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What is a smart grant risk?

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

Guest post by Carol Schifferling, SIA Supporter

Anyone interested in understanding core principles that small-grant organizations like SIA use to lift individuals and entire villages from poverty to self-sufficiency will find Smart Risks: How small grants are helping to solve some of the world’s biggest problems enlightening.

While reading, Smart Risks, I learned that grant risks are smart when they are based on what is learned through caring, freely communicative relationships with the actual individuals who are struggling with poverty.

Villagers and their leaders know what they need and very often smaller but flexible grant organizations like SIA are able to gain understanding through careful listening. This leads to more useful financial support. Larger, corporate grant charities often don’t reach down to grassroots levels for ideas, solutions and feedback but instead decide to fund what they think is most needed.

A powerful quote on page 76: “Who defines innovation matters. We can think of innovation as simply including previously-excluded people in decision-making and accountability mechanisms.”

An example of local innovation: In the home of Ursula Jepkurgat-Kogei. She raises chickens and the baby chicks are kept warm overnight in the hole below the cooking stove.

Local Solutions

A beautiful example from another organization is the story of Alex. Alex, an Ugandan village leader, began misusing small-grant money meant to pay for a needed bridge. When this was discovered, instead of immediately withdrawing the grant and thereby humiliating Alex, (as larger and less flexible companies might do,) the small grant organization Spark MicroGrants took a smart risk by giving the community time, trust and encouragement to solve this problem itself. The community did this by kindly and respectfully helping Alex confess his mistakes, change his ways, and still remain an important and useful member of his community. They completed the bridge.

Reading Smart Risks, Tanya’s blogs and newsletters, which are all filled with personal stories of villagers lifting each other out of poverty through SIA, inspires and moves me more deeply than ever.

Thank you, Carol, for your long-time support of Spirit in Action!

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