Jointly Exploring Innovative Solutions for Community-Led Development and Human-Centered Design

Community Philanthropy: Leveraging Local Support Towards Collective Success

agenda December 3, 2020

We believe that power needs to shift from top-down development towards communities in charge of their own sustainable impact. On the 26th of November, we’ve held our seventh session in this series which addressed the practice of Community Philanthropy. This session was organised in collaboration with Butterfly WorksThe Hunger Project, The Wilde Ganzen Foundation and The Movement for Community-Led Development.

The Universality of Philanthropy

The session was commenced by Esther Meester, who led us through the journey to community philanthropy initiatives of the Wilde Ganzen Foundation. In 2007 they started with their first program on domestic resource mobilisation, co-sponsored by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Domestic resource mobilisation was stimulated through a matched funding scheme provided by Wilde Ganzen. Local fundraising was deemed crucial to address rising social inequalities within emerging economies and to tap into opportunities provided by the growth of their middle classes. It also sought to address the increasing challenges in receiving foreign funding, which were increasingly influenced by shifting donor priorities, increasing conditions to this funding, and a reduction in civic space that left foreign fund reception politically compromising in certain countries.

Esther explained how the act of donating is neither new nor a practice that is restricted to countries in the Global North. Solidarity and donating to the less fortunate is deeply engrained in many cultures around the world, and thus local fundraising in itself should be perfectly feasible in countries in the Global South. A much newer phenomenon is donating to professional development organisations that work on social change, and through their 2007-2016 local fundraising project they found this to be a challenge in persuading members of the middle class to contribute.

Community Philanthropy

A much more powerful impact was seen in the fundraising efforts among the communities who would also be involved in the program it sought to finance. Not only did it greatly enhance the ownership of these communities, it also brought them together and produced a common voice for collective action. Based on these findings the Change the Game Academy was built, which is a capacity strengthening program offering training, coaching and a free online platform with e-learning on local fundraising and mobilising support to civil society actors.

Community philanthropy is based on the premise that all communities have their own assets (money, skills, knowledge, networks, etc.). When these are pooled together, they build community power and voice. This allows civil society organisations to be true drivers of community-led development, and therefore is a strategy to shift power within the development process. It has a number of notable advantages, being:

  • Ownership. Communities can define their own priorities, and are not constrained by project cycles or donor priorities to define their approach and needs.
  • Accountability. Fundraising locally requires more engagement with the community, and establishes an accountability relationship between the CSO and the community they are working with. This generates a more horizontal and integrated accountability structure.
  • Legitimacy and voice. Having a local support base increases an organisation’s legitimacy, and this support basis can also be mobilised to credibly represent their demands and needs towards external actors (e.g. private companies, the government). This local support simultaneously shields the CSO from certain external threats, such as political blackmailing efforts.
  • Power. The previous points all ensure the local community has a high degree of agency over the process of its own development. Bringing own resources to the table when negotiating with external donors also influences power dynamics.
  • Financial sustainability. Local funding can contribute to a diversified pool of income streams for CSOs, which will also be rendered much more effective due to the additional benefits it generates for the organisation.

Since its first engagement with this practice, the Wilde Ganzen Foundation has witnessed numerous projects across the world that work with community philanthropy practice. This includes work with marginalised communities and in low resource settings. This practice can thus be applied anywhere and for anyone!

“Sometimes it’s not about money, but it’s about engagement and recognition. If we are able to find the right people to work with, you’ll be able to achieve whatever you want to do!” – Francis Atiine, SILDEP

Taking On The Rosewood Industry In Ghana – Together!

Francis Atiine, from the Social Initiative for Literacy and Development Programme (SILDEP) based in Ghana, then led us through achievements in putting community philanthropy to practice. In recent years they worked together with WACSI, Wilde Ganzen’s partner in Ghana, to initiate a community-based advocacy effort against the practice of rosewood logging in the north of Ghana. The area is predominantly reliant on agriculture as a means for survival, and its already fragile savannah ecosystem was rendered more disrupted due to a change in rainfall patterns in recent years. An increase in rosewood logging activity threatened to aggravate this condition even further, and some of its own community chiefs were involved in the practice.

SILDEP’s efforts to mobilise the community against this practice were therefore met with some resilience at first, but as more time and effort was invested they managed to generate a community effort for the ban on rosewood logging. They raised funds from the local community through a variety of ways, including financial donations, in-kind donations (mostly fuel), and free air-time on local radio stations to discuss and spread the word. This effort mobilised over 1,000 people to sign a petition against rosewood logging, and inspired 250 community members to join a protest in March against the formation of an international rosewood venture that was being started up in the area. As a result of this targeted and public advocacy led by the community, which at times explicitly targeted the political establishment on the local and national level, the Ghana Assembly revoked permits on rosewood exploitation and subsequently banned its harvesting and exporting.

SILDEP remains in close cooperation with the government and local authorities to ensure no illegal rosewood production is taking place, and have recently expanded this partnership to also encompass the practice of fertilizer smuggling to neighbouring Burkina Faso. The established network has left a sustainable foundation for this work to continue in the future, and the community ownership formed the crucial component to its success. Although fundraising has become more difficult due to the strain in funding, SILDEP hopes to secure future funding again and further the interests of its people!

Reflections

After this presentation the participants could briefly reflect upon this case and the practice of community philanthropy as a whole in break-out rooms. Some of its core thoughts revolved around the process of trust-building, and how that takes time and commitment from local actors which is often not granted in present-day international funding schemes. A part of this trust could however be established through their participation in the entire development process, including the planning and design phase, as this will ensure their priorities are incorporated. At the end of the day, the most successful partnerships yield their results from the shared dreams they work towards!

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