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Resource Type: Foundation strategic document

Charter of the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth Charter is a document of the values and aspirations which unite the Commonwealth.

It expresses the commitment of member states to the development of free and democratic societies and the promotion of peace and prosperity to improve the lives of all the people of the Commonwealth.

The Charter also acknowledges the role of civil society in supporting the goals and values of the Commonwealth.

Download the Charter of the Commonwealth

Commonwealth Foundation Strategic Plan 2021-2026

The Foundation has taken the opportunity of the new strategic plan to refresh our vision, mission and theory of change, and to adapt our structure accordingly. We have reflected on the past four years and carefully considered both the challenges and opportunities presented by our rapidly changing operating environment. In doing so, we have sought to develop a strategy that provides the flexibility and responsiveness necessary to increase the relevance of the Foundation to both the Commonwealth and Commonwealth civil society.

This document utilises our new brand which has been developed to communicate our new strategic direction. The new brand will be used on all public-facing materials by 1 December 2021.

Commonwealth Foundation Strategic Plan 2021-2026

Strategic Review: 2017-2021

The Commonwealth Foundation commissioned Collaborative Impact (CI) to undertake a Review of its Strategy 2017-2021 and to facilitate the design and drafting process for the next strategy. This report summarises the findings of the Strategy 2017-21 Review, undertaken by CI between August and December 2020.

Internal staff reflections and interviews with external stakeholder revealed the following about the Foundation’s vision and mandate:

  • The Foundation’s vision should be anchored firmly to the Commonwealth: a vision of a Commonwealth that is truly of and for its people
  • The Foundation is uniquely placed to contribute to the vision of an inclusive and people-centred Commonwealth.

The challenges to address in the next strategic period are:

  • Maintaining focus and generating impact, while also responding to a broad mandate that generates high and sometimes conflicting expectations
  • Delivering Foundation grant-making in ways that maximise impact and ensure support for nascent / relatively fragile civil society partners

The report also illuminated opportunities for further growth during the next strategic period:

  • Embedding the creative and flexible approaches to programme planning and delivery that it adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Making the Foundation staff team more flexible, responsive and dynamic
  • Maximising the value of existing and new partnerships across the Commonwealth system

CI produced the following recommendations to shape the next strategy:

  • Build on recent innovations to develop new ways of working and communicating
  • Consider new means of programme delivery that offer the opportunity to increase impact and secure greater involvement of governors, including Civil Society Governors (CSAG)
  • Consider how the Foundation’s grant making can be sharpened to increase its relevance and impact, including through a strategic focus on less well-developed civil society organisations and networks
  • Consider how the Foundation can best leverage its unique ‘creative’ function to serve its vision and mission
  • Consider how to strengthen the Foundation’s own capacity to lead and its intergovernmental role within the Commonwealth family
Commonwealth Foundation Strategy 2017-2021 Review


Annual work plan 2020-21

The 2020/2021 period is the final year of the Foundation’s current Strategic Plan and the work to be undertaken during the next 12 months will largely focus on securing the results expected under that plan. The centrepiece of the Strategic Plan is the logic model (see page 12): our highest-level framework that sets out the Foundation’s theory of change (the roadmap that shows how we expect our work to lead to certain outcomes – or changes).

The logic model shows that our work is ultimately directed towards institutions of governance being more effective because of the contribution of civil society. In the short­ term, our efforts aim to develop stronger civic voices: to amplify the voices of those who can help shape public discourse and hold institutions to account.

Download Annual Work Plan 2020-21

Audited Financial Statements 2019-2020

I am pleased to provide this brief introduction to the 2019/20 Annual Financial Statements of the Commonwealth Foundation. My thanks to our Finance Team for its usual diligent work under unexpectedly difficult conditions. I also express thanks to our auditors, whose guidance has been especially valuable and deeply appreciated.

The Covid-19 emergency has created great challenges across every sector and every level. The Foundation has actively sought to adapt its own ways of thinking and working so that we can continue to deliver much­needed support to Commonwealth civil society during this difficult time. The team has been working remotely since mid-March 2020 and have demonstrated the capacity to adapt and change in a difficult environment.

Despite significant operational limitations since mid-March, much of the Foundation’s planned work for 2019/20 has been completed as planned. This includes meeting our target of completing the external audit process within four months of the end of the financial year.

The Foundation’s grants programme provides a useful example of the twin strategies of ‘business as usual’ and ‘adaptation’ that we sought to pursue in the second half of the financial year. The regular grants programme continued apace with applications received during the 2019-2020 call reviewed and final decisions taken as planned. However, a shift was made to the programme for the coming year: broadening the reach of the call and seeking proposals that relate to post-pandemic recovery and rebuilding. The Foundation was also able to use allocated funds to provide additional support to existing grantees who are facing difficulties keeping to implementation schedules as a result of the pandemic.

The true impact of the pandemic remains to be seen and the Foundation, like all others, must navigate a future marked by instability and uncertainty. We are conscious, for example, that some of our valued Member States may find it difficult to continue their regular, assessed contributions for some time. Other Member States that are in serious arrears to the Foundation are unlikely to be in a position to discharge their debts, at least for the foreseeable future. We have accordingly taken the step of disclosing outstanding arrears that meet certain criteria as bad debt provision in the 2019/20 Financial Statements.

Working closely with our auditors, the Foundation will continue to carefully monitor developments, faithfully implementing our commitment to transparency by ensuring that our true financial position is communicated as clearly as possible, including through up-to-date and meaningful disclosures.

Dr Anne T. Gallagher AO is Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation. 

Download Audited Financial Statements 2019-2020

Annual Report 2019/20

Introduction from the Director-General

It is with great pleasure that I introduce the 2019-2020 Annual Report of the Commonwealth Foundation. After almost 12 months at the helm as Director-General, I am proud to present this record of a well-spent if challenging year.

The report confirms that, despite significant operational limitations since February, much of the Foundation’s planned work for this year has been completed to the highest standards. Our Grants programme, for example, has continued uninterrupted, as has the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, which this year received a record number and breadth of entries. As documented in this report, our work to advance participatory governance throughout the Commonwealth has led to real and lasting change, including within Commonwealth Ministerial processes. And our work on inclusion of lesser-heard voices in complex areas such as peace processes and climate justice has helped drive shifts in attitudes and approaches. We have forged new and stronger partnerships, most critically with our Commonwealth partners and colleagues. And we have continued to work on strengthening our own internal procedures: prioritising transparency and accountability in all aspects of our work.

Read the complete introduction inside the report. 

Download Annual Report 2019/20