promoting increased & more effective funding in Africa
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.
AGAG collaborated with two colleague groups – the International Human Rights Funders Group and the International Funders For Indigenous People on a briefing call on land grab, water supply and indigenous communities in Africa. In listening to Delme Cupido of the Open Society Institute in Southern Africa and Anuradha Mittal of the Oakland Institute talk about the issues from their respectively dispersed geographic offices, I am reminded of how technology has made these global village discussions possible.
At the same time, I am struck with how important these issues are for the range of funders supporting development projects in Africa and yet how most funders who don’t fund this topic specifically, might not see how it relates to their grantmaking.
The call was targeted to grantmakers, so if you are a funder and missed it I encourage you to contact the IHRFG to inquiry if you can gain access. The Oakland Institute has several great publications available on their website that provides more information. I encourage you to review them. They are quite useful in putting development issues in Africa in context.
I recently talked with Marcia Thomas of USA for Africa, one of the cosponsors of the recently launched Africa speaks 4 Africa, and invited her to do a guest blog about this relaunched initiative. She kindly agreed and it follows:
Africa Speaks 4 Africa is a newly launched, independent online magazine featuring the voices and perspectives of Africans on the continent and in the diaspora. The magazine provides a much needed space for dialogue and issue exchange—with Africans at the helm of the conversation.
Recognizing that an African perspective was somewhat limited in contemporary discourses on the continent, the site was built to give prominence to the thinking, ethos, and vision of the African people on all issues affecting their homelands. It was designed to appeal broadly and offer a diversified and lively exchange of ideas with ample opportunities for reader participation.
Within a week of its launch, the magazine received an encouraging and warm reception from hundreds of readers from North America, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, Egypt, Ghana, and the United Kingdom—which speaks both to the need and timeliness of a project that gives credence to African voices and reflects the lived realities of those most connected to the continent.
.We invite you to visit, share, and explore the site at www.africaspeaks4africa.org.
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.