One of The Atlantic Philanthropies’ biggest, and most well documented, success stories has been its partnership with the government of the Republic of Ireland on the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions. Atlantic’s investment helped leverage more than $1.3 billion in overall spending on basic research facilities at Irish universities, transforming the Irish higher education system, which in the late 1990s was spending only 11% of the European norm on basic research. In 2012, all the universities in Ireland, North and South, jointly conferred honorary degrees on Chuck Feeney, Atlantic’s founder, in recognition of his efforts.
As Mary Robinson, the former President of the Republic of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, points out, however, Atlantic’s philanthropic strategy has not been a “narrowly academic one,” but has also focused on “making university campuses better places.” Thus, in addition to world class cancer centers and research facilities, Atlantic has also funded dormitories, theaters, dance halls, arenas, swimming pools and community spaces.
Atlantic invested in capital projects to create leverage and unleash human capital, out of a belief that, as Matthew Bishop of The Economist says, “the right building in the right place can be used to leverage large additional sums of money from other sources, including fellow philanthropists and government,” and because buildings ultimately represent a long term investment in the people who use them. Making campuses more livable, and pleasurable, supports both goals.
While producing Laying Foundations for Change, 10 students from Ulster University’s photography program worked with faculty members Paul Seawright, Martin Parr, and Donovan Wylie. In the process they captured some of the texture of life on Irish university campuses, particularly at newer universities like University of Limerick and Dublin City University, where Atlantic funded a significant percentage of the facilities. A swimming pool in Limerick may not have the gravitas of a hospice or a biomedical research center, but it too contributes to the confidence and culture that help generate sustainable change.
This post was originally published on January 8, 2016 on the Magnum Foundation blog.