promoting increased & more effective funding in Africa
The African Grantmakers Network is holding its second conference in Johannesburg. It is exciting to see such a mix of philanthropy organizations gathererd in one place. The fact that national and international networks are present denies the question that there is no philanthropy sector in Africa.
The conference is being streamed live, so check it out. www.africangrantmakers.org
The push to do good and do well by investing to address social problems in contrast to giving is not new. There appears to be a global push to bury the debate that a more business like approach to solving social problems is more effective. I still have my reservations about all of this this. But a recent article by Steven Barboza on thisdaylive.com explains Why African philanthropists seek “Africapitalism.”
The article highlights Tony Elumelu, founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation which is an “African based and African funded” foundation based in Nigeria that invests in small and medium sized enterprises through the partnership with Heirs Holdings, an African investment company headed by Elumelu. The line up of people associated with the foundation include Professor Michael E.Porter of the Harvard Business School who is listed as the “founding patron” and Dr. Wiebe Boer, the CEO who was formerly Associate Director of the Rockefeller Foundation,
Elumelu has coined the term”africapitalism” and you can sign up for the Africapitalist Newsletter to learn more about this approach. Check it out.
In March, 2012 AGAG held its annual retreat and the theme for this year was evaluation and learning. SUSAN GIBBS of the Wallace Global Fund, served as a Conversation Starter on the panel, “Views from the Field” and is author of this guest blog. What do you think?
Many funders seek to use their grant dollars and convening power to partner with advocates to advance progressive social change. Needless to say, the more transformative the agenda, the tougher it is to show impact in one- or two-year grant cycles. Social change requires advocacy, and advocacy is notoriously difficult to measure.
Does that mean funders should steer clear of supporting advocacy? I would argue the opposite. And I would pose the provocative question: Do we set grantmaking objectives for the world we want to see, or the world we can measure?
Advocacy in support of social change is not clear or clean. It is multivariate and chaotic. It is subject to overlapping pressures and actors. Its path is circuitous. It proceeds in fits and starts. It can take decades. And once success is achieved, there are always threats of reversals.
In addition, the connection between advocacy and transformative social change is indirect. For example, by my count, 18 African nations have passed legislation banning female genital mutilation/cutting. However, we can’t simply declare victory now that these bills have been signed. In fact, we are seeing some contradictory short-term effects such as the practice being driven underground or across national borders. In some settings, we are seeing the practice being performed on younger girls. Funders must see advocacy – in tandem with long-term community-led empowerment efforts – as a strategy over the long haul. Funders must be guided by the communities leading the charge.
Another challenge associated with advocacy – and strategies for evaluating it – is the fact that it often provokes fierce, explicit, and intentional opposition, and this opposition has become globalized. Progressive advocates in Kansas and Kampala are encountering some of the same actors, messages, and funding flows. Success in the short term can have the perverse effect of galvanizing advocates on the other side. How should we best measure that?
Should these measurement challenges cause us to throw up our hands and give up? Definitely not. Despite the obvious methodological complexities, there are paths forward. For starters, we need to employ longer timeframes when evaluating advocacy. We should focus on measuring social trends rather than individual grantee outputs. We should measure the organizational capacity of advocacy organizations, looking at such metrics as transformational leadership; the ability to course correct and innovate; and success in stewarding and deploying scarce resources effectively. In the words of Tanya Beer at the Center for Evaluation and Innovation, we need to “allow for uncertainty and emergence.”
As a funding community, we need to connect more and learn from one another and fund more advocacy evaluation, not less. Hopefully AGAG can help our community progress. As with the advocacy approaches we fund, there is force in numbers. Just because our evaluation measures and methodologies are challenging does not mean we should scale back our ambitions.
One of the sessions at the recent AGAG Annual Retreat on “Evaluation and Learning: Navigating the Range of Approches” explored the issue of supporting indigenous communities and the importance of understanding how to engage with them, learn from that engagement, and tailor your approach to be more effective. The session was the result of collaborative work between the Christensen Fund, the MacArthur Foundation, Global Greengrants Fund, and the Kivulini Trust, all doing work in this important area. One of the resources for more information is Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources.
The AGAG Annual Retreat is one of the rare opportunities where grantmakers interested in Africa come together to share with and learn from each other. The other important thing that happens at the Annual Retreat is the formation of new relationships between colleagues. Despite the trend to make virtual connections, nothing is more valuable than the relationship equity that is built from spending a few days of “face time” talking with and getting to know others in the field.
This year the AGAG Retreat will focus on “Evaluation and Learning: Navigating the Range of Approaches.” For funders working in Africa, it is a must attend event for a host of reasons, beginning with the chance to connect with colleagues including those based in Europe and Africa.
The agenda will feature six evaluation case studies from a diverse group of funders. Funders working in Africa and concerned about evaluation should not miss such a relevant and rich opportunity.
Jennifer Greene from the American Evaluation Association and Florence Etta of the African Evaluation Association are among the gues speakers. Check it out. You will be sorry you missed it. For a detailed agenda and information about how to register, go to www.africagrantmakers. org
The Stone Foundation has announced a prize to encourage innovation in addressing the lack of access to water. If you have an idea, you could get £100,000 to further your efforts. For more information check out their website http://www.thesff.com/the-prize/about-the-prize.
According to the UNICEF website – “Almost fifty per cent of the developing world’s population – 2.5 billion people – lack improved sanitation facilities, and over 884 million people still use unsafe drinking water sources. Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens thousands of children every day, and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands more.” (http://www.unicef.org/wash).
Seems like a basic problem to be solved if we are all going to move forward.
Understanding the context in which organizations are operating in another country can be daunting. This is especially true for post-conflict countries where the infrastructure has been destroyed. Although not in large numbers, private funders are investing in countries with varying degrees of instability such as Zimbabwe, Angola. Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.
Liberia is the West African country that emerged from years of civil war to make history as the first African country to elect a woman as Head of States. It has been very proactive in trying to assist funders in understanding developments in Liberia’s reconstruction and how their investments can fit within the country’s development priorities by establishing a Philanthropy Secretariat in 2009. Supported by foundations and housed in the office of the President, the Secretariat organized a four-day agenda for visiting funders in 2010. Another program is planned for March 2011.
As President Sirleaf has said about her country, “Liberia is not a poor country but a country poorly managed.” The Secretariat is an exciting step in improving the chances of greater impact by harmonizing philanthropic investment and the country’s priorities. I think it is an exciting move in the right direction.
Yvonne Moore of the Daphne Foundation was a guest blogger who wrote about this experiment in Encouraging Transparency in Philanthropy
While in Nairobi attending the meeting of the African Grantmakers Network, I was asked to share my thoughts about the meeting and developments in philanthropy. Check it out.
During my visit to Nairobi last month I stopped by the offices of the Kenya Community Development Foundation. Nestled on a corner near a shopping district it is well known to the local community as evidenced by those who helped direct my taxi driver.
The dynamic leader of KCDF, Janet Mawiyoo graciously took the time to talk to me despite her busy schedule. In addtion to managing the work of KCDF that includes building their endowment, KCDF has just finished hosting the inaugural meeting of the African Grantmakers Network. So having been away from the office for a week, her desk was piled high with things waitng for her attention. Our conversation touched on a range of topics from the history of KCDF to the stressful demands of raising operating funds and building their endowment to the theory of change that drives their work.
KCDF is a community foundation with a model for community development that was recently recognized by the Dubai International Award for Best Practice. It has worked with 29 communities to build endowment funds of over a million dollars. In October KCDF held the Community Open, a golf tournament that raises funds for the Ustawi initiative that is housed at KCDF and supports Kenyan communities to take innovative approaches to growing food.
My visit with KCDF was much too short. I wanted to learn more about their programs, their approaches and how they have managed to be so successful in involving all levels of the community in their efforts. Often, there is such skepticism about the impact of development efforts in Africa. KCDF is good example of what is working- well.
Last month I travelled to Kenya and South Africa in time to enjoy the blooming of the jacaranda trees. While it is not native to either country they are a favorite part of my visit to Nairobi and Cape Town. These are such beautiful trees and I always dream of seeing them flanking my driveway! But, I doubt if I would have any luck at all.
But the reason for my trip was not to gaze at the jacaranda trees but to attend two meetings of African grantmakers. The African Grantmakers Network (AGN) held its “!st Pan African Assembly” in Nairobi and in Cape Town the South African grantmakers came together to explore common issues including the idea of creating their own network. The common theme at both meetings was how grantmakers can make a difference with their support — which is also the reason why American funders came together to form the Africa Grantmakers’ Affinity Group (AGAG) a decade ago.
Listening to the discussions at both meetings I am reminded that creating a space where people come together around common interests is always more challenging than it appears. What AGAG has learned from our experience is that it is a process and not a product. The interaction and exchange that makes a learning community so exciting is both enriched and challenged by the diversity of the group.
I am sure we will be hearing more about both of these initiatives being spearheaded by a group of dynamic leaders in African philanthropy.