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A new movement in local resources

There is a pretty exciting movement happening throughout Africa now, a movement within communities. Giving to the neediest and helping your neighbor are traditions long-established in many countries in Africa and now some of these informal groups are taking on a more official structure, in the form of community foundations!

Margaret's flat tire

The spirit of giving. A man on the street stops to help us change a flat tire in Kenya. Margaret from CIFORD Kenya looks on gratefully!

These community foundations, sometimes also called women’s funds or community grantmakers, use local resources (both money and social capital) in a organized and self-directed manner to reduce poverty and increase social justice in their community.

A Different Kind of Wealth, a 2012 report by the Global Fund for Community Foundations in South Africa, is a baseline study of twenty-one  active African community foundations. I got more and more excited as I read about this empowering movement that is already happening in southern and eastern Africa.

Community foundations are different from NGOs (non-governmental organizations) because they are not implementing projects in their community, but instead they are making small grants, building alliances, advocating to the local authorities for more social services on behalf of community, and taking time to really listening to community members.

Importantly, community foundations employ ‘horizontal’ giving (peer to peer giving), which is often overlooked in the discussions of grants in Africa in favor of ‘vertical’ giving (grants from outside). Community foundations find increased strength through blending this local spirit of generosity with some external resources and knowledge.

A man by his plot in the community garden in Meru, Kenya. (CIFORD Kenya)

A man by his plot in the community garden in Meru, Kenya. (CIFORD Kenya)

Although international sources (larger NGOs or matching funds) still contribute 45% of the foundations’ budgets, local individuals also contribute an impressive 33% of the budgets! Some of the foundations also invite grantees to give back to the fund, similar to Spirit in Action’s Sharing the Gift program, which increases local buy-in and makes the fund feel more and more like a true community resource.

What excites me is that there is such potential here for African resources to drive African development! These budding foundations are working towards each community’s goals for a more equal society, more engagement between local people and authorities, and poverty reduction. I’ll be keeping my eye on community foundations blooming in the places where SIA partners live!

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