What comes to mind when you hear these phrases; giving for change, shift the power, community philanthropy, local giving, delocalisation of aid? To some people, these all fall under the same umbrella while to others, they should be treated as separate entities.
For many years now, the African continent has engaged in activities of giving in diverse ways; through funeral donations, crisis and disaster responses and many others. Conversations continue to emerge on how these can be undertaken more intentionally to propel social change as well as a change in power dynamics.
In this regard, the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), in partnership with STAR Ghana, organised a Giving for Change learning and reflection workshop which took place at Alisa Hotel, Accra, Ghana from 10 – 16 July 2022. This annual event, which is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, brought together 50 partners from Africa, Asia and South America, who shared their various experiences, networked and engaged in discussions around building better communities.
After 18 months of intensive programmatic work, Giving for Change partners convened to discuss how they could work together to advance community philanthropy across the globe, create a space for emerging innovations and document best practices and lessons learnt.
“This programme is a spread of different actors within the development space, re-inventing how we are doing philanthropy and seeing how best we can connect practices to promoting philanthropy,” stated Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Head, Knowledge Management Unit, WACSI.
In his interview, the Executive Director of STAR Ghana Foundation, Alhadji Ibrahim Tanko outlined the lessons they had learnt from the project inception till present. He disclosed the fact that there was a high level of mistrust between individuals and organisations and most individuals only donate when they strongly believe in the cause. “The manner in which the issue is packaged determines the level of giving”, he stated. There was therefore a need to address problem-specific donations when tackling community giving.
Secondly, CSOs are seen as organisations with existing resources. This mindset hindered a giving attitude and pushed people to donating more to other more trusted organisations. For example, people prefer to donate to the media than to these organisations due to observed good media practices.
Regarding the challenges, Mr. Tanko identified underdeveloped online donation platforms and the inability of the government to create an enabling environment that fosters giving.
“You can’t produce good results from flawed structures,” Jenny Hodgson, Executive Director and Founder, Global Fund for Community Foundations.
When asked to mention what they were leaving behind and what they hoped to gain, participants indicated that they were leaving behind pessimism, the spirit and practice of working in silos, the fact that INGOs will shift power and project-oriented thinking.
They hoped to gain knowledge and understanding of how CoPs are working in-country, their constraints, structures, and successes, different approaches in raising local resources within different communities, diverse cultural implementation strategies as well as effective tools for systematic change.
Day two of the event involved group discussions where participants had breakout sessions. Within their various groups, participants discussed what innovative practices they wanted to try, what they will do more and less of and what they will end. The group discussions were centered around M&E, accountability, diversity and inclusion, language, and communities of practice.
Some very pertinent questions were raised during these group discussions:
- What are the things that need to be reported, based on what is already being reported?
- How do we develop the constituencies we need to develop the society we want?
- Are we shifting our own power?
- How do we ensure that GfC is institutionalised in organisations so that it is embedded in their strategic plans?
- Do our values and driving principles enable us to stay on track with the project objectives?
- How do we support communities in identifying their needs?
- How do we engage in issue-based and country-based learning?
Based on the discussions of days one and two, participants identified the key points that needed to be addressed more elaborately and these were used as the topics of discussion for day three. Group discussions were therefore focused on diving into communities of practice, participatory grant making, online crowdfunding and moving away from capacity building towards local potential for development.
The sessions were truly engaging, and participants were very analytical and innovative in their discussions and presentations. The evolution of local philanthropy from the 90’s to present date was traced and representatives from different organisations were able to present their experiences and lessons learnt in relation to philanthropy from creation to present. They delineated their challenges and successes and provided a platform for others to duplicate. Some organisations had gone as far as composing songs on giving for change and local philanthropy.
The event ended with a cultural night where the different countries were represented in their beautiful traditional regalia, with each explaining the significance of their outfit. This was an expression of the fact that, though we all may have different values and cultures, it is more important to focus on our similarities. In this case, it means focusing on developing better communities. Participants expressed their gratitude and promised to put into practice the lessons learnt within their respective organisations.
One key take-away message from this event was the fact that capacity building is still very relevant but there is a need for a paradigm shift where communities themselves identify their needs. This brings about more ownership and better progress. If we therefore need to shift the power, the communities must be at the forefront.