Frequently asked questions

About the Aga Khan Foundation
  • What is the Aga Khan Foundation? For more than 45 years the Aga Khan Foundation has been partnering with communities, governments, business and local organisations to build better futures together. As part of the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the world’s leading poverty solutions networks, the Aga Khan Foundation breaks the cycle of poverty by making long term investments in people, communities and livelihoods, building high quality institutions like hospitals, universities, and banks and cultivating an active civil society.
  • How are you different from all of the other poverty alleviation organisations in the world? The Foundation is a member of the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the world’s leading poverty solutions networks with an approach that touches a wide range of investments critical to development from early childhood education to economic empowerment, from health programmes to green space preservation.
  • What is the vision of His Highness the Aga Khan or the Foundation at large? Believing in a shared humanity and that we all have a purpose, the vision of His Highness the Aga Khan is an improved quality of life for all. Peace and prosperity happen when we harness the best from people of all walks of life.
  • Is the Foundation a religious organisation? Are you connected to Islam? While inspired by the values of Islam – particularly consultation, solidarity with those less fortunate, self-reliance and human dignity – the Foundation is not a religious organisation. Staff, partners and the people we serve represent all religions and persuasions. We are driven by the belief that when all people – regardless of faith, origin or gender – live and work side by side to improve their communities, the fabric of society is stronger. Our work is driven by a firm belief in our shared humanity. We know we are stronger together.
About the Aga Khan Development Network
  • How is the Foundation connected to the Aga Khan Development Network? Aga Khan Foundation is a member of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), one of the world’s leading poverty solutions networks, and we work together to help communities around the world to build better futures. Poverty is a complex problem, yet we make progress when we integrate the efforts of organisations from all sectors and across borders. AKDN has been working in communities across Africa, Asia and the Middle East for decades—and will be there for generations to come.  Consisting of nearly a dozen agencies, AKDN invests in high-quality institutions such as clinics, banks and universities that anchor communities and provide opportunities for people to unlock their own promise.
  • I know about the Aga Khan University. Are you an education organisation? Education is only part of what we do in the Aga Khan Development Network. It is true that education plays a critical role in development. So, education is one pillar that extends through all phases in AKDN’s integrated and pluralistic approach to development, from early childhood development to university and beyond to professional training.
  • Who is the Aga Khan? His Highness the Aga Khan, the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, is the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. When he was studying at Harvard University in 1957, he was chosen by his grandfather to succeed him as spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims. The Aga Khan has a deep commitment to improving the quality of life for all through the agencies of the AKDN. Over the past 50+ years, this has meant building a network of social development agencies and investing in infrastructural enterprises, such as telecommunications, bridges and electric utilities that contribute to economic development.
About the Foundation’s leadership
  • Who is the Aga Khan? His Highness the Aga Khan, the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, is the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. When he was studying at Harvard University in 1957, he was chosen by his grandfather to succeed him as spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims. The Aga Khan has a deep commitment to improving the quality of life for all through the agencies of the AKDN. Over the past 50+ years, this has meant building a network of social development agencies and investing in infrastructural enterprises, such as telecommunications, bridges and electric utilities that contribute to economic development.
About our impact
  • What are your impact numbers? How can you prove that Aga Khan adds value to communities? The Aga Khan Foundation monitors, measures and evaluates for impact. A few examples include:
    • In northern Pakistan, where we have had programmes for decades, the literacy rate is 90%.
    • In Tajikistan, Early Childhood Education improved school performance of 4 – 5 year olds in two districts, as measured by achievement scores.
    • In Kenya, Aga Khan Foundation has improved the quality of learning for more than 500,000 children in 935 preschools and primary schools. Nearly half are girls. The Kenyan Government has adopted the Foundation’s successful Whole School Approach for 36,000 primary schools nationwide. This example shows the ripple effect of our programmes and how a successful approach can become institutionalised across multiple regions.
  • How do you change a community if many of the countries you work in are in constant crisis or conflict zones? Building on the resilience of communities, Focus Humanitarian Assistance, our sister agency in Aga Khan Development Network, is often the first responder to humanitarian crises. Aga Khan Foundation is then able to strengthen that resilience and help people to move from crisis to opportunity.
  • What is impact investing? What can you tell me about my return on investment? Aga Khan Foundation defines impact investing as actively placing capital in businesses and funds that generate social and/or environmental good and provide at least a modest return to the investor. AKF’s impact investing portfolio was created to get the most out of the funds we raise, by using them to support sustainable enterprises with business models that address our goals of reducing poverty and improving quality of life.
About our long-term committment
  • You say you are in communities long-term. What does that mean? AKF and our sister agencies are part of the communities where we work and are there for decades. We build quality, permanent institutions that are part of the fabric of society. How can such efforts remain sustainable over a long period of time? All projects are planned with the intent that the change they bring about doesn’t end after external funding ends. We see impact investing as one way of making the changes sustainable, and community philanthropy as another.
  • What is a permanent institution? We have examples of banks, clinics, hospitals and even airlines.
  • What happens to programmes that fail? Do you let them go or keep investing even though they are not working? We take an evidenced-based approach to our work. We learn from what doesn’t work and what works and we continually try to improve our programmes. We do not walk away from failure, we fix it.
About our reach
  • If you are a leading poverty solutions network, why don’t my friends know your name? We are less known in the United Kingdom because most of our work is focused in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. So it may be reasonable that your friends in the UK have not heard about Aga Khan Foundation’s work. We are beginning to increase awareness by holding outreach events so that the broader community in the UK can learn more about the amazing impact of our organisation and its role in building better futures together.
About our funding
  • Where does your funding come from? With resources from His Highness the Aga Khan, and our own fundraising campaigns, we are able to leverage other resources from government agencies, corporations, foundations, NGOs and multi-lateral banks.
  • What is the legal status of the Aga Khan Foundation? Aga Khan Foundation UK is a non-denominational, non-profit, charitable organisation. Registered charity number 266518.