Weaving the threads, shaping the cloth: harnessing public assets for public good

A recent peer learning event organized by the African Grantmakers Network and the East Africa Association of Grantmakers focused on sustainability, a topic that has caused much heartache and angst among both civil society and donors since the very first grant was ever made, back whenever that was. One of the presenters, was Kgotso Schoeman of the Kagiso Trust in South Africa, an organization that reached the promised land of milk and honey (so, sustainability) when a rather unique set of funding circumstances presented themselves fifteen years ago. These were seized upon by Kagiso’s leadership who some bold steps and set up an investment company which now funds the Trust’s programmes. With the economies of Sub-Saharan Africa growth projected to grow at 5.5 % over the coming years, asked Kgotso, is African civil society ready to shift from its “programme – fundraising” mind-set to one of “finance and investment”? Or was the plan just to wait for money to be made by others, who may then set up their own charitable foundations – to which we can all apply for grants? The NGO sector in Africa, he lamented, has been slow to respond to the seismic shifts that have occurred in the global environment.

“Ah,” responded many in the room (silently, obviously), “It’s all very well for you to say that, sitting as you do in your comfortable, sustainable, position. But it’s not so easy for the rest of us.”

At a day-to-day working-in-the-office level this is probably true. When you live on a hand to mouth, project-based, existence it can be hard to find the time or energy to think about how to fundamentally re-design your business model. But times are changing, and as the scramble for Africa’s mineral wealth continues and as privatization processes continue with more momentum than ever all over the world, are there new opportunities to harness some of those resources for the public good?

Well, the good news is that there are a number of positive developments that are taking place in terms of this conversation which can perhaps help lay the groundwork for some big and bold thinking and action around how public or quasi-public assets can be harnessed for the public good, particularly in emerging markets and developing contexts.

Precedent: A recent study, “Philanthropication thru Privatization: Buiding Asset for Social Progress”, led by Lester Salamon at Johns Hopkins University concludes that  more than 500 endowed, independent charitable foundations have been created or enriched during privatizations, most of them since 1990 and that together they control assets of $128 billion (see this article in the Economist). The study takes an in-depth look at 22 such “P-t-P” foundations (in Europe – starting with the Italian “foundations of banking origin” whose assets amount to over 50 billion euros, the United States and New Zealand). It concludes that there is a hitherto undiscovered or unconnected “family” of public benefit foundations which, despite the fact that they emerged in complete isolation from each other, derive from the same gene pool and together constitute what one consider a “field”.

 The Philanthropication thru Privatization Team presenting the “Findings to Date”, Hanover, Sept 2013

How might the experiences of this newly discovered field serve, then, to inform the development of new charitable institutions in other parts of the world where privatization is happening but where the foundation sector is still weak? The study observes, for example, that if 10% of 2007’s sale of 40% of the stock in Kenya’s Safaricom mobile phone network to the U.K.’s Vodaphone company had been dedicated to the creation of a Kenya Community Foundation, the result would have been a charitable institution with nearly US $65 million in assets. Food for thought….

Opportunity: The report observes that privatization (whether one likes it or not) is continuing to take place around the world at an unprecedented rate (2009 and 2010 were particularly busy) so now is the time to act. Similarly, as extractive industries (also dealing in a nation’s “iffy” public assets) are increasingly required to demonstrate long-term benefits to the countries and communities in which they are operating, can the creation of charitable foundations provide one type of long-term solution for local social and economic development? In Ghana, for example, the Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation is one example of an effort by a mining company to create an endowed, community-owned development foundation with resources derived from mining in the region.

A growing field of indigenous philanthropy: Getting the governance right in these types of “philanthropication thru privatization” foundations is clearly a big issue. How to ensure that they ensure their multi-stakeholder quality and aren’t just another funding mechanism for government? Well, one place to look is to the growing field of local foundations around the world – public benefit foundations, community foundations etc. – whose very existence and ability to raise local money derives from the credibility of their governance and management functions. Although many of these might not be rich in terms of financial capital (it’s slow work building up a local donor base, particularly in context where international development aid has ruled the roost for a long time), they are often rich in social capital and public trust. So, while historic precedent and the institutional track record of established P-t-P institutions in the North can offer one source of influence and learning, so this new generation of local foundations in Africa, Asia or Latin America has a lot to offer in terms of practical advice.

New donor interest in community philanthropy: A new donor collaborative, the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, offers another potentially important addition to this discussion. One of the broad objectives of the Alliance (whose members include the Mott Foundation, Aga Khan Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Inter-American Foundation and USAID) is to demonstrate is that fostering local ownership and accountability in development processes (including the creation and stewardship of long-term local assets) leads to stronger communities and that this should be a key focus of development practitioners in their pursuit of sustainability.

‘What will make us different?’ The first five years of the Uluntu Community Foundation

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? 
TS Eliot, ‘The Wasteland’

The pipe-dream of sustainability …

Sustainability is the issue at the heart of most community foundations – and the environmental meaning of the word is as important as its organizational significance, particularly in a country and a continent subject to increasingly unpredictable rainfall and erratic climatic conditions, both of which compound the physical challenges of securing a livelihood from the land. Add to these natural circumstances a set of economic factors that has laid waste whole communities, seen poverty and unemployment reach worrying heights and gross national product nosedive, and sustainability begins to seem something of a pipe-dream. And then top all that with a political state of affairs that has made your country an international pariah, severely reduced any appeal it might have held for international investors, and threatened to damage the social cohesion of communities themselves – and you have a cocktail of difficulties that most people would run away from.

So the fact that the Uluntu Community Foundation, far from doing so, has recently recorded its fifth year of operation (it was registered in 2008) is impressive enough. That it has done so while keeping true to its founding principles and maintaining the same core of volunteer board members is doubly astounding. In this stony ground, Uluntu has laid down roots and caused branches to grow that show every chance of enduring and flourishing. Just read this, about two gardening projects:

The generous donation to the people of Sinkukwe and Zhokwe has enabled these two groups, managed by women, to start up income-generating projects from their nutrition gardens. The projects directly benefit children – particularly orphans – and the elderly by providing healthy and fresh vegetables, as well as crops each farming season. The gardens have become educational platforms and have helped impart survival skills to the women and their families. Through the income realized from the selling of garden produce, the wardens have further managed to purchase other livestock such as cattle, goats and chickens. In appreciation of the support they have received, Ms Jessie Ncube, Chairlady of the Njabulo group, had this to say, ‘We have been equipped and we will not look back but move forward with developing ourselves.’

Nutrition garden supported by Uluntu CF

How did this come about?

If, at first, …

Uluntu is an emerging community foundation based in Bulawayo, in the west of Zimbabwe. Registered in 2008, it aims to foster and support a type of development driven by local people rather than by external agencies. Indeed, this spirit of a people-centred organization is captured in the organization’s name: ‘Uluntu’ means ‘people’ in isiNdebele, the main local language of Western Zimbabwe.

In the context of much of sub-Saharan Africa, where international development aid has often crowded out notions of local philanthropy, the vision of a local philanthropic institution might be seen to be bold. In Zimbabwe, it feels beyond bold.

Economic, political and personal backgrounds

In 2013, Zimbabwe was ranked 172 out of 187 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index.[1] Hyperinflation, the demise of the ‘zim’ dollar, the crashing of the country’s economy, all created extraordinarily difficult trading environments. And the Matabeleland Provinces (North and South) are some of the poorest parts of Zimbabwe, with poverty levels estimated at 80% and unemployment at 90%. In recent years, local industry has all but ground to a halt, and the lack of economic opportunities in the region has resulted in high levels of migration to South Africa, particularly among economically active young women and men. This is where Uluntu has elected to work.

The Uluntu Community Foundation was not, in fact, the first such venture undertaken by its founding member, Inviolatta Moyo. She had previously worked in the Community Foundation for the Western Region of Zimbabwe, but the foundation had faced its own set of challenges and had eventually come to change its focus: ‘Things started too well previously,’ she says and, when economic circumstances changed, she ended up losing ‘the zeal and direction’ and becoming ‘frustrated and sometimes very confused’. Having always been convinced that community foundations were the way forward, however, she was determined not to be discouraged by this but to see it as an object lesson in how to refine the model for the next attempt.

Two things emerged from this earlier experience: her conviction that rapid growth was unlikely to lead to sustainability and her belief that success would depend on her building up a close network of relationships with others who shared her vision.

Relationships – the building blocks of Uluntu

The issue of trust was a crucial factor here: in a country where institutions have too often failed the people they should be serving, Uluntu would prioritize the building of relationships, recognizing that these can’t be built up quickly or easily and that, to many Zimbabweans, trust is an entirely new currency to be dealing in. As the political and economic circumstances in Zimbabwe evolved, the robust network of people and communities that Uluntu would gradually build up would be what set the organization apart, and what would make it a strong, valuable resource for new partners.

In this endeavour, Inviolatta’s co-trustees, the current board members of Uluntu, were first in terms of importance. They were the ones who encouraged her to embark on a new venture. But their composition and their pattern of behaviour also set the benchmark for the foundation as a whole. The board members were drawn from a range of backgrounds, with an equally mixed experience of national and international experience, and a range of skill sets – journalism, education, commerce, broadcasting and civil service – that guaranteed coverage of all the fledgling foundation’s needs and, combined, related perfectly to its mandate. There was also an equal gender mix but, perhaps more significantly even than any of this, the members were unified by a sense of all being in it together: nobody expected any allowance or stipend for their involvement but instead gave freely of their time and of their resources – hosting meetings at their homes, donating furniture, lending cars or petrol, contributing money to get Uluntu’s bank account opened. This was a shared journey they were all on together, and it was one that they were going to undertake patiently and without compromising on any of their principles. The words of Thomas à Becket in TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral were almost made for Uluntu:

The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed, for the wrong reason.

Listening to communities

Patience and the refusal to lose sight of their founding principles lie behind everything Uluntu does and are equally at the basis of its relationships with the communities in which it works. Some funding organizations come into communities with a clear idea of the projects they want to develop; inevitably, the communities pick up on the funders’ agenda and identify either the burgeoning project or the need for such a project, in order to secure the funding. The project may represent the community’s most important need but, equally, it may not. Uluntu likes to think it operates differently. Since relationships are at the heart of its activity, what it does first is to establish a relationship with the community, listening to its representatives and members, waiting to hear from them what their most pressing concerns and needs are.

Initially, formal and informal meetings were held with friends, acquaintances and contacts to begin to identify the priorities and concerns of various communities and groups, initially in the Matabeleland South Province. The board and staff travelled to rural areas to gauge the temperatures of the communities there, and to begin to understand where the energy may be. The communities themselves had to be the drivers of any change they wanted to see in their local contexts: the foundation never saw itself as being the leader of this process, but rather a convener, broker or catalyst for community empowerment – an institutional partner that could help translate vision to reality.

So the Uluntu staff and board would call for and facilitate meetings with the communities involved, and then would simply listen as the ideas and brainstorms began to flow. Given the high exodus of working males from the region in search of employment opportunities in neighbouring countries, many of these conversations were held with females and youth groups.

Prioritizing relationship building, Uluntu was careful to ensure that partnerships and overlapping interests were the opening topics of all discussions – not funding or the promise of money. Busani Bafana, Uluntu’s current Chair, who brings with him a journalistic background and fresh perspective to this work, explains: ‘We put our cards on the table and get to know a community. We have seen other organizations try to come in with too many ideas, solutions and funds, and it doesn’t work.’ As a result of this lengthy, community-driven process, which spanned several years, Uluntu narrowed its programmatic focus to several key areas: education, food security and livelihoods, research, social entrepreneurship – and crosscutting topics such as the environment, HIV/AIDS and gender issues.

Busani maintains that it was not difficult to convince these communities that they should in fact be the leaders of the process: ‘Local giving, no matter how small, makes a big difference in the livelihoods of disadvantaged communities. What is locally rooted is guaranteed to last, because the sense of ownership is stronger and yields deeper commitment.’ And the recipe for the foundation’s success in encouraging this grassroots leadership? ‘Trust is our currency.’

Inviolatta pursues this idea:

When you go to the community without answers, automatically the energy is with the community. They are driving the vehicles they want to move forward. When we get there and listen to them, they are already in the driver’s seat. This instills a sense of ownership and trust and they gradually open up. It may take a few meetings, but then they believe in what you are doing.

It was also critical to relate to these communities and individuals on their terms, linking larger issues back to the familiar realities of day-to-day life, and in doing so encouraging the empowerment of households as development change agents themselves. Inviolatta elaborates: ‘Just ask them: “How have you coped before? How do we add to that?” It’s about addressing poverty from the micro level. This is the taking-off point.’

Funders and authorities – the routes into communities

These communities were accessible only if the representatives of Uluntu could get to them, of course. On a practical level, this was a serious issue, as many communities and projects are more than 100 kilometres away from Bulawayo, and the roads are rudimentary. With no funds to support vehicles of its own, Uluntu had, again, to rely on the goodwill of its trustees and founding members, who offered their own means of transport – and occasionally themselves as drivers! But on a political level, the foundation could work with these communities only if they had the approval of the local authorities under whose responsibility they fell – and here again the importance of relationship building came to the fore.

To have authorization to work in the wards they had targeted, Uluntu had to make several trips to five of the seven Rural District Councils operating in the Matabeleland South Province. These meetings eventually led to the issuing of memoranda of understanding – documents required of all organizations by the government – authorizing the activities of Uluntu in the districts. This arrangement, although a practical complication, creates easy access to communities and allows both Uluntu and the local authority to monitor the situation, which is particularly useful in the event of any conflict.

Last in the network of relationships is the relationship with funders. The ultimate objective of Uluntu, of course, is to be self-sustaining and to enable communities to be self-supporting, too. As Inviolatta puts it:

Local money is important because it means you are investing in your own community. After all, charity begins at home and raising local money is essential when it comes to building local trust, and it also means more local ownership and sustainability. For me, local money is for ever: a well that you can always draw from. Like a well, if it is well constructed, it can go on for ever. People are always there, ready to help, but they need someone to provide a platform through which to give … And communities already have their own assets, probably without realizing it. They work in their own small way on a day-to-day basis and manage their own economies in absolutely fascinating ways. What Uluntu does is add value to what already exists.[2]

If the goal of the journey was to get to a point where communities could sustain the projects which Uluntu’s support had enabled them to start, the community foundation had to source funds itself. To do so would not be easy, because just as Uluntu was determined not to impose on communities the projects it thought they should be doing, so too it was adamant that funders should not be able to dictate to it the programmes they thought it should engage in. This was dramatically to limit the pool of potential supporters. Yet, once again, the determination of this approach and the patience with which the foundation was determined to build its system of operation ended up attracting the interest of like-minded funding organizations that were happy to work in the way Uluntu proposed. International funders such as the American Jewish World Service, Global Greengrants Fund, the Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF) and the African Women’s Development Fund have all been in sympathy with the process Uluntu is engaged in, and all have been happy to invest in the process rather than to insist on project outcomes overnight. Inviolatta is quick to acknowledge the debt Uluntu owes these organizations:

Each of these external funders has been a huge strength in our ability to be able to leverage other sources of support. It would not have been possible for us to move our dream forward without these funders. The grants have cut down our otherwise long lead-time to start collaborative projects with communities … we have moved a notch higher in fulfilling our vision.

Important though the support of international funders may be, Uluntu was also aware of the dangers of a community foundation operating in isolation and without local or regional support. As a fledgling organization, what it needed was the experience and advice of other organizations operating in a similar field and in the same broad geographical region. To this end, Uluntu deliberately sought out other foundations as partners and has formed invaluable partnerships with the West Coast Community Foundation and the Community Development Foundation for the Western Cape. Within the broader region, it has also made a point of joining larger networks such as the Southern African Community Grant Makers Forum (on which the executive director of Uluntu sits as secretary of the board), the African Grantmakers Network, and the Worldwide Initiative for Grantmaker Support (WINGS). Synergos has also been an important source of support. These combined partnerships have been able to provide Uluntu with vital input in terms of knowledge processes and ideas on development initiatives.

This intricate network of relationships – within the foundation itself, with the communities it supports and works with, with the local authorities, and with regional and international funders and supporters – has already consolidated Uluntu’s position so that, despite the currently difficult economic and political conditions, Inviolatta and her colleagues are quietly confident that they have reached a stage where they can move forward. As Busani puts it: ‘Our slow growth has paid off. I’m glad we didn’t try to expand in 2008: we would not have succeeded but would have collapsed. Development really means raising funds slowly, building relationships and trust and moving ahead slowly.’

Starting points

What Uluntu started with is a set of values and principles, not an idea of the organization’s form or function.

‘What will make us different? It’s because we care’ is how Kingsley Dinga Dube, one of the founding board members of the Uluntu Community Foundation, used to define the work of the organization in the early days of its existence.

Founding principles

The premise on which Uluntu’s original staff (the same as are there today) began the foundation in 2008 was an absolute rootedness in the community and a belief in communities’ power to solve their own problems – a shared vision of a local Zimbabwean philanthropic grantmaking institution which could foster and support a type of development driven by local people rather than by external agencies.[3] Their belief that every person has something to give and that individuals should be put in charge of their own futures was unwavering and was, they felt convinced, the bricks on which independent, self-reliant communities would be built.

Patience and transparency – Uluntu’s early stages

Building the board

Uluntu started with seven citizens from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city, the founding members of the organization. With no office at their disposal, these members met where they could and established a pattern of working that has remained unchanged. Their first significant decision was to take their time, not to jump in at the deep end with solutions at the ready, but to complete a multi-year strategic plan, and carry out thorough baseline surveys to better focus their programming[4] – to move in an informed direction. This notion of patience comes up constantly when speaking with Inviolatta, who compares it with the tight timelines of more-traditional development projects: ‘We know that quick results often don’t last and that process is everything.’ According to her, a good part of the burgeoning institution’s first three years of existence was spent ‘lying low’, populating the board and learning to work together through regular meetings and intensive hands-on workshops.

Board members – drawn, as already stated, from a range of backgrounds (all of them relevant to Uluntu’s work) and featuring an equal mix of men and women – immediately recognized that the shared journey they were on required a different attitude from that of many other boards in NGOs across Africa, where compensation of board members has become standard practice. No member expected a sitting allowance or stipend in return for their time, efforts and personal expenses; on the contrary, the foundation saw its board members as assets rather than overheads. Significantly, the board also followed Inviolatta’s lead when it comes to patience and persistence, and recognized that the proper establishment of a community foundation was not something that happened overnight, or even within a year or two. Here, as elsewhere, the principle of doing things correctly rather than quickly has been the cornerstone of all Uluntu’s activities since its 2008 founding.

One of the extraordinary things about Uluntu – and no doubt a key element in its success – is that the same staff that began with the foundation in 2008 are still there today: its volunteer board members continue to pour themselves (not to mention their own resources) into the organization’s work. That fact alone is proof of an institution that truly values, and is truly valued by, the individuals who are fortunate enough to be involved in it.

Building the governance structure

The board also recognized that at the heart of any future successes there would have to be a robust governance structure, with dedicated individuals at the helm of the foundation’s leadership. Busani speaks about the significance of small indicators – such as conducting an annual external audit of Uluntu’s finances – that send the right message to the foundation’s partners about transparency and accountability: ‘So that when someone decides to invest in the organization, they will not have questions or doubts. They will invest in us because we have gone beyond the basic standards.’ Uluntu has developed key governance instruments and provided a record of them in policy documents for finance, administration, human resources, grant making, and the roles and responsibilities of the Board. These documents, prepared in line with internationally accepted practice, have been reviewed by an independent consultancy firm, which offered this service pro bono.

Moving forward

Uluntu has had to overcome, and continues to grapple with, enormous logistical challenges to go about its work. For the first couple of years, the foundation operated on very modest resources, working out of Internet cafés, and then from a makeshift office in Inviolatta’s house, all the time depending on volunteer labour and the moral and material support of its board. In 2009, a small planning grant from the GFCF helped support some start-up costs, including basic office equipment, board development and strategic planning. More recently, the foundation has become more established; it now has three staff members and operates from a modest two-room office in a Bulawayo suburb. The move to a permanent office has been a milestone, but it is not without its share of headaches – power outages and water shortages continue to be recurring challenges. And, as mentioned earlier, the distances between the Uluntu office and the projects it supports are considerable, and the roads leading there perilously unpredictable!

On top of these physical logistical difficulties, many of the groups and communities that Uluntu works with do not have bank accounts, which means that the staff has to be somewhat creative in how it transfers its support. When working with the women active in the nutrition gardens, for example, Uluntu negotiated reasonable prices for related equipment and materials directly with suppliers, and then purchased these items directly on behalf of the communities. (This is a useful strategy even when working with groups with bank accounts, as high banking transaction costs can significantly reduce the relatively small amounts of money being moved.)

From these early days, and having spent time putting down roots and building trust at the community level through some initial projects in rural communities, Uluntu has more recently been able (with the support of the international grassroots funders named elsewhere) to develop a number of key programmes around youth development, education, food security and livelihoods. In 2011 and 2012, with support from the GFCF, Uluntu staff and board members participated in three joint learning events on youth civic engagement with community foundation peers in South Africa,[5] and a global meeting of GFCF partners in Romania. The GFCF has provided support for Uluntu’s institutional development and its youth programmes to the end of 2013.

Youth civic engagement peer exchange

The Uluntu Community Foundation Annual Report 2012 gives the most up-to-date accounts of Uluntu’s activities in the fields of education, young people, research, and food security and livelihoods. Despite a difficult economic environment of constantly rising costs of living, enlarged budgets and reduced funds, the foundation remains upbeat. As Inviolatta relates in her director’s report:

In spite of all these difficulties, we came out winners, as we were able to reach out to the communities that we needed to get to. For an organization as small as ours, to enable an entire community and their livestock to access safe drinking water was a great accomplishment. This was a year affected by a severe drought that saw thousands of livestock dying in the entire region. The drought threatened human life and wild animals as well. How good, then, to our ears, to hear one villager remarking, ‘What would we have done without this borehole? Both us and our livestock would have all been wiped out.’

The world outside … the world inside

Uluntu is already exploring ways of growing its global network, with a view to enticing well-wishers, friends, and donors to establish a Friends of Uluntu network that can help the organization set up an endowment fund outside Zimbabwe, while the country’s financial situation stabilizes. A similar project is needed inside the country, to grow the elusive local funding from corporates and individuals, particularly aimed at the building of an endowment. Uluntu is not naïve about the difficulties surrounding this and, more widely, about bringing the issue of philanthropy to the attention of the public and potential supporters. Further down the road, this might call for a specific role for the country’s middle class, which was effectively wiped out following Zimbabwe’s currency devaluation in 1997 and political events since 2000. In the meantime, Uluntu stretches the modest resources at its disposal to achieve maximum impact. In 2012, the foundation granted $7,500 US dollars, but naturally hopes this figure will increase as the organization builds non-restricted funds.

A model for the future?

After its first five years, Uluntu is cautiously optimistic about what lies in store for the institution, as well as the future of Zimbabwe. Part of the organizational strategic plan is to develop the foundation further, but Busani is quick to note that Uluntu is wary about the speed and scope of organizational growth, and he recognizes the importance of maintaining Uluntu’s core values and ideals: ‘We are willing to wait for things to happen. We are in this for the long haul.’ Inviolatta agrees: ‘We aren’t thinking of a community foundation with hundreds of staff, many offices, or with a large international budget. Everything should remain low-cost and should add value to what is already being done. The last thing we want is for the community to feel that we are inaccessible because we have become this huge corporate.’

Consolidating funding and building an endowment is an ambitious goal for the foundation, but as Inviolatta cautions: ‘This should be grown internally in Zimbabwe and should not be entirely from the outside. We have to make our own people believe and act on philanthropy.’ Uluntu is firmly committed to this goal, because local philanthropy is a powerful catalyst for development change. But it is equally determined to bring together local and global philanthropists so that they may learn from each other, identify shared areas of interest and develop partnerships (these partnerships might also include government departments and agencies, and other organizations engaged in community development). ‘It is only when we work together,’ Busani says, ‘that we can win the war on poverty.’

As the foundation looks forward, it remains committed to building up local philanthropic support within the community: even in such difficult economic times, the foundation has received small donations from its board members as well as volunteers and in-kind support. And the plan is to increase grant making to local groups, normally a key function of a community foundation, and to strive as much as possible to devolve decision-making and leadership to its partners.

Beyond the initial hurdle of encouraging community ownership of initiatives, Uluntu will also continue to strive to unlock local resources and assets to address the issues it works on, rather than leaving communities entirely dependent on external sources of assistance. These local assets are about much more than just traditional currency, though, as Inviolatta explains:

Money is in short supply and people in Zimbabwe know how to give, but they also need to know that giving doesn’t have to be financial. Volunteering, helping in the community, and contributing ideas – what if you were able to give in a different way? Borrowing from the words of John Paul II, ‘No one is so poor that he has nothing to give, and nobody is so rich that he has nothing to receive.’

No one is too poor to give and no one too rich to receive – this is what is different about Uluntu’s inclusive and accessible recipe for development, and what moves it away from the survival strategies of the past. As Busani proudly explains: ‘Whatever we have started can be sustained by the communities themselves. Nothing is better than that.’ This is the vision of how independent, self-reliant communities will be built – and, in Zimbabwe, this is the answer that the Uluntu Community Foundation has provided to the question with which it started: ‘What will make us different?’


[1] United Nations (2013) Human Development Report 2013: The Rise of the South – Human Progress in a Diverse World, New York: United Nations Development Programme.

[2] An inspiring example of this is the foundation’s successful partnership with women-led groups in Gwanda North and South (referred to in the quotation on page 1). The community in Gwanda North is currently engaged in agricultural projects that include nutrition gardens. These not only provide nourishment to families but also have become income-generating projects in their own right. By selling extra vegetables, the women have been able to raise enough money to buy animals, which in turn can be even greater sources of income. Tracts of the garden have also been sold off to purchase exercise books and pens for children. Inviolatta notes: ‘These women have themselves received, but they have also passed it on. They felt the need to engage in philanthropy themselves and this is beyond the usual sharing they typically do.’ This multiplier effect has had positive benefits for all involved in the community; all Uluntu had to do was provide some initial resources and materials such as fencing, and to arrange for a borehole to be drilled for and equipped.

[3] It is this that led Uluntu to call itself a ‘community foundation’, rather than to opt for another label. As the Global Fund for Community Foundation’s 2012 report on community foundations in Africa, A Different Kind of Wealth, states, by calling itself a community foundation Uluntu has joined a small yet potent handful of organizations across the continent which draw inspiration from multiple sources and blend local cultures, lessons of historical experiences, and analysis of the role and limitations of external development aid as they go about their work. Remember, too, that ‘uluntu’ means ‘people’ in isiNdebele, one of the local languages spoken in Zimbabwe

[4] One such survey, to identify specific problems facing young people and to come up with strategies and action plans to solve these problems, was the Robert Sinyoka case study, which features in Uluntu’s 2012 annual report.

[5] West Coast Community Foundation and the Community Development Foundation of Western Cape.

News from the field: Growing social justice philanthropy, weaving strong communities in the Arab Region and a new blog on community driven development from Amazon Partnerships

“How can we grow the practice of philanthropy for social justice and peace?” asks a new report from the Philanthropy for Social Justice for Peace Network. The report draws on interviews with a 24 philanthropy practitioners from different parts of the world and data collected from a survey of many more. “You’ll hear a fascinating and at times provocative array of answers, reflections and further questions. Some talk about the relationship between social justice and economic development. Others call for a greater emphasis on indigenous philanthropy. Some speak to what is common among practitioners of social justice philanthropy, while others discuss geographic differences. Risk emerges as a key obstacle, networking as a key opportunity”.

Read the report  How Can we Grow the Work?


A new report from Naseej Foundation (a GFCF grantee in 2012) tells the story of the organization’s 8-year journey to establish itself as a catalyst for and promoter of youth civic engagement in communities across the Arab region. Naseej (its name translates as “the act of weaving”) was established in 2005 as the joint initiative of the Ford Foundation and Save the Children, with the objective of making grants to respond to the growing needs of youth and communities in the region. Over the years, it has used grantmaking, as well as other asset-based tools to “weave” an integrated approach to community youth development. At the heart of its work lies Naseej’s believe that the young people and communities all have capacities, strengths and rights that external agencies must acknowledge and build upon if their interventions are to be sustainable in the long term. According to one of its supporters, “Most of the time, when NGOs plan and run programmes, they work in one area: something that is very artificial and one-dimensional. In fact, it is the very opposite of how life works with everything connected to, touching and reacting to everything else… Naseej, the act of weaving, is a human ecosystem, connecting all parts, working song, art, drama, economic and social development, giving young people tools and confidence to imagine, plan and create their futures.”

Read the report, Weaving our Fabric in the Arab World


Another GFCF partner, Amazon Partnerships Foundation, has launched a new blog on community-driven development. From 2008 to 2012, the Amazon Partnerships Foundation collaborated with indigenous Kichwa communities in Napo Province, Ecuador on a local grant-making model aimed at supporting local initiative and local leadership. Using its Community Self-Development Methodology, APF provided small grants for projects designed and implemented by communities, as well as grassroots training to help them develop project management skills and define and advocate for their vision of sustainable development.

In 2013, APF is redirecting their efforts from on-the-ground community work to knowledge sharing. “Eager to join the growing global conversation about the need for community-driven development as a more successful alternative to conventional top-down approaches, we launched Amazon Partnerships Online, which offers stories, data, resources, and fresh perspectives to support communities’ power to define their future…This exciting new phase for Amazon Partnerships arises out of our core belief, which has developed through several years of on-the-ground collaboration: communities, not funders or other outsiders, must be the drivers of their own development and offer the greatest hope for a vibrant, healthy future for people and our planet. Through our blog of international contributors, our materials, and links to other outstanding organizations and thought leaders, we aim to help connect grassroots leaders, funders, volunteers, aid workers, and others to good ideas and inspiring strategies from around the world.”

Visit the Amazon Partnerships blog and find out how to join the conversation.


Community philanthropy in emerging markets: building something new for the future

Dramatic shifts in the political and economic landscape of many low and middle- income countries in recent years have resulted in the emergence of a new class of wealthy individuals. This has led to a rapid growth in private and family foundations in many emerging markets. But the benefits of economic liberalization have not always resulted in an equal distribution of wealth, and income disparities have only been exacerbated by the global economic crisis. As social and economic inequality increase, welfare systems are cut and the effects of climate change begin to make themselves felt, poor communities are increasingly finding themselves under pressure. Against this backdrop, a new breed of community philanthropy institutions is emerging. (It is perhaps no coincidence that three of the finalists for the Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize are from the community philanthropy field.)

The phenomenon is global and the institutions diverse in shape and size: community foundations, women’s funds, giving circles and other community grantmakers. Growth has been particularly marked in emerging market economies. ICom, a community foundation in southern Brazil, was established to address growing inequalities in the city of Florianopolis, while the Waqfeyat al Maadi Community Foundation in Egypt seeks to promote community development through the revival and modernization of the Islamic philanthropic practice of waqf. And in Vietnam, the LIN Center (one of whose founders, Nguyen Tran Hoang Anh, is a finalist for the Olga prize) has done much to foster giving for social causes among young middle class professionals as a strategy for strengthening social cohesion in Ho Chi Minh City.

NGO networking event, LIN Center

Building on existing traditions of solidarity
Of course, the concept of community philanthropy is not new. Every country and culture has its own traditions of giving and social solidarity between family, friends and neighbours, whether it is the tradition of burial societies in Africa or hometown associations in Mexico. Community philanthropy has consistently saved and improved people’s lives; where the state lacks the resources or simply the will to provide for its citizens, it has often been the only safety net available. However, while the value of these forms of giving is well understood by those who benefit from them, they tend to be overlooked as marginal and unstrategic by the formal development sector. What is significant about many of these institutions is the way in which they are embedding and adapting existing cultures of giving in their own operation and organization. Two other prize finalists from Kenya, for example, have been behind a new fund which seeks to build philanthropy from the roots of mutual aid in an urban slum.

In our recent report, A Different Kind of Wealth, which provides a baseline study of the emerging community philanthropy field in Africa, Barry Knight and I noted a number of features that distinguish this set of institutions from other parts of civil society. Although this report was specific to Africa, these features can also be applied to many low and middle-income countries. First, they are seeking to draw on local resources and assets, not just as a strategy for funding but also in the belief that development outcomes are more lasting when people have invested in their own development. Second, they are looking to build bridges at many levels, whether between external forms of development support and more local mobilization of communities and their assets, or within different parts of communities, usually by directing the resources they raise to community organizations through small grants. Third, although many of them are small in terms of money they are rich in terms of social capital and trust-based relationships.

Challenging the conventions of mainstream development
A number of factors may explain the recent growth of the field (an average of 70 community foundations, for example, have been established each year for the last decade). Reductions in international aid flows generally, and donor exits from various middle income countries (like DFID’s planned withdrawal from India in 2015), are certainly one factor. As this trend continues, local donors will increasingly be called upon to fill the funding gaps and they will need mechanisms through which to give.

But community philanthropy is not just emerging in response to changing funding patterns. Either implicitly or explicitly, it is also challenging many of the conventions of mainstream development with its issue-based silos, short-term project horizons and upward accountability to external donors, choosing instead to take more holistic, long-term and flexible approaches which can develop community resilience and social cohesion.

Repairing relationships
Community foundations are also filling new spaces opened by the overhaul of state, private sector and civil society relationships which many emerging markets countries have undergone in recent years. The transition from a communist system to a free market democracy in Russia, for example, created new wealth and new freedoms but also produced new kinds of poverty, inequality and distrust. The dramatic retreat of the state, for so long the sole provider, created new expectations of the private sector in the form of corporate philanthropy. Community foundations, the first of which was in Togliatti (whose founder Boris Tsyrulnikov is another prize finalist), emerged as a response, a mechanism that could smooth the mistrustful relationships between those with money and those looking for it. By advising new local donors and managing their funds, community foundations could ease the flow of charitable monies and ensure they were used effectively. And because they were working equally with donors and local groups they were also uniquely placed to foster new kinds of community interaction with new tools like grantmaking. The fact that there are now over 40 community foundations across Russia shows clearly how their introduction to the country in the late 1990s answered a need for new types of bridging or facilitating institutions in the post-communist context. Indeed, in many parts of Russia where independent civil society is still very weak community foundations may offer almost the only spaces for voluntary action.

Meanwhile, in Turkey, TUSEV is currently leading efforts to generate interest in the community foundation concept among a range of different stakeholders (Turkey has one community foundation, established with support from a member of the Turkish diaspora in the US). Many of the right ingredients are in place: there is local money, a rich tradition of mutual support, a growing philanthropic sector and an active civil society. Conversely, much philanthropic giving is one-off, in-kind and unstrategic. When they give, most people prefer to bypass organizations altogether and give directly, while local NGOs struggle to raise local money and there are few tax incentives for giving. Underpinning all of this, however, are much larger concerns about current strains on the notion of ‘community’ in Turkey, in both urban and rural areas, as the country finds itself pulled increasingly in different directions along religious, ethnic, class and political lines.

The notion of an organization that seeks to build trust among people in a community and, by doing so, can strengthen it, is an important one, not least in emerging market countries where public trust is often low because of weak institutions or a history of conflict or division.

Agents and brokers
In practical terms, community philanthropy institutions also have much to offer local donors in these countries, offering economies of scale in their grantmaking and a cost-effective mechanism for managing and monitoring funds. Pooled multi-donor funds can help foster a culture of collaboration and they can also reduce risks (and on tricky social justice type issues which might not find favour with authorities, there may be also safety in numbers). More importantly, they can also provide a direct line to communities. As social inequalities grow, so do the cracks within communities. A wealthy individual may end up far removed from the problems of an urban slum in his or her community and their views may be ill-informed or even paternalistic. Small grants to community groups through a community foundation can offer a way of opening up a conversation with different parts of the community and bringing different perspectives to the table.

ICom, Brazil

So much in philanthropy and development is big – big ambitions, big budgets and big numbers. For their part, community philanthropy organizations around the world offer modest and yet crucially important platforms for engagement and participation, working at the intersections between public, private and civil society sectors and maximizing what they have to offer. Perhaps most importantly, they offer a meeting point where numerous expressions of giving, responsibility and solidarity can come together and move forward in a progressive and inclusive way. In the words of one of our partners in Romania, ‘Community foundations are working from the bottom up; our focus is not about fixing what’s broken but about building something new for the future.’

Jenny Hodgson is executive director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations

This article was first published in Alliance magazine, March 2013. To download the article as it was published, click here.

“Currency of giving goes beyond the dollar, rand and euro”

  • The answers to local problems often lie within the community itself, says the executive director of the Community Development Foundation Western Cape.
  • Knowing how to tap into residents’ interests and energy, and also change mindsets, are characteristics of an effective community leader.

The familiar phrase that starts fairytales worldwide — “once upon a time” — also triggered the development of a sustainable food programme in South Africa.

Beulah Fredericks, executive director of the Cape Town-based Community Development Foundation Western Cape (CDF WCape), smiles when she recalls how the project started.

After a local community-based organization in one of Cape Town’s townships applied for a $50 grant to cover one month’s operating expenses for a soup kitchen that feeds the poor, Fredericks visited the site, listened to their stories, engaged in conversation and then declined the request.

“A soup kitchen is an obvious solution,” Fredericks told the group.

“But after listening to your stories, I see you are a community that has it in you to move beyond the soup. We cannot give you $50 to buy food for the soup kitchen because next month you will be hungry again and ask for another $50. Why not start a community garden instead?”

Fredericks’ rejection did not prompt disappointment; it inspired local residents.

Beulah Fredericks

One person replied, “Once upon a time we grew our own vegetables right here in our own community.” That simple reminiscence was all it took for the vision to catch on — plus a $600 grant from CDF WCape to build two greenhouses in which to grow the produce.

That was five years ago. Today, the region boasts multiple community gardens that supply more than enough vegetables for the local soup kitchen and school lunches. Surplus food is sold to generate funds for student scholarships. One student’s grandfather receives a stipend from CDF WCape to oversee the gardens, which are located on school grounds. Additionally, students of all ages, even preschoolers, are tending their own family gardens.

Community foundation leaders — locally, nationally and globally — point to projects such as the community gardens as evidence of Fredericks’ ability to see beyond the horizon in pursuit of positive and long-lasting societal changes.

Instead of funding a soup kitchen, she engaged and empowered local residents of all ages to meet their own needs, says Jenny Hodgson, executive director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations, based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“Beulah brings an extraordinary level of energy and creativity to her work in the Cape Flats,” Hodgson said. “This is enormously important in the communities where the foundation operates — because apathy, hopelessness and despair are often the order of the day.”

Along with CDF WCape’s board and staff, Hodgson says, Fredericks is building an organization that offers opportunities for local people to engage in their own development. Whether it is involving youth in a project linking photography with South Africa’s Bill of Rights, she says, or working with a specific community to overcome barriers and divisions so residents can establish their own community fund, Fredericks’ goal is often the same.

“Beulah has sought both to change mindsets and to tap into local energies, interests and assets that may have lain latent or been disregarded by others,” Hodgson said.

She also praises Fredericks for voluntarily serving as both teacher and pupil in a global network of community development partners.

Fredericks, who prefers the term “community philanthropy” to “community foundation” to describe the grantmaking organization she heads, laughs when people call CDF WCape a field leader.

“If you want to look at us as a community foundation, you can do that,” she said, “but you won’t see us operating in the traditional way.” [Read more about community foundations in South Africa.]

Fredericks’ ability to see things from an alternative perspective and do things differently earned her recognition in 2005 as one of 144 Synergos Senior Fellows from more than 50 countries. One of the many qualities that distinguish these fellows, according to Synergos, is that they “possess a compelling vision about solving complex, systemic problems of poverty, inequity and social injustice.”

CDF WCape strives to involve youth in helping shape the future of their community

The Mott Foundation funds CDF WCape’s work through its Civil Society program, providing five general-purposes grants totaling $400,000, since 1991. By supporting the organization’s work, Mott aims to strengthen its efforts to encourage local giving through a variety of local initiatives, and also help develop a network that advances community philanthropy in Southern Africa.

Fredericks says she believes that answers to local problems often lie within the community itself. One of her roles as a leader is to draw them out from residents so they can give back, especially those who say they have nothing to offer.

“There are a lot of currencies of giving in South Africa. There is time, skills, sharing of resources, and there is money,” Fredericks said.

“We’re bringing in volunteers to help us here because we know that the currency of giving goes way beyond the dollar, rand and euro.”

While Fredericks has shared her knowledge and experiences about community development at international conferences and via Internet webinars, she says her greatest satisfaction comes from working with residents to improve their quality of life in the Western Cape province of post-apartheid South Africa. It is in that same Cape Town region that Fredericks was born, reared and university-educated.

Although she and the organization’s founder, Renier van Rooyen, have been thanked face-to-face by former President Nelson Mandela for the work they do, Fredericks remains humble and focused. For her, there are three entrenched issues still to address: poverty alleviation, youth development and HIV/AIDS prevention.

“I have wanted to resign 99 times,” Fredericks said. “Then, something small but meaningful happens with the young people or in the community, and I see they are so eager to make a difference and it gives me hope to continue.”

Maggie Jaruzel Potter, Mott Foundation

This article is part of an occasional series by the Mott Foundation about the community foundation field and the Foundation’s role in supporting and strengthening it. The series reports on what is occurring in Mott’s major geographic focus areas — Central/Eastern Europe and Russia, South Africa, and the U.S. — as well as providing information about how the field is expanding globally. Mott’s goal is to inform the public about the latest trends in the community foundation field in advance of its 100th anniversary year in 2014

Latest grants in South Asia and new grantee profiles now available on our website!

We’re pleased to announce two new grants to current partners in South Asia. The first is a grant for $11,000 and is a continuation of the GFCF’s support for institutional development of Tewa, the Nepal Women’s Fund.  Tewa was established in 1996 as an alternative development model aimed at overcoming aid dependency in Nepal and the distortions that international aid also brought about in shaping local civic society and its institutions. Tewa is a unique example of community philanthropy Nepal. Over the last 15 years, it has mobilized contributions from 3,000 Nepali donors and until today it has adhered to a principle that only local money be used for grantmaking.

The second grant is also an extension of GFCF support to iPartner. and Indian and UK-based organization which seeks to increase the flow of phianthropic resources to grassroots issues in India. This $20,000 grant will increase the impact of iPartner’s work at a local level in India, attracting a range of local donor investments to support the sustainable development of small, grass roots organisations, while developing iPartner’s understanding of local donor motivations and overall fundraising.

Take a look at the five new grantee profiles on our website which include partners from Vietnam, Costa Rica, India and Zimbabwe




Promoting Bedouin participation in Egypt: new paper examines the role of the Community Foundation for South Sinai

A new paper by Hilary Gilbert and Mohammed Khedr al Jebaali examines the role that one NGO – a community foundation – has been able to play in promoting civic participation by Bedu, a structurally marginalized minority in Egypt, in the wake of the 2011 ‘Lotus Revolution’.

Gilbert and al Jebaali (respectively board chair and programme coordinator of the community foundation) tell the story of the Community Foundation for South Sinai (Al mo’assessa‑t‑al ahliya lijanoub sina), which was established in 2006 as a mechanism for promoting local, small‑scale development among Bedouin communities in Egypt’s South Sinai.

Although the Community Foundation for South Sinai (featured here on the GFCF website) was established with serious and long term aspirations its initial ambitions were, like its funding base, modest: early activities included economic development projects such as olive oil production. However, in January 2011 when Egypt’s massive people‑led revolution swept across the country the foundation – encouraged by local community leaders – saw an unprecedented opportunity to harness this newfound democratic momentum in Egypt’s South Sinai.

Importantly for the global community philanthropy field, the report demonstrates the value of an evidence-based approach to practice, with the foundation’s activities and spending priorities emerging from research and constant contact with community members. As Egypt’s democratic transition enters a period of uncertainty, the mo’assessa continues to grow slowly but deliberately. The authors use a natural simile that accords well with the outlook of the communities with which the foundation works: “we say we have planted a seed, and are watering it slowly so it puts down strong roots. We expect it to grow in time – insha’allah! – into a shady tree that will outlive its founders and support many people.”

Read the paper

Woods, trees and the rise of African philanthropy

In the early 1990s, I spent a year living and working in Uganda. One day I was with some friends driving back from a trip to one of Uganda’s beautiful game parks. It was late afternoon and not long before darkness would set in. We decided to pitch our tents by the side of the long and sparsely populated road rather than drive on to the nearest town. As we started to unpack tents, stoves, pots and pans, a small group of people emerged, apparently out of nowhere. They watched us, intrigued and probably rather baffled by all our camping gear: we exchanged greetings and one of them told us that they had been sent by the village elders to find out who we were and what we were doing. We were, it turned out, camping on land belonging to their community and so their interest was only natural. On our part, we were somewhat embarrassed by our assumption that our camp site was an empty spot in the middle of nowhere, when in fact it turned out that we pitching our tents in the middle of a community, with its own members, leaders, systems and dynamics. Just because all of this wasn’t immediately visible to us in terms of name signs and bill boards, didn’t mean it wasn’t there.

I have often been reminded of that experience over the last 15 or so years I have spent working to build the field of building local philanthropy in different parts of the world, and nowhere more so than in Africa. I am occasionally asked, “How many community foundations are there in the Africa?” Well, if you count the institutions that call themselves ‘community foundations’ there are about 12, and if you applied the precise definition used by the U.S. Council on Foundations (“tax-exempt public charities serving thousands of people who share a common interest—improving the quality of life in their area. Individuals, families, businesses, and organizations create permanent charitable funds that help their region meet local challenges”) then you’d probably come up with fewer than that. On a continent made up of 54 countries, these figures can start to look rather insignificant, the map rather empty.

But if you ask some different questions – about the organized systems of grassroots giving and solidarity in Africa that have existed for generations, for example, or about the emergence of new and different institutionalized philanthropic forms over recent years, including women’s funds, local multi-stakeholder-type foundations, regional and national grantmakers as well as community foundations and community development foundations – the landscape suddenly looks quite different. Suddenly those 12 community foundations no longer look so isolated and inconsequential. Instead they can be seen as some of the more visible structures in an environment which is much richer and more complex.

While taxonomies in philanthropy are certainly important in helping to define and bring clarity to some of the different “families” of institutions and practice that make up the field – and in contexts like the United States and the United Kingdom, these definitions can have serious legal and tax implications which cannot be ignored – one can’t help wondering whether sometimes they also prevent us from seeing what is right in front of our eyes.  By being overly simplistic in our search for clarity, do we in fact end up being unable to see the woods for the trees and become blind to whatever doesn’t fit into our neat definitional categories?

In our new report, A Different Kind of Wealth: a baseline of African community foundations, Barry Knight and I have attempted to lay a baseline for the African community foundation field (in all its diversity) and to contribute towards a new African narrative which derives from both within and outside the continent. So yes, the U.S. community foundation story, whose origins date back to 1914 and the creation of the Cleveland Foundation, is one part of this narrative, but so is the role of international development aid. And within Africa, the continent’s rich traditions of giving and mutual support are also important but so are the failures of governance, and particularly of governments.

We have sought to begin to tell an important story about a new generation of local philanthropic institutions which is emerging in Africa, some seeded with money from outside the continent, others entirely home‑grown – and all seeking to draw on local resources and tap into different forms of wealth, which include cash and property but also include other, less tangible, forms of social capital such as trust and credibility.

Although the cluster may not be uniform in terms of the labels different organizations use to describe themselves (it includes those that might call themselves community grantmakers, community development foundations, women’s funds before they call themselves community foundations) they all share a commonality of “essence” around the importance of assets, agency and trust in driving a form of development which is “people-led”. It is in this context – where a strong community is one in which there are high levels of trust, which has access to resources and assets and where there are strong local capacities for organizing  – that the term “community foundation” really comes into its own as a force for transformation in the African context. Its connotations of local ownership of assets (both for and of the community) and of permanence (so not just another NGO running another 3-year project) go far beyond any legalistic definition.

Many of the issues we raise in our report – around the nature and potential of African philanthropy – were up for discussion at the recent  conference of the African Grantmakers Network in Johannesburg, South Africa which was an inspiring and energising event and evidence of a vibrant and expanding African philanthropic sector on the move. One of the highlights of the event (and there were many) was the appearance of Graҫa Machel, a leading African stateswoman, the wife of Nelson Mandela and the founder of the Community Development Foundation in Mozambique (another one of those institutions that doesn’t quite fit into a neat category). Mrs Machel, who is in her late sixties, had just arrived back in Johannesburg off an overnight flight and came straight to the conference. She spoke forcefully and without notes about her vision of African philanthropy, emphasising the need for a new African narrative, highlighting the distinct nature of African philanthropy which goes beyond money to encompass solidarity and empathy, and emphasising its potential significance in driving the continent’s development.  Relying on external resources can only ever take one so far: after all, she warned the conference in closing, “Your neighbour’s granary will never fill your stomach.”

Jenny Hodgson is the executive director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations: a version of this blog first appeared on RE:Philanthropy, the Council on Foundations’ blog page.


New white paper on Empowering Communities in Resource Extraction Regions

With many of the world’s non-renewable resources increasingly being extracted in areas of the world inhabited by indigenous peoples, what are some of the strategies that ensure that the voices of communities are heard, that their vision of sustainable development is realised and that they are less vulnerable to the negative impacts of large-scale resource extraction? A new white paper from GFCF partner, Amazon Partnerships Foundation and the Ecuadorian think-tank Grupo Faro offers some insights from a grassroots grantmaking and empowerment model developed in Ecuador.

Amazon Partnerships Foundation

The report, Oil and Water: Empowering Communities Living in Resource Extraction Regions (available in Spanish and English) focuses on the unique Community Self-Development Methodology developed by APF over the last few years in Napo Province, Ecuador, where extractive industries have a significant presence. The methodology – which is based on the principle of collaboration between equal partners – helps empower communities dealing with oil, mining, and timber extraction in their territory by focusing on concerns and needs as well as assets and ideas. Read the report

“Nothing really made it easy except that things got complicated”: the story of the Waqfeyat al Maadi Community Foundation

The GFCF interviewed Marwa El-Daly, founder of the Waqfeyat al Maadi Community Foundation (WMCF), about the circumstances surrounding the Foundation’s establishment, and how these have been re-shaped by the events of the Arab Spring. (Note: this article will also soon be available as a PDF file for download in our resource centre).

Those of us outside the Middle East and North Africa have watched the Arab Spring unfurl with a mixture of awe and anxiety. Can change to such rigid structures come about without huge loss of life? What kind of societies will emerge from this political turmoil? And, if people can gather together to achieve this kind of result, is there anything they couldn’t do if they put their minds to it?

For those living through these events from inside the countries, the experience must be very different – all the more so if you are a fledgling community foundation, established with a precise mission to provide sustainable development for the communities you serve. What happens to your charitable objects when the country explodes into frenzied upheaval? What do you do when your community begins to lose its young people, shot dead by a police force under siege?

Waqf, a 1,400-year-old tradition of giving with roots in pharaonic Egypt

This has been the experience of the Maadi Community Foundation (Mu’assasat Waqfeyat al Maadi al Ahleya) in Cairo, Egypt, just four years old by the time the revolution erupted in that country earlier this year. The Foundation had been set up in May 2007 by Marwa al-Daly to provide sustainable funding and development for the communities of the al-Maadi and its adjacent suburbs. The Foundation was grounded in the communities it represented and firm in its belief that these would best be served by helping to fund income-generating and self-sustaining projects rather than the piecemeal acts of charity that had characterized philanthropy up to that point. Central to this idea was reviving and modernizing waqf, the donor-advised model of Egyptian endowment that dates back to ancient pharaonic Egypt (when monks endowed land to fund their temples) and is a 1,400-year-old practice of philanthropic giving in the Muslim world. Waqf had fallen into disuse, however, in part because control of all individual, historically autonomous waqfs had become the responsibility of a government ministry, the Ministry of Awaqaf:

I undertook a national study on philanthropy in Egypt in 2004–05, before the establishment of the WMCF, which showed that people like to give in their own community, probably because of the religious belief that ‘al aqrabun awla bel ma’rouf’ – those close to you by kin or geography are worthiest of your donation and help. So the religious legislation of zakat giving, for instance, says that you have to satisfy the area or your relatives and neighbours first before giving somewhere else. We also found that Egyptians are very philanthropic – they give, normal people, over US$1.5 billion yearly donations to social causes that appeal to them. So we found that there’s a lot of philanthropy, a lot of people giving money, but it was mostly going to charity, from one person to the other on an ad-hoc or occasional basis. And the main reason is that people, they prefer really to give to their communities, but they don’t know how to do so in a self-sustaining fashion. On top of this, almost all existing structures are local NGO models that work in charity and that do not necessarily have the local philanthropists’ trust or interest – because if the NGO can distribute money to poor people, and the giver can, he or she will do so without an intermediary. The donor-advised waqf – which allows people to engage in development and not charity – it just wasn’t there for individuals. So it was the perfect timing to propose something, a route, that is not new to them, that is really embedded in the culture, that allows you to focus on your own community – but which at the same time is sustainable because it’s a system that is following a philanthropic tradition that existed for thousands of years before.

Setting up the Foundation, the Waqfeya, was not without problems. The cultural and historical context in which it was set up was one of philanthropy tied either to occasions or times of year – Ramadan in particular – or to societies attached to mosques or churches. The result was a culture of dependence, in which beneficiaries came to the charities, community development organizations (CDOs) or mosques for a financial donation that was never enough to meet their needs and inevitably led to their coming back again or to seeking out another charity.

The “One Family” event where the American International School partnered with WMCF to host 200 children from disadvantaged areas and to fundraise for the Waqfeya.

And if the association was attached to a religious establishment, the beneficiary’s children would be tied into the obligatory attendance of religious classes, often neither of their choosing nor to their interest. Politically, too, philanthropy and charitable activity were firmly controlled by government and most organizations worked under the aegis of the government, as semi-government organizations.

I realized that most of the giving is charity, with only 0.6% of Egyptians interested in giving for social change or job creation, for instance. Most of the development work was done by big foreign-funded organizations that became experts in writing proposals and –primarily – meeting their funders’ demands. They have a huge staff of highly paid personnel who change jobs when the aid money for the project cycle terminates. None of these foundations is sustainable, although they all, mostly, know that they should be.

Overcoming the resistance of the status quo

There is an in-built resistance to change in any status quo, compounded in this respect by the fact that the situation involved less work for the charities, and for the beneficiaries, too. But Marwa felt sure that nobody could be happy with this arrangement, and she was equally convinced that the answers to a community’s issues must come from the community itself and must be delivered long-term and in a way that would lead to the empowerment of that community. Easy to see, in this respect, why there would be some resistance to this idea, not only from the government, but also from the financial institutions, from the community leaders, from religious bodies, from the influence of foreign ideas exported from other regions … from everyone, in fact, who had a vested interest in the continuation of the status quo, even if they were aware that the status quo wasn’t necessarily working and wasn’t making their life any easier either.

Marwa, though, had a sense that there was a real opportunity to develop something new, and that this would capture the imagination of a public keen to re-channel philanthropy into local communities and to do so in a way that was sustainable. ‘When we did the philanthropy study, the results indicated that people like to give in their own community … [they] would want to do something sustainable but they don’t find the “venue” [to do so].’ The community foundation was thus the perfect model for reviving and modernizing this long-standing philanthropic mechanism.

Marwa’s key advantages were the conviction that there was untapped potential for the form of philanthropy she was promoting, the fact that there was the sense of a cultural shift that would enable her to make her case more acceptable, her ability to put forward an idea that (though it felt new at the time) had its roots in an old form of Egyptian giving – and her considerable reservoirs of energy, persistence and persuasiveness. But the first hurdle was to register the organization without coming into conflict with the ministry, especially given that there had been no existing community foundations before, and no independent waqf structures to use as reference points:

Actually just to register it as a community foundation and call it waqf was not easy and actually, until this point, if you considered the existing legal structures, it was not legal. It paved the way for others to be legally registered by imposing itself on the NGO map structure. Community members and influential people bought into the idea, and promoted it, and together we did a lot of lobbying with the minister of social solidarity, Mr Ali Almoselhy at the time. And he also became a believer of the importance of this structure in spite of the legal and power-related boundaries. He was the one who gave like a ministerial approval for the name and structure. It was a very complex and engaging process and we used research, our field research, and many people we worked with, of very good standing academically in the development world, to be part of this lobbying until it worked. 

Building a local, independent profile

Once established with an official presence, the Foundation (Waqfeya) began to tap into the local community’s resources, persuading local philanthropists to contribute donations to set up a programme for income generation in the Waqfeya that would allow the Foundation to start small jobs for people while distributing their Ramadan bags – traditionally given to poor people in the fasting month of Ramadan. Volunteers were recruited primarily to engage in the food distribution in Ramadan but, more importantly, to be trained at the Waqfeya in how to assess the needs of a community and engage with people to discover their strengths and potentials. The volunteers and community members began to formulate plans for the community, identifying the opportunities created by local factories and industries (which would have leftovers that could be put to productive use by people in the neighbourhood), drawing up lists of people’s skills, and seeing where there were openings in the physical environment of the community for these skills to be put to productive use. By these means, the Waqfeya engaged small community-based organizations (CBOs) as potential grant receivers, in an attempt to shift their approach from charity to change-driven philanthropy.

The Foundation quickly became the hub for civil society organizations (CSOs) and NGOs in the area, a position helped in no small part by the establishment of an arts centre, Khan el Fenoun, that from day one taught art to community members, thereby generating income for the Foundation. The profit from the art classes and events supports classes and events that provide the same learning opportunities to those who cannot afford to pay and who live in shanty towns and other marginalized areas. The centre and its art appreciation workshops bridge the social and economic gap, bringing together all segments of the community, and providing a physical venue, in particular, for children and young people. Workshops and seminars are strategically used to explain the concept of the foundation and of waqf and to invite people to participate and to donate. The key issue was to move people from one-off, dependency-generating donations to larger but sustainable donations:

Instead of giving 20 pounds (approx. US$3) to this woman – because actually this creates dependency and takes their dignity away – you give them at least 2,000 or 3,500 pounds (US$350-550), for an income-generating project, nothing else, or to expand an existing project. And the gift is a rotating loan, but with zero interest. And even if they don’t cover all the women, at least they cover those women who want to do a business – and they get empowered. In one year you find the difference. And you know, what’s noticeable is that many of our young artists at Khan el Fenoun are our main fundraisers for the income-generation projects.

Marwa El Daly, Chairperson of Waqfeyat al Maadi Community Foundation explaining drawings painted by the foundation’s Kahn el Fenoun Art Centre depicting political education messages to women from Ezbet el Safih, an economically deprived neighbourhood in Cairo.

The empowerment of the individual, of course, leads to the empowerment of the community, and the empowerment of the community leads to the community generating funds from its own resources to run the projects to develop its own community – one reason why Marwa has always had a wary eye on international donations: ‘For our community it would be a break [i.e. a breach in trust] because we started counting on local support and we would not get politicized money – that might break people’s opinion of our work. We will not go in this direction.’ So far the Foundation has received support only from the Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF), although it recognizes that, if it is to take on the staff to enable it to develop its work, or to undertake research and to produce booklets and literature about its activity (also, obviously, a fundraising tool), then the money to do so will have to come from an international source. But Marwa remains adamant that international donations will never account for more than 50% of the Foundation’s income stream; more than this would remove one of the core strengths of the Foundation, which is that ‘what makes us good or richer is that almost all our projects in the community are supported by local philanthropy’.

In the four years that it has been running, the Foundation has given several grants and training sessions to CBOs in surrounding shanty towns, created several donor-advised waqf funds (an average start-up individual donor-advised fund is around US$20,000) and supported more than 150 income-generating projects; it has worked with schools, youth centres, banks, civil society organizations and movements and has held seminars, art appreciation workshops, sports events and community lobbying activities that have resulted in the establishment of a huge school complex in a surrounding shanty town (Ezbet el Safih Girls School). The Foundation participates in all events in the community and supports young movements that seek to do good things in the community; it has clustered around it 2,000 friends and 1,000 volunteers, 300 of whom are active supporters and fundraisers. Many of these are young people and students, some of whom, for example, last year organized a fundraising event around a Christmas bazaar. Marwa made a presentation on waqf to the students, their parents and all the participants in the bazaar, which brought in more than 100,000 pounds (US$20,000) and dramatically raised the profile of the Waqfeya in the process. There is a relatively small but constant pool of individual donors to the Foundation (about 50 or 60), but considerable, and equally consistent, fundraising and donating activity, much of it co-ordinated by young people, students and schoolchildren (the Waqfeya has thousands of friends and fans on Facebook and Twitter).

Getting guarantees

The banks have proved more resistant to persuasion than the ministries. Even before the recent Western financial crises, the Foundation found it difficult to secure special rates with banks for projects that supported development work:

There is a government bank but [it’s] very complicated; we got a better rate, but still we didn’t have the bank’s guarantee … it’s very difficult to change the bank’s structure or the way they manage things, especially now. Now is no better. Everything is controlled by the Central Bank of Egypt, and many of the decisions are political.

The reluctance of the banks is in stark contrast to the trust shown by the Foundation to the individuals and the projects that it supports, a trust that is built on mutual respect with the community in which it operates. ‘People in and around the disadvantaged areas we work in recommend each other and give guarantees about each other,’ says Marwa. ‘There is a system of mutual guarantee, collateral. So, for example, a bunch of 3–5 women guarantee that each one will give the money back – it gives more assurance.’ There are conditions about the grants they give: they are given to support income-generating projects only, and on the condition that the money should grow, not diminish. These grants are given as zero-rated loans, but without any sense that the loan will be called back in if the recipient does not pay up:

We don’t use any threats – the money is theirs. The only thing is [if you default] you will have less money to work with. And the potential that we can give you more, or that we support you in other ways, or that we recommend people to work with you, is not there. And you know, since we started working like this about three years ago, nobody has not paid. From 150, none has not paid.

In a short period of time (just four years), the Foundation had established an official presence, rooted itself in its community and secured mutual trust and respect with the people and organizations it sought to support, and had developed an impressive body of volunteers and fundraisers.

And then, with the Arab Spring, came the revolution, and once again the Waqfeya found itself having to adapt its activities in a changing environment.

The revolution: and a revolution in the foundation’s role

Things have changed dramatically for the WMCF since the revolution, are changing still, and will no doubt change constantly over the next few years. But the immediate effect of the revolution was to change the role of the Foundation: although it continued to fund projects as before, it found itself compelled to play an active role in the revolution, initially by supporting the families of the ‘martyrs’ who were killed in the course of the revolution:

Maadi lost 27 or 28 martyrs going from Maadi to Tahrir Square … the policemen killed them – shoot to kill it was, mostly in the head, and with live bullets. And for us, as a community foundation, we were not a political organization, but you cannot help supporting your community members in a time like this. After all, we realized that our mission was to revolutionize and change the status quo, and the revolution was just what we needed to accelerate our work. Our community members had fallen dead in their quest for social justice but they were our own loss, and their families became our pride and responsibility. It became our responsibility also to engage in helping them – and helping here is not to help them materially or financially: it was also to support their cause. And we found ourselves engaged in supporting their cause, which means we found ourselves engaged in human rights and meeting with activists and gathering people to go to demonstrate and go to the general attorneys … That was our first test as a community foundation in a time of hardship, in an emergency.

The Foundation organized a funeral at the entrance to Maadi for the 27 martyrs (the number known at that time to have died), to honour them and mourn their death, but also to draw attention to their murder and their murderers: Mubarak, the Minister of Interior, and the Maadi and Dar AsSalam police station soldiers who shot them. The Waqfeya deliberately made this a large, public funeral: high officials and prominent people performed the funeral service, public figures and members of the martyrs’ families (in a breach of tradition) spoke at it, and Coptic Christians and Muslim were represented by key religious figures speaking in solidarity and unity. In a further flouting of conventions, women and men mingled in the same areas of the funeral.

Young friends of Maadi martyrs and WMCF board member (Dr. Fatma Abu Nawareg) at the foundation’s premises discussing artistic expression in post-revolutionary Egypt. Community members meet frequently at the WMCF.

The funeral generated a discussion that continued afterwards on the Foundation’s premises, and a pressure group was formed from the community members. With the martyrs’ families, the Waqfeya also formed the first Martyrs’ Families Association in Egypt for this neighbourhood of Maadi, Basateen, Dar AsSalam and Torah; the Association meets regularly on the Waqfeya’s premises, its official meeting place. Acting on behalf of the community, the Foundation enlisted the support of human rights activists and lawyers, and galvanized the community to act in unity and to confront the general attorney with the demand that the death of the martyrs be treated as a collective case against the murderers of the victims. The movement quickly attracted media attention and the support of prominent Egyptians (one of whom, a famous football goalkeeper, became their spokesperson) – and it became apparent that, very soon, people in high places were paying attention to what the movement was saying and doing, and treating it with respect. The Waqfeya organized several demonstrations, which attracted an increasing number of community members, until it became the reference point for the martyrs’ legal cases, and the source of information on the numbers of injured people, and on the movements of young people involved in the area. The Waqfeya brought the case of Maadi to the General Attorney, who heard them and then rejected their demands. The judiciary and the South of Cairo General Lawyer, however, listened and acceded to their demands, and in the wake of the revolution the Foundation was asked to help the authorities monitor elections. Again, a development that they hadn’t foreseen emerged from their primary involvement in the community they supported:

We were never an organization that was engaged in monitoring elections but we feel now that there is active civil society and they say ‘We need you to help us’. So now we are getting volunteers, we are trying to train volunteers to do political awareness to people and to monitor elections with other human rights activists, so that in the coming months we’ll be able to do a good job. I don’t think we will do a terrific job because we’ve all been living in an authoritative rule for 30 years – and that’s left its traces on all of us –but we are now beginning to enlarge our scale of partnerships and specialities and we’ve got a better understanding of what it takes to educate ourselves and our fellow member on the democracy we have never lived in before.

The Foundation’s profile can be said to have changed significantly since the revolution. As well as preparing to monitor the elections, it has become involved in the whole area of education in democratic rights and social justice, concepts that had been largely alien to Egypt before the revolution. Children learning art at the Khan el Fenoun art centre, for example, produced political awareness messages in the form of paintings for those who cannot read. This was the most effective tool to educate people on basic questions such as what is a constitution, why your voice counts, what is a parliament. Helped by children, the Waqfeya staff provided Training of Trainers (ToT) training for volunteers, to equip them with the tools to educate community members who were unable to read or write. This movement has led the Foundation to draw on links with the diaspora community in the United States and elsewhere, in order to help develop political information material about the parties and the process of voting. Meetings of young members of the diaspora and capacity-building workshops started to take place regularly at the Waqfeya, which many Arab Americans made their home in Egypt.

This link with the international community has not been without complications. Although the Waqfeya had in the past refused to accept money from bilateral donors such as USAID, foreign funding suddenly came into the spotlight again. Marwa has a suspicion that the huge influx of money into the country since the revolution is in large part panic money: ‘They’ve lost Mubarak, who was their ally, they need to create another ally in Egypt, and I think what they’ve figured out is that they should do it with money as they did with Mubarak as well.’ As a result, the money that used to go to big organizations working with USAID and the government, has started to go instead to smaller local NGOs, which again has distorted much NGO activity. The price of full-time staff has since soared, and their availability has diminished:

We as a community foundation decided not to take from USAID money because it’s very political and it doesn’t have a very good reputation. We are facing the challenge that many people are starting to get money, so again we are getting into the same dilemma: they are putting up the prices so that we cannot hire enough people if we want full-time staff. So we face many challenges; we would want to educate people that they have to be careful with foreign funding – they mustn’t fall into the dependency trap. And then you want to also influence the government that we want the legal status to change; and in the same time you have elections in one month and then you have also your work, the job creation, our own activities, you know.

Maximum impact, minimum exposure

The Foundation has played a careful game here. It has been at pains to distance itself from the media spotlight, making sure that, if there were to be filmed interviews at the public meetings in the wake of the 27 martyrs’ funerals, those interviews would be conducted with members of the martyrs’ families. Marwa recognized the possibilities for promotion that the Foundation’s new-found position presented but made a conscious decision to avoid that at all costs, knowing that the very thing that brought the Foundation to the wider attention of the broader Egyptian community might also lose it the respect and the confidence of the Maadi community it was established to serve. While it was important to highlight the illegality of the martyrs’ death and to campaign for greater social justice, it was equally important – perhaps more so – to provide for the families of the martyrs, many of whom had lost their prime breadwinner and needed immediate action:

So we fundraised very quickly and we started income-generating projects for these families. We gave them sustainable funding so that it was very clear that we were not giving them gifts – we were also investing in income-generating projects, so again it’s philanthropy for development, as we seek to promote. And it was a very dignified process: they came as partners, they signed contracts, we had a celebration – very close, not to show off, just to show that we were working with them; it was a very small gathering. So I think that was for us a test of whether we were really a community foundation which people can trust and work with.

Some examples. A family of four girls, one older brother, their mother and grandmother lost their sick father just one month before the revolution, after spending all they had on his treatment. During the revolution, the son of the family was shot dead. The family had had a supermarket in a shanty town in a popular area, but were completely bankrupt following the double loss of their father and their one remaining breadwinner. The Foundation equipped the shop anew, and the family started work a couple of days after the son’s death – activity that has proved their salvation. Many other cases are similar to this and, without the empowerment provided by the Waqfeya, the bigger case for the martyrs’ right would never have been made. The Foundation has also made an agreement with an eye hospital to give operations to 150 people in the area who lost sight in their eyes, many of them as a result of their involvement in the revolution. A man working as a guard in one of the tall buildings on the Nile started a project to sell ‘goodies’ like sugar rice for the people in his area – the Foundation provided a seed fund for him to do this. Another bought a motorcycle to transport people to work. And one story shows the Foundation’s two roles coming together:

One of our partners lost two brothers, both of whom died in Tahrir Square. He’s an activist, and together with other farmers he took over the land that had been stolen by big government officials who are in prison now. They cultivated this land with food supplies, and – because they didn’t pay anything for the land and really don’t want a lot of profit because they consider this a public profit – they produce very low-price products. So, because people buy food baskets, we decided to make a project for them so that –instead of selling food baskets to supermarkets and giving them more profits and augmenting the value of the thing – we encouraged this association by partnering with them, and we will be making an outlet for people who would want to buy the food baskets, so they buy them from us, from our outlets. We’re starting to accept orders now – we have a thousand now – we will call it the political social justice Ramadan food basket (it is poetic in Arabic, in Egyptian) but the idea is that we will put all the material that we gathered in creating awareness and we will put it in this Ramadan basket as well.

Looking to the future

The last year has dramatically increased the number of people contacting the Foundation. At a time of financial uncertainty – businesspeople the Foundation might have approached for funds have by and large disappeared and international grantmakers are either paranoically insecure about investing in the Arab region or are themselves cutting budgets as a result of the global economic downturn – this has put immense strains on the Foundation, which has been unable to expand its staff to accommodate its new role. The current instability of the government only makes things worse for the Foundation: in theory, there is much greater openness at government and ministry level to the kind of activity the Foundation and other NGOs engage in, and much more sympathy for the changes in law that they believe would make their lives easier. But the ministries are in a mess, and the paperwork required to organize the day-to-day activity of the Foundation is every bit as burdensome as it ever was. On top of that, of course, there is the very real possibility that a government will be elected that is hostile to everything the Foundation stands for.

But there are huge pluses, too. The revolution brought to the surface what Marwa had long believed to be actively present in Egypt before: a strong civil society, characterized by considerable creativity and a firm sense of civil engagement. It has also changed the way in which NGOs operate, with many of them now campaigning together to bring about an element of social or governmental change, rather than chasing after the same international dollar. And, although the effect of the revolution has been to broaden the role of the Foundation (giving it a national profile much earlier than had been planned) and to drastically increase its workload, it has also broadened its reach within the community, developing its philanthropic capacity and increasing the sense of social cohesion.

Training of trainers for volunteers on evaluating and supporting economic development projects in preparation for community visits.

More generally, there is a new spirit of hope and purpose, and a feeling of collective endeavour. Marwa has noticed the change most with the younger generation.

During the revolution a lot of children would go on the streets and clean. We are used to working with children and young people – but now we have more schoolchildren and very young volunteers – children aged between 5 and 15 – who are showing responsibility towards the country. This opens all sorts of doors for us to work with them more by building their capacity and by directing them to the right path. […] We have a special class now on the revolution: the children write, they design the flag, they produce handicrafts that are black, white and red like the flag. So it’s like creating this sense of belonging and interest to make your place a better, a more beautiful place.

The WMCF has already come a long way since its establishment four years ago, riding a wave of Marwa’s energy and enthusiasm, the devotion of the Waqfeya staff, community members, volunteers, interns and donors, the exhuberance and commitment of the young people and children, and a sea change in the social make-up of Egypt. Delegations of Egyptians in the diaspora, too, are becoming more and more active with the Foundation.

It will have to be left to future updates to show whether the fall-out from the revolution will have added to or detracted from the social capital in the country. But for now the last word should go to Marwa and a conversation she had with Omar, a young child who had recently provided regular help with the fieldwork for the Foundation:

This 10 year old was saying ‘Before, I thought that when I grew up I wanted to go to America’ – that was their goal: to be something important would mean they’d have to go and travel – ‘but now I don’t want to go anywhere, I want to stay in Egypt and work here to make it better’. When you hear that from a child, someone who helps out filling in questionnaires, transporting equipment for projects, who’s passionate about raising money for a family to start a bakery, you feel how amazing it is to have this chance, this time to provide them with ideals and outlets for what they want to do. And you see how they absorb … and how we really need to give them a chance to do this.

Website: www.waqfeyatalmaadi-cf.org  (under re-construction)
Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/Waqfeyat.al.Maadi.CF/