Mining for meaning to understand philanthropy in Uganda

09 Aug 2021

Jacqueline Asiimwe, CEO, CivSource Africa

In the wake of the first COVID-19 lockdown in Uganda, CivSource Africa documented a trend that we were suddenly awake to. Ugandans were giving in droves, to support the effort to stem the pandemic. Not only that, in his weekly televised addresses to the nation during that period, President Museveni read out list upon list, of the donations for the COVID relief effort ranging from giving by corporate companies, all the way to everyday Ugandans.

What became a collection of a few stories, quickly morphed into four volumes titled “Generosity in the time of COVID-19” (the four volumes are available on both the CivSource and GFCF websites). We were honored to share and spread the word about the outpouring of generosity.

This year, we decided that it was prudent to look back at all the stories we collected and to mine them for meaning. We wanted to understand what the stories told us about the fabric of giving in Uganda. We wanted to know what the stories told us about the drivers of giving, what kind of giving was generated and why, and to the extent possible, we wanted to glean lessons about how to harness this giving, not just during COVID, but beyond. We also wanted to know what the stories did not tell us, and to learn what more we should be asking and researching as we get to know giving in Uganda.

The result of that inquiry is our latest report: “Taking a second look: Analysis of the generosity during the time of COVID reports.” The report explores the cultural rootedness of philanthropy in Uganda. It considers the four volumes as an attempt at documenting and creating a basis for accountability for some of the money raised during that period. The report points out that a common theme from the stories is humanity, expressed in the word ‘Ubuntu.’ The centering of humanity as expressed during the lockdown, is important because the dominant narrative around philanthropy seems to be “hu-MONEY-ity”, as opposed to humanity. Those who give money are more celebrated than those who perform other acts of giving. The report restates the fact that all giving counts – whether it be treasure, time, or talent.

The other broad themes explored in the report include gender and philanthropy, technology and philanthropy, giving by differently abled persons and diaspora giving.

The report recommends continual documentation of giving practices in Uganda, and advancing towards policy conversations about how to promote, propel and protect philanthropy in Uganda.

Of course there is more to mine from the four volumes than meets the eye, but we offer this as a crucial start.


By: Jacqueline Asiimwe, CEO, CivSource Africa

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