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FROM THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD
The year 2020 was a challenging year for Aurora, as for almost everyone else around the world. However, we had a great start to the year when we celebrated Aurora´s 13th birthday with a formal opening of our office in Freetown, greeted two professors from the Art University of Iceland who came and gave seminars in two of our projects, and last but not least started with our first Cohort in our Pre-Acceleration program. However, as the Pandemic spread and Sierra Leone closed its borders, we closed the office for a few months to wait out the first wave of the pandemic. We are though proud to have pursued most of our goals and continue with all of our projects throughout the year, despite the closure of the office. The majority of the Foundation’s activities continued to be concentrated in Sierra Leone, although we continued with smaller projects in Iceland and started a new exciting collaboration. The equity position of the fund in ISK remains quite good and even increased
slightly, as the capital gains outweighed the cost of running Aurora and its projects.
Contributions to projects in 2020 were substantially less than in the previous year, largely due to heavy capital investments in the year 2019 and due to some slowdown in projects due to COVID19. In total, seven different projects received just over 19m ISK or 144,000 USD in contribution during the year, with the majority of the contribution to the projects in Sierra Leone.
The most substantial contribution in 2020 was to one of Aurora´s flagship projects, Aurora Impact, which received around 12.8m ISK (95,000 USD). Some of the activities under the project had to be canceled or postponed due to COVID. Still, the largest component, the Pre-Accelerator program, continued throughout the year, although for a few months, it was only run digitally. The next three contributions were fairly equal in size. Two were to the other flagship projects in Sierra Leone, the Sweet Salone project and the Lettie Stuart Pottery, who each received around 1.7m ISK (12,600USD) and 1.6m ISK (11,900 USD), respectively. The Sweet Salone project is slowly becoming a financially sustainable project. The goods produced under the label of Sweet Salone are increasing each year, and the
subsequent sale, starting to cover a larger share of the project’s cost. The aim is to have it fully sustainable. The Lettie Stuart Pottery project was most affected by the COVID19 pandemic, as a new project with the pottery was supposed to take off in the autumn but was postponed until January 2021. Aurora received funding to the tune of 4m ISK to partially finance that project from the Government of Iceland. The funding will be utilised in 2021. The third one was to the longest-lasting project of Aurora, the Kraumur Music Awards in Iceland, but it received 1.7m (12,600 USD).
The fifth-largest project in 2020 was Aurora Music. At the beginning of the year, we started preparing two Sierra Leonean musicians for participating in the Reykjavik Art Festival, which was to happen in June 2020. However, due to the pandemic, their participation has been postponed until 2022. Under the Aurora Music project, Aurora went into two-year cooperation with Mengi, a multi-purpose event space managed by artists in Reykjavik, where Aurora will give Mengi some financial support, and in return, Mengi will host some events for Aurora. In total, Aurora´s contribution in 2020 to Aurora Music amounted to 820,000 ISK (6,000 USD).
The remaining two projects were small, one in Iceland and the other one in Sierra Leone. The one in Iceland supported a documentary called The Hero’s Journey to the Third Pole, about mental health issues. The documentary was launched as the opening film at RIFF (Reykjavik International Film Festival) in September. The other one was to our partners at GGEM, but we supported them in supporting their clients at the beginning of the Pandemic, to sensitize about the importance of handwashing and mask-wearing, we also distributed 2500 masks and sanitizers, and hand soap.
No changes were made in the Board of Aurora during the year, but there were changes in the Aurora office in Sierra Leone. In January, Makalay Suma joined us as a Project Coordinator for our Sweet Salone project.
I want to thank my fellow board members, the executive director of Aurora, and the staff of Aurora in Sierra Leone for good cooperation in 2020.
Activities during the year 2020
The Board of Aurora Foundation held six board meetings during the year. The Annual Board meeting was held on 5th of May.
Board & employers
At the annual board meeting on the 5th of May, the board was re-elected and thus the board
is set up of the following individuals:
● Ólafur Ólafsson
● Ingibjörg Kristjánsdóttir
● Birta Ólafsdóttir
● Stefán Ingi Stefánsson
● Ómar Berg Torfason
President of the board is Ólafur Ólafsson
The Foundation has its permanent residency at 7-15 Kjalarvogur, 104 Reykjavik. Whilst the Freetown office is at 186 Wilkinson Road, Freetown.
The Fund Finances
Financial markets in Iceland, Europe, and the USA rallied towards the end of the year after dipping at the beginning of the Pandemic. All of Aurora´s main markets, therefore, showed an increase for the year. In addition, the ISK weakened against its major currencies during the year, especially the EURO, which means an increase in the ISK value of the FXdenominated assets. Therefore, further improving the financial gains in 2020, measured in ISK. However, weighing against a large part of this positive gain in the financial market, Aurora needed to write down a small portion of its assets during the year. After spending more than the fund gained over the past few years, the capital gains in the year 2000 were higher than spending on projects and its running cost. Hence, its assets increased somewhat.
Assets at the end of the year 2020 were 983.544.071 ISK, an increase of just over 42m ISK. Contribution to projects during the year amounted to 19.434.538 ISK, while we received 4.000.000 ISK in project funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iceland. The operational cost of the fund was 42.854.436 ISK. After contributing to projects and operating costs and taxes, the fund’s return was positive for the second year in a row, by almost 11%.
The Fund Finances
Aurora has a web page, www.aurorafoundation.is where the Charter of the Foundation is published along with other information on Aurora Foundation and all the projects it has supported and implemented through the years. Information regarding the board members may also be found on the web page.
Aurora operates a Facebook page where all major news are published, and an Instagram account where photos related to Aurora projects can be found.
In April 2020, Aurora launched their webshop www.aurorawebshop.com to meet the growing demand for Sweet Salone products.
Contribution to projects in 2020
Aurora contributed in total around 19,5m ISK (145,000USD) to 7 different projects in fields such as arts and crafts, education, economic activity, entrepreneurialism, music, and humanitarian activities, both in Iceland and in Sierra Leone. Out of the seven projects, five are Aurora’s own executed projects.
1. Sweet Salone: Design, arts and crafts ………………………………USD 13,000
2. Aurora Music ………………………………………………………….. USD 6,000
3. Kraumur, Music Award …..……………………………………………USD 12,800
4. Aurora Impact ………………….………………………………………USD 95,000
5. Lettie Stuart Pottery Center and School …………………………….USD 12,000
6. The Third Pole, documentary …..…………………………..………..USD 3,700
7. GGEM Microfinance……………………………………………….…..USD 2,000
1. Own projects
1.1 Icelandic projects
Kraumur Music Awards
The Kraumur Music Awards is an annual music prize awarded for the best albums released by Icelandic artists during the year. In 2020 the 13th Kraumur Music Awards were awarded in December. This time was a bit different due to the pandemic. Instead of the traditional ceremony, the awards were presented in a shop window on the main shopping street in Reykjavik, with all spectators standing outside. All details of the Awards can be found here.
Eldar Ástþórsson has been the director of the awards since 2014, and the president of the jury has been Árni Matthíasson, a journalist at Morgunblaðið newspaper, one of the main newspapers in Iceland.
The panel in 2020 was made up of the following persons; Árni Matthíasson (chairman), Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen, Helga Þórey Jónsdóttir, Lovísa Rut Kristjánsdóttir, María Lilja Þrastardóttir Kemp, Óli Dóri, Rósa Birgitta Ísfeld, Trausti Júlíusson, and Þorbjörg Roach Gunnarsdóttir.
For further information about Kraumur, and all the work that Kraumur Music Fund has supported, please visit the website.
1.2 Sierra Leone projects
Sweet Salone Design Project, Sierra Leone
In 2020, Aurora continued its Sweet Salone project in cooperation with the three design teams, As We Grow, 1+1+1, and Hugdetta, and started a new collaboration with Terrably Good in the USA.
During the pandemic Aurora continued to cooperate with the Sierra Leonean artisans. In most instances during the general lockdown in Sierra Leone, The Sweet Salone project was their only customer. The cooperation between the artisans, the designer teams, and Aurora continued to work very well, and some new prototypes were made. There was one new design team from the USA that started during the year, and production went very well. At the end of the year, it was decided to discontinue the cooperation between As We Grow and Aurora after a very successful collaboration over the past few years. The stock of products was donated back to Aurora to be sold at the webshop.
In November and December, two pop-up markets were held with the Sweet Salone products, one in Freetown and the other one in Reykjavik. Both were a great success.
The sale of products increased during the year, which resulted in substantial orders to the artisans. Large orders were also made towards the end of the year to prepare for a shipment of the first container out of Sierra Leone. To further increase sales, a web sales page was launched in 2020 www.aurorawebshop.com
To further measure the impact of this project on our partners, Aurora developed an Impact Assessment form and will be launching a webpage showing the main impact each year of this project.
The project continues in 2021.
Two of the Sierra Leonean musicians participating in Aurora´s Music project: Music Writing Week 2018, were offered to perform in Reykjavik Arts Festival 2020. The invitation was a collaboration between the Reykjavik Art Festival and the Aurora foundation. However, due to the pandemic the invitation needed to be postponed until the next Festival in 2022.
But that was not our only activity with Aurora Music in the year. In the middle of the pandemic’s first wave, we signed a two-year contract with Mengi, a multi-purpose event space managed by artists in Reykjavik, where Aurora will give Mengi some financial support in return, Mengi will host some events for Aurora. We managed to use a small window in early December and host a Sweet Salone pop-up market in Mengi, but our intention to host the Kraumur Music Awards was impossible due to COVID-related restrictions.
Lettie Stuart Pottery Center and School
The year started with valuable cooperation between Aurora and the Art University of Iceland when a professor from the University visited Sierra Leone and gave a 2 week seminar to the pottery students. Also, the Pottery Center started giving workshops on Saturdays that were a great hit and a good extra income for the Center. Unfortunately, after a great start, the Pottery School needed to be stopped for almost five months due to the COVID pandemic. Hence the graduation got postponed until 2021. The Center was also closed for workshops and other events, and there were only marginal operations going on during the time.
In July, Aurora signed a contract with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iceland to support developing the pottery center and make it operationally sustainable. The project was intended to start already in August but was postponed until January 2021. Subsequently, Aurora made a new contract with SLADEA about continued support.
Nevertheless, Aurora continued to support the operation of the center throughout the year. We were focusing on problem solving. For example, there are lots of issues with the clay used, most of the time, it does not hold water, and extensive research was carried out into trying to find a solution. That work continues in 2021.
Large orders continued to be made to the center during the year through Aurora’s Sweet Salone program, and some new prototypes were requested. However, only part of the orders were fulfilled due to problems with the clay and lack of efficiency in the center.
The project continues in 2021.
Aurora created a new program in 2019 called Aurora Impact. A program whose primary focus is to inspire and empower young entrepreneurs. Within Aurora’s office, there is a space where entrepreneurs and small companies have access to excellent facilities, a creative environment, mentors, a place to network, and other things that will help them grow and work towards their business ideas and goals.
In 2020, Aurora Impact organised a 2-week Fashion Design course in cooperation with the Art University of Iceland and two beginner ICT training, with 34 participants. Aurora Impact then started its first pre-accelerator Cohort. In total 7 startups joined our first Cohort, and they graduated in October. The second Cohort of the pre-accelerator program began in November 2020 and had 8 startups. Cohort 2 continued into 2021. Due to COVID-19, we were not able to organise empowerment events.
Aurora also set up an advisory committee in 2020 to assist Aurora in formulating new courses and assessing the applicants of the pre-accelerator program.
The program continues in 2021.
2 Funded projects
2.1 Icelandic projects
Þriðji póllinn, The third pole, documentary
The documentary The Third Pole deals with issues related to mental health in a poetic way. It follows the singer/songwriter Högni Egilsson to Nepal, where he participates in a concert organized to raise awareness of Mental Health issues.
The documentary premiered as the opening film at the Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF) in September.
Aurora Foundation supported the publication of this documentary.
2.2 Sierra Leonean projects
GGEM, Micro Credit Facility
Aurora has an outstanding loan agreement with GGEM, that was paid out in 2019. When COVID19 hit, GGEM reached out to Aurora for support to their clients. Aurora responded and donated 2500 face masks, 100 bottles of sanitizer, and hand soap to GGEM for distribution. In addition to supporting advertisements of the importance of washing hands and wearing masks.