreading out the impact?
A: The IKEA Foundation team members are based in the Netherlands primarily, with a liaison office in India. Our funding goes to programmes primarily in East Africa and South Asia. For the moment, no expansion to other geographical areas is expected.
Q: One portfolio under the Foundation’s new strategy that relates to youth development involves investment in systems that help youth in areas where agriculture is the key to one’s livelihood. What types of programs might be meaningful to this effort and is there a particular means for scaling such programs?
A: In our Agricultural Livelihoods work, we want to be known for helping people in rural communities grow their incomes through planet-friendly agriculture. We do this by establishing inclusive, regenerative, and circular agriculture to help people afford a better life while protecting the planet, inspiring others to support planet-positive agriculture by showing successful business models, and by being bold in fostering business and enterprise opportunities that engage in a circular approach for agriculture. Our hypothesis is that successful business cases that apply these principles help inspire others to scale this.
Q: Another portfolio deals specifically with employment and entrepreneurship that intends to focus on “school-to-work” initiatives. While you’ve stated it may be a couple of years before the Foundation will determine how best to manage this portfolio, can you share what the basis is for moving in this direction?
A: In our Employment & Entrepreneurship work, we want to be known for enabling decent and sustainable work opportunities for youth. We do this by preparing and linking them to jobs now, and in the future; expand the opportunity to create and grow their own businesses. At the same time, we are keen to ensure that youth have access to opportunities in the digital technology and green employment sectors that will be key drivers for agile and sustainable economies. We have decided to focus on this area as we see the biggest threat to young peoples’ lives is for them to not find safe and sustainable incomes. The opportunity to have a secure livelihood builds the base for their own growth and creates positive benefits for their families. Having stable and secure livelihoods helps break the cycle of poverty so many of the community members we care about are currently in. For the next few years, our team will focus its energy on learning more about opportunities to create transformational change for youths in India, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
Q: Part of your job is to work with refugees – how do they figure into the work you are currently doing and what you’ll do in the future?
A: Refugees are one of the three main groups of people we work with, next to youth and women. Most of our current programmes focus on refugee livelihood opportunities and on research that strengthens the evidence base for sending a stronger message around the need for refugees to have such rights and access to job opportunities, be it in employment or through their own business opportunities. We envisage we will continue to play a role as all focus areas are expected to continue to look for funding opportunities that include refugee populations. There is no golden formula for this. It might be that we first continue working with our trusted humanitarian partners and we gradually
include developmental organizations as well as leverage local business markets at greater scale.
Q: Who is partnering with you to ensure the success of these efforts?
A: The Foundation aims to bring balance in its partner portfolio by working with different types of organizations – UN– agencies and large INGOs sit next to smaller non-profits and start-up organizations. We are also seeing an upward trend in working with social investment intermediaries and social entrepreneurs. The Foundation is seeking out the best-placed actors, both in-country and at the global level, to deliver on its objectives, finding new ways of engaging with existing partners and exploring new partnership opportunities. Collaboration with others, be it grantees, other foundations, private sector, and research institutions is key for the IKEA Foundation. An example is how the Climate Action team focuses on a radical collaboration model, leveraging existing strategies and approaches in the fight against climate change by partnering with trusted organizations that bring the voices of the private sector, governments, and civil society to the table to bring solutions to the forefront. Every portfolio of work determines their own best approaches, considering each will have its own strategy. There is overlap in the strategies, e.g. renewable energy for agricultural livelihoods, and so the teams will also explore the best ways of working in a matrixed, or cross-cutting way to ensure all objectives are met.
Annemieke’s Networking Interests:
- Entrepreneurs, also with refugee background
- Innovators and disruptors
- Thought leaders