For many years, civil society organisations (CSOs) depended on external funding to propel their activities and projects. With the rise in dwindling donor funding, CSOs are unable to get sufficient funding to implement and manage their projects, programmes and organisational development. This has provoked CSOs into identifying alternative ways to fund their activities without being over-reliant on donors. It is on this basis that the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) in collaboration with STAR Ghana Foundation, under the Giving for Change (GfC) programme organised a webinar series titled: Alternative Financial Models for Civil Society Organisatons. The objective of the webinar series was to introduce civil society organisations and actors across West Africa to three alternative funding mechanisms through shared learning and experiences from community foundations and grant makers in Africa.
The first webinar under this series focused on the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) model. The webinar was organised on 29 September 2022 with 11o participants from across Africa. As chair, Ruwadzano Patience Makumbe, a research fellow at WACSI and two seasoned guest speakers, Omolara Balogun, the head of Policy Influencing and Advocacy, WACSI and Bernie Dolly, Executive Director of Ikhala Trust, led the conversation.
Introduction to the Asset-based community development model
Omolara Balogun in her delivery – illustrated in figure 1 below – introduced CSOs to the ABCD model as an alternative model which organisations can leverage to mobilise resources for their programmes and institutional development.
Figure 1: Introduction to the ABCD Model. Source: WACSI, 2022
Omolara indicated that the ABCD model is about assessing the strengths that organisations possess and building on that to foster their dreams and ambitions.
“It entails allocating roles and power to every member of the community and believing that everyone has something to offer for the growth of the community,” she stated.
She presented participants with the benefits of the model, accentuating its ability to help cultivate relationships among members and provide a means of assigning more roles and power to community members and local institutions.
Omolara shared different types of assets organisations and communities possess which can be strengthened to foster growth. They include the people, economy, institutions, associations, the physical and natural spaces and their stories and histories.
Using the leaky bucket as an example, Omolara guided participants through various mechanisms which could be used to identify and mobilise the different types of assets, paying keen attention to some of the natural assets around the communities which most organisations did not consider as assets. She encouraged participants to have a retaining culture in order to have adequate resources thereby ensuring financial sustainability
Nonetheless, for the ABCD model to be successful, there are key principles which organisations and communities need to adopt. Thus, ABCD should be citizen-centered, completely asset-based, inclusive and participatory, internally focused and should be driven by relationships.
Figure 2: Illustration of the leaky bucket
After the amazing presentation by Omolara, participants were permitted to ask questions, get clarifications and make recommendations and/or proposals. The questions asked revolved around strategies for effective communication, convincing donors that community solutions need to be community-driven and encouraging colleagues to use their skills when they are employed for specific purposes. Participants were challenged to move from a needs-based perspective to focusing on identifying the resources they have as an organisation, which are useful in the activities they carry out and link them to the challenges and problems they face.
Experience sharing from IKhala Trust
Ikhala Trust had been advocating for the ABCD approach in South Africa for a very long time.
Figure 3: Overview of the ABCD Model
Source: WACSI, 2022
In sharing Ikhala Trust’s experience, Bernie Dolly mentioned the need to start planting seeds in the communities through listening to their stories and helping them identify potential assets within themselves and their communities. When communities are properly exposed to this philosophy, it no longer is considered a method but a way of being and a way of living.
“If ABCD is not transforming me as a vehicle through which this work must happen, then it is not going to happen at the community level. You, as the person advocating and pushing this agenda have to believe it yourself, because if you don’t, it is very difficult to convince anybody else that this approach actually works,” Bernie Dolley.
In highlighting the work Ikhala Trust is doing, she stressed that they only supported communities that had already initiated projects using their own assets. They call this the ‘leverage fund’. The objective is to enable organisations to start focusing on the assets they have which are not always money related and leverage their human, social, environmental, and cultural assets. Some key points she asked participants to reflect on was on how their organisations work within their communities and their level of commitment to change. It is worth noting that Ikhala Trust’s successes did not go by without failures, but they continue to focus on working from the appreciation rather than starting with the challenges.
In her concluding remarks, Omolara encouraged participants to work on putting in place an ABCD system that they can always fall back on if the other models fail. Bernie on her part acknowledged the flexibility and adaptability of the model as it could be incorporated into any system. They both expressed their joy in having this opportunity to engage with participants and were hopeful that participants will embrace and push this philosophy in order to overcome the challenges faced by their communities.
No Community has nothing.