The Atenea Foundation – Reaching out to the Most Vulnerable Populations

Inmaculada Gómez Ortiz - Atenea Foundation

Interview with Inmaculada Gómez Ortiz, Public and International funding Coordinator at the Atenea Foundation

The Atenea Foundation is a Spain-based, generalist organization with an international vocation; its mission consists of fostering the rights and improving the quality of life of those socially vulnerable and suffering from exclusion; preventing the factors which could cause exclusion and; stimulating social and economic change through innovation, intervention, training and social research.

 Since more than 25 years the Atenea Foundation has not only specialized in social interventions to address the needs of people in vulnerable situations – in terms of prevention, support, damage-reduction and social integration, among others – but has also dedicated efforts to launch their own research projects and evaluation of public policies. As the Atenea Foundation and Dianova share similar objectives they often collaborate in various international forums.

Dianova: Can you describe the work of the Atenea Foundation in the field of social intervention?

Inmaculada Gomes Ortiz: In this specific field, the Atenea Foundation develops programs for people affected by one or several exclusion factors (minors at-risk or in social conflict, vulnerable youth and families, people with addiction-related problems, immigrants, people living with HIV/AIDS, abused and battered women, unemployed people, convicts and former convicts, etc.).

We focus on people's rights and we're dedicated to working with the people and for the people through in-depth analysis of whichever element capable of promoting social inclusion and by prioritizing social interventions for vulnerable and at-risk populations. Besides, we are also dedicated to social investigation, education and advocacy.

Did you notice arising trends or needs, what's the Foundation's responses to those needs?

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As a matter of fact, it is not so much about the emergence of new trends as it is about the emergence of a new context. The causes of exclusion are the same than before, but they've been aggravated due to the crisis. Inequality is not the product of the crisis, but the gap has grown during the last years, and those most vulnerable are the most affected.

We now have to face a much greater need for social interventions; in short, more is expected of us, despite fewer resources. In this regard, at the Atenea Foundation we're increasingly searching for different ways of raising funds from the private sector; being mindful that the public administration must keep on playing a necessary role in protecting vulnerable populations' rights.

Advocacy is critical to giving those with whom we work a voice and to bringing their demands to those likely to influence public policies and decision-making. In the last two years the Atenea Foundation has increased its effort in this area by participating in a number of civil society networks and platforms and by holding positions of responsibility in their management boards.

Can you tell us about the Foundation's most promising lines of investigation?

Since its inception, the Atenea Foundation has placed particular emphasis on social investigation and the evaluation of its own projects and that of public policies and social programs implemented by the government or related entities. In practical terms, this has resulted in a stable, dedicated team capable of observing and analyzing its environment, while identifying emerging intervention areas and methodologies. At the same time, we procure useful indicators in our commitment to improving public policies which directly affect the people we work with.

Our investigations are closely related to our intervention areas and the situations of the people we work with. You may find on our website the Foundation's latest investigations and studies regarding various issues including minors, women, immigrants, etc.

Could you elaborate about the national and international projection of your work?

As an organization with an international vocation the Atenea Foundation has decided to include a new internationalization objective, as part of its 2011-2015 strategic plan, to position the entity in other countries. A greater emphasis has been placed on three spheres of action: advocacy, research and consultancy and fundraising, and on three areas of interest, i.e. the United Nations, the European Union and Latin America.

In this respect, the Atenea Foundation was accorded a special, consultative status to the ECOSOC in 2011 and ever since, we have endeavored to increase our presence within international networks such as the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs, the Civil Society Forum on Drugs and the Ibero-American network of NGOs working in the addiction field (RIOD). Our participation in RIOD is especially meaningful since our Director General, Ms. Paz Casillas Martinez, has been the organization's treasurer since 2014.

Taking into account that our work was originally based on intervention and investigation in the addition field, it was all the more natural to start our internationalization project on the basis of this intervention field. It was somewhat fortunate that drug policy debates have now become an issue of current interest and international relevance thanks to the rapidly approaching UNGASS 2016.

Our presence in these networks has not only provided us with the opportunity of sharing and comparing our work with that of other organizations' abroad, but it has also allowed us to engage significant partnerships.  At the moment, we have to take on new challenges but we will face them bearing in mind the defense of those most vulnerable, including beyond our own borders.