Confronting philanthropy’s image problem: does participatory giving offer a way forward?

She couldn’t have put it more clearly:

“Philanthropy means people helping other people…Philanthropy also means corruption: the rich hiding their ill-gotten wealth in foundations and using them to exert political influence.”

The setting was an overheated university classroom at the university in Bogota, the start of an afternoon session on the topic of “Rethinking resourcing of civil society.” I had asked the room, whose audience was made up of a diverse mix of people from NGOs, donors, foundations, and social social movements to take a minute to discuss with their neighbour what associations the word “philanthropy” inspired in them.

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WINGS Webinar to focus on mobilizing resources for women’s rights

Photo courtesy of Lin Center for Community Development, VietnamThis upcoming WINGS webinar will present new research by the International Network of Women’s Funds, in collaboration with the International Human Rights Funders Group and Mama Cash, and will explore the role of resource mobilization in expanding local support for women’s rights and strengthening local cultures of philanthropy in the Global South and East.

The webinar will provide additional insight into how women’s funds are utilizing local resource mobilization as one tool to shirt internalized beliefs and attitudes, social and cultural norms, formal policies, and access to resources for women’s movements.

The webinar will be held on 2 December, 4pm UTC. For more information, including how to register, please click here

How community funds help “push power out of the door:” find out more about our recent webinar

Our role isn’t to say “Do A, B and C.” We know a fair amount of how to do what we’re doing and we’ve got a fair amount of experience, but ultimately, if we believe that the only people that can build and sustain a community are the people that live and work there, I’m not convinced that what matters is what I tell people to do. What ultimately matters is what people decide is in their best interest. In many cases we’re helping to facilitate that conversation, share information, or community leaders from a neighbouring community may go and share their experience. Jeff Yost, Nebraska Community Foundation, United States

“We believe that everybody is involved in a community, every child, every grown-up is a donor and we believe that every small contribution can become big. And therefore we say that we enable our community members to talk to each other.” Johanna Hendricks, West Coast Community Foundation, South Africa

Our recent webinar looked at how two community foundations – one in South Africa and the other in the United States – are using community (affiliated) funds to build grassroots philanthropy as a development tool and to stay local. Or, as put by Jeff Yost of the Nebraska Community Foundation, how community funds help “push power out the door.”

Missed it? See below for links to the webinar itself, a full transcript, presentations and a set of additional tools and resources.

Watch the webinar

Read a transcript of the webinar

 

Presentations:

Johanna Hendriks, CEO, West Coast Community Foundation

Jeff Yost, President and CEO, Nebraska Community Foundation

 

Additional materials:

“A different vision of rural philanthropy” by Jeff Yost

Nebraska Community Foundation 2014 Annual Report

Nebraska Community Foundation “Turn up your dream switch” video

West Coast Community Foundation “Hands of hope” video

 

From tinkering to transformation: why Africa needs a strong community philanthropy sector

The familiarity of the scene was both startling and sobering. A couple of months ago, I joined a field visit to a village in eastern Uganda, a stunningly green and mountainous part of the country, rich in coffee and banana trees. The experience transported me back twenty years to my first proper experience of Africa.

Back in 1992, fresh from university, I had spent a year in a village in the far southwestern tip of Uganda, teaching English (one text-book per ten students) and Health Science (which depended too much, unfortunately, on my rather inadequate chalkboard drawings). I learned how to crochet (and spent many an hour producing intricate seat covers in white and dazzling pink and discussing the relative merits of Uganda village life versus that in large British city with my crochet friends, the school’s secretary and the librarian), attended several weddings in far flung corners of Kabale’s surrounding hills, and wondered why tins of World Food Programme fish were being sold at our local shop. And all against the backdrop of booms of gunfire, that were the sounds of a civil war being fought over the border in Rwanda.

At school, each term a nurse would come to school to check if any of the girls were pregnant. If yes, they were promptly expelled. And, too often, bright students would disappear for weeks on end to return, after a severe bout of malaria, with less of a sparkle in their eyes and less ability in their schoolwork. I also got to see how various government policies played out at village level. Uganda’s World Bank-supported Structural Adjustment Programme was then in full flow: in the village this meant that the school closed and all teaching was halted as “ghost” teachers were weeded out from the pay roll. It was a mystifying process to all of us. In terms of elections, years of brutal civil war and a complete break-down in trust, had led the government to introduce a new, fully transparent system that dispensed with ballot boxes and involved voters actually lining up behind their chosen candidate so that there was no doubt as to the result (and on voting days, there also seemed to be more beer in circulation than usual). Most people seemed to feel it was a more credible process than closed, and often stuffed, ballots boxes.

But what I learnt more than anything during that year was how different the world looks from a position of poverty. Obviously I was a comparatively wealthy foreigner, but as the months went by, I got to understand and appreciate the forces – so often random and unstoppable – that shook and shaped the community: heavy rains wiping out a field or a home, cerebral malaria or AIDS taking away a breadwinner. The effect was to limit people’s expectations, and to foster a sense of passive fatalism, powerlessness, and ultimately acceptance. And beyond that, I learnt how the community saw the forces of “development” – as something wholly external, something “done to” a village, a project or initiative that might seem bewildering to those on the receiving end, but which would be accepted dutifully with the conclusion that “someone up there” must know what they are meant to be doing. 

And here we were two decades later, in a very similar looking village in Uganda. Although the overall story we were there to hear was a positive one (a small grant had helped the community to organize itself through a goat farming project, people who had never really spoken to each other were now working side by side and the women “had found their voice”), it was hard not to feel a sense of disappointment, and by extension, of something close to guilt. There was the deep curtsey of the woman who greeted us, eyes cast down, hand extended in the formal elbow-hold African handshake that is sign of respect although, sometimes, feels like supplication – that the outsiders must automatically be better or superior; the hint of gender dynamics that dictated that the woman stoop so low but not the men; the village school – that looked exactly like the one in which I had taught my more memorable classes on water-borne diseases – more suited to housing cattle than learning, and with a metal roof that would be the cause of an almighty and deafen clatter whenever it rained; stories told of children still being sent home from school because although primary education is free, there are still various hidden fees needing to be paid and parents still failing to manage this.

Don’t get me wrong, the overall trajectory of social development indicators in Uganda is generally positive. Under-five mortality rates are down from 178 per 1,000 to around 60, and there has been a significant reduction of mother to child transmission of HIV. What was striking, however, was how the overall conversation in the village had remained the same: the goat story was a bright spot in a broader scene of stagnation, poverty, and isolation. No one we spoke to could think of anyone from the village who had actually ever left to get work in the nearby town, let alone Kampala.

The term “brief-case NGO” is a well-used shorthand across Africa for the dodgier parts of a civil society sector that is not particularly well trusted. And indeed, in the village, the stereotype rang only too true: its only previous experience of an NGO had left a bad taste – promises had been made, but this was followed either by a change of heart or downright dishonesty on the part of the NGO which was never seen again.

Standing there, watching and listening, I felt a sense of sadness and shame. How could it be this way? I have spent the last twenty years studying, learning about, working in philanthropy and development – a fast-changing field where new ideas, approaches, the next “silver bullet” pop up with an astonishing frequency. Structural adjustment had come and gone. Then there were the Millennium Development Goals and, coming soon, the Sustainable Development Goals. In philanthropy we’ve seen grantmaking and non-grantmaking approaches, the emergence of “strategic” philanthropy, venture philanthropy, impact investing…  And yet, here in this one village, it struck me that fundamentally very little had really changed for people; that an isolated community had never been aware of – let alone been involved in – the lively and dynamic conversation that the rest of us in development have been having.

Of course, critiques of aid are not new and there are some particularly good and urgent ones around at the moment. In fact, it was a meeting to explore ways to demonstrate and advocate for more community-driven approaches to development that had brought me back to Uganda this year (the goats project was the result of a highly engaged grant made by the meeting organizers, Spark Microgrants). For two days, against the stunning backdrop of Mount Elgon, a group of NGOs and a couple of donors had mulled over the contradictions and complexities of development aid, all united in the belief that there had to be better ways to work and that each of the organizations present possessed some component of that “better way”.

I note, with no small sense of irony, that too many meetings in hotel conference rooms can only reinforce the sense of displacement I’ve already described. What is the alternative? (Ideas please! There’s a comments section below). But I am afraid I am going to have to take you to one more conference room before I finish here.

A few weeks’ before the Uganda visit, the GFCF had brought together a group of community philanthropy partners from across Africa in Arusha, Tanzania, to meet and learn from each other and to also to work together to better articulate a development approach that can be more reflective of the interests and abilities of the people it’s meant to serve. So we were joined by people from Egypt, Congo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Ethiopia, who each represent the various scattered and multi-lingual outposts of this emerging conversation about community philanthropy as an alternative development approach.GFCF Partners convening in Arusha, June 2015

One of the main topics of discussion was around a piece of research that the GFCF has been working on with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in South Africa. We were interested in testing the hypothesis – often aired but harder to demonstrate – that local grantmakers and foundations bring something distinct to the table; that, beyond money, local foundations can play all sorts of other roles, as mentors, connectors and long-term sources of support; that they can support and help build local organizations which can indeed bring in local people and not just leave the business of development to “experts” (I lost track of how many people had joined savings or self-help groups and contributed to village funds on our site visits to Limpopo for the research, but it was a phenomenal number); that when such local foundations are themselves fundraisers trying to address issues of their own long-term sustainability, such preoccupations get – consciously or unconsciously – passed on to their grantees; and that issues around decision-making and governance – and therefore power – become more important than ever. The kinds of things that might move a community from being passive recipients of development to engaged participants.

We wondered whether we could identify, together, some of that “magic mixture” and if so, whether we would be better able to say why, for example, local African foundations are better than external donors at doing things like reaching deep into communities in meaningful ways, in listening to local people (without the same complications that can often arise from visits from “outsider”) and in building trust. If that village in Uganda had had a ten-year relationship with a local grantmaking foundation (as in the case of the Makutano Development Association in Kenya) would the situation have looked any different?

It is clear that there has to be a fundamental shift in how development is done and it needs to offer a framework that connects people to people, ideas to ideas, concepts to concepts, vertically from communities to big donor institutions and, as importantly, horizontally across communities in all their diversity. Tinkering at the edges of development is fine but what is needed is big change.

We were fortunate to be joined at our meeting by the redoubtable Joyce Malombe, author of the first report commissioned by the World Bank back in 2000 to examine the potential role for community foundations to play in fostering community-driven development, and someone who can be relied upon to bring a conversation down to brass tacks. We asked Joyce to reflect on the current state and relevance of the African community philanthropy field. Here are some thoughts that stayed with me:

 

  • There is nothing more powerful than when people / communities know what it is they want, and can be supported in voicing those aspirations, and building the institutions that can deliver them.
  • That’s the magic so often missing from “development.” If communities are left behind, or out of the mix, development will never get anywhere
  • If we, as practitioners, believe the above, then we have no choice but to make it happen: we need to get better at talking about what we mean with clarity and confidence and at demonstrating what successful community development can look like.

 

Jenny Hodgson, GFCF Executive Director

Join our next webinar on Community Funds – a strategy for building philanthropy from the grassroots

Hear how two community foundations – one in South Africa and the other in the United States –are using community (affiliated) funds to build grassroots philanthropy as a development tool and to stay local.

The last two decades have seen a dramatic growth in the number of community foundation around the world, particularly in low and middle-income countries. A key feature of many community foundations is that of an endowment fund, which can provide both a buffer to communities in the case of sudden shocks, and a long-term resource which allows communities to plan for their futures. However, building an endowment is not an easy process: in low-trust environments it can be hard to convince people to give in perpetuity to a general “pot” of funds. And when you are trying to demonstrate the importance of local assets and local action in building vibrant and connected communities, it becomes very important to engage people where they are.

In recent years, local level funds have become an increasingly attractive and effective strategy for bringing community philanthropy “to the people” and for engaging communities in local level decision-making and asset development. In the United States, such funds are often called affiliate funds. The Nebraska Community Foundation uses the affiliated funds model as a way of building grassroots philanthropy as a tool for economic development. Elsewhere, the Kenya Community Development Foundation has supported the creation of a number of “community funds” for over a decade, in Russia, very local level “rural funds” have become a key feature of rural community foundations and the Haiti Community Foundation Initiative is also exploring the idea. And in South Africa, the West Coast Community Foundation has just launched its very first community fund.

 

Date / time

Monday 19th October at 3:30pm (British Summer Time, corresponding to 4:30pm in South Africa and 9:30am in Nebraska).

 

Speakers

Johanna Hendriks, CEO, West Coast Community Foundation (South Africa)

Jeff Yost, President and CEO, Nebraska Community Foundation (US)

 

Registration

Please register at the following link:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7550245561925480450

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. For any technical difficulties, please contact Wendy Richardson (wendy@globalfundcf.org).

New GFCF grants in China, Mongolia and India!

A grant for US $20,000 to the Guangdong Harmony Foundation will support a project to map the community foundation landscape in China, focusing on the characteristics, purposes and relationships with other sectors of this emerging set of institutions. Meanwhile, in Mongolia, a grant for US $15,000 will MONES, the Mongolian Women’s Fund to develop an online giving portal to promote local philanthropy. And in India, with a grant of US $10,000 Gramin Evam Nagar Vikas Parishad (GENVP) will be exploring the feasibility of creating a Dalit community foundation in Bihar.

A full list of GFCF grants made in 2014 and 2015 can be found here

Community philanthropy in the spotlight in 2015 State of Civil Society report

2014 saw serious threats to civic freedoms in at least 96 countries around the world. This shrinkage of civil society space, notes the CIVICUS 2015 State of Civil Society report “is no longer something that can be dismissed as a coincidence, or the province of a small group of aberrant states.” As international funding flows for civil society come under increased scrutiny and restrictions, the importance of mobilizing domestic resources and building local constituencies to amplify citizen voice, protect and advocate for social and economic rights becomes more important than ever. At the same time, where international development funding is still playing a significant role, there remains much to be done to flatten power dynamics and to facilitate the kinds of development approaches that are locally owned and locally driven.

In the context of both of these trends, the role of community philanthropy as a strategy for mobilizing both local resources and local voice and as a way of changing the power balance between institutional funders and local civil society organizations, becomes more important than ever. This year’s report includes essays by the GFCF and two of its long-term partners. They are:

 

How can grantmaking begin to repair damage to the social fabric in Palestine, the result of decades of occupation and aid dependence? This essay describes Dalia’s unique approach to funding: “Starting from the premise that Palestinians have the right to control their own resources, Dalia Association stopped focusing on how communities use grants and focused instead on the processes they use to make decisions.” Lessons learned and challenges ahead are also outlined.

 

In her contribution, Ambika Satkunanathan makes the case that in the context of diminishing resources for civil society, the role of indigenous grantmakers is becoming increasingly relevant. This is particularly true in cases where work on human rights and social justice is being supported – the type of sensitive funding that corporate foundations seem to be increasingly distancing themselves from.

 

Avila Kilmurray and Barry Knight’s essay challenges the pattern of support for larger, more formalized civil society organizations, as opposed to community-based organizations. They make the case for revising current aid architecture in a way that would be more beneficial to all involved: “Bringing together aid agencies with community foundations would mean that both would gain. While aid agencies can bring resources and technical expertise to the table, local donors grasp the layers of complexity that only local people can understand.”

Can African grantmakers transcend past development strategies?

In 2014, the outbreak of Ebola in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone sent a chill around the world. The disease claimed over 11,000 lives, the majority in those three countries. However, it was the handful of cases that were reported in Europe and the United States that really fuelled the headlines. Suddenly the world’s attention was on “Africa” and a continent made up of 54 countries and over a billion people, which shrank dramatically in the popular imagination to a rather tiny corner of West Africa.

One of the effects of this global panic was that the Third African Grantmakers Network Conference that had been due to take place in Ghana – in West Africa yes, but not affected by Ebola – in November 2014 was cancelled. Cancelled, that is, until the Foundation for Civil Society in Tanzania stepped in and proposed Arusha, Tanzania as an alternate venue, for a July 2015 date.

It was highly appropriate, therefore, that a topic for discussion at the conference was that of African philanthropy’s role in disaster response.

“How can we challenge the perception that Africa is always ‘saved’ by outsiders?” asked Theo Sowa of the African Women’s Development Fund, “When, in fact, the people who ‘saved’ Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, were from those countries, not from International NGOs.” In the case of Ebola, it was a small grant from the Urgent Action Fund-Africa that had sent a Ugandan doctor to West Africa to raise early warnings about the outbreak of the disease. And further south, the Southern Africa Trust organized its own response: although far from the epicentre of the crisis, the organization was quick to see the knock-on effects that Ebola was having across the continent.

Theo Sowa (2nd from R) & panelists discuss disaster response at the 2015 AGNIncreasingly, observed Kepta Obati, local African institutions – because they have strong local networks and an ear to the ground – are being called upon to respond to emergency situations, whether or not it is their area of expertise. Certainly, that has been the experience within the GFCF network, where local partners have found themselves at the epicentres of floods, hurricanes and earthquakes: they respond whether this moves them “off-mission” or not.

Conference participants heard many powerful stories of the local, often “below the radar” responses of different kinds of African philanthropic institutions, responding creatively to extraordinary situations on the ground. They are developing new business models that build communities’ capacities and assets as an alternative to the “projectization” of traditional development aid. An underlying theme throughout the conference was the idea that “African philanthropy” is nothing new and that practices and cultures of solidarity and support are stronger and more established across this continent than other regions of the world. They may even be a defining feature of African communities. While speakers emphasised the implicit strengths and potential of African philanthropy, however, a number of questions and dilemmas emerged, both explicitly and by implication:

  • Being a local philanthropic institution in Africa can certainly offer all manner of advantages and benefits when it comes to fostering local development: a long-term view and institutional memory, proximity to the ground, an appreciation of the complexity of context. However, none of it means anything if an African grantmaker simply adopts all the behaviours – so hotly criticized in Arusha – of external donors, with their upward accountability and power dynamics.
  • Reconciling the philanthropy of the wealthy with the philanthropy of the poor. Organized African philanthropy is rapidly growing and much of is it associated with the assets of the extremely wealthy. At the same time the established narrative of African philanthropy tends to emphasise giving and solidarity systems – the survival strategies, if you like – of the poor. How to bridge the two? What is the role of multi-donor institutions that can unlock assets across different demographic groups, including the middle class, who still have few organized giving options at their disposal?
  • Encouraging organized systems of giving is one thing, but how do we ensure they address and do not reinforce long-term structural issues of inequality and marginalization? The “Kenyans for Kenya” campaign, for example, raised more than US $7 million for drought and famine relief in the north part of the country, but did it result in long-term changes for poor communities there?
  • Learning from the experience of decades of “bad” development practices. More than any other region of the world, Africa’s civil society sector and its communities have been on the receiving end of poorly formulated, costly and often ineffective development programmes. How can its emerging local foundation sector learn from those mistakes and resolve to do things differently?

These complex questions need to be addressed if the African philanthropic sector is to start to define its role, its values and its way of working. A good job for a regional network perhaps? With a new name, the Africa Philanthropy Network, new director, Karen Sai, and a new board, let’s hope this home-grown network is up to the job.

 

By: Jenny Hodgson, GFCF Executive Director

This piece originally appeared on the Alliance Magazine website.

 

 

Community foundations offer disaster recovery lessons: Is anyone listening?

When the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy focused on the role of community foundations in disaster and emergency relief in July 2014, they had in mind the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city of New Orleans. Albert Ruesga, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, asserted that “Katrina’s landfall in August 2005 was a wake-up call for the city leadership. Clearly whatever the foundation had done to serve New Orleans and the region before Katrina needed to be re-imagined.”

Less than a year on, the Kathmandhu-based Tewa women’s fund is helping local women to rebuild their shattered lives in rural villages across Nepal. Tewa, working in partnership with the peace-building organization Nagarik Aawaz, formed an Earthquake Relief Fund Committee in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Recovery will require “long-term rehabilitation work, where trust and respect is imperative in order to work as partners”, observes Rita Thapa, Tewa’s founder. No one is better situated to make this long-term commitment than community foundations, but they are often left out of international relief efforts.

Rita Thapa (L) in the days following the first Nepal earthquake, April 2015

Positioning community philanthropy to play its part

Rita’s comments reflect findings of the San Diego Foundation, which pointed out that disaster recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. The foundation invested five years of work following a series of destructive wildfires in 2007. It supported community recovery teams to provide local people with a hub to coordinate their work and created an insurance advocacy scheme to help fire-affected residents claim entitlements. After devastating tornadoes in Joplin Missouri in 2011, Louise Knauer, of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, identified the role of the community foundation “as a community anchor – the ‘boots on the ground’ that will be here for needs that linger long afterwards, often when other funding and attention has waned.”

 

A focus on preparedness
An emphasis on the long-term commitment of community-based philanthropy to address issues of reconstruction is currently being matched with a focus on preparedness. The Greater New Orleans Foundation now has a continuity of operations plan in place, and the foundation funds Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOADS), providing up-to-date contact lists for VOADS and their staff.  The importance of preparedness has increasingly been recognized by the UK Community Foundations network, where a number of local community foundations have worked to alleviate hardship during both natural and rural disasters over recent years.

Of course, in Asia, which accounted for 90 per cent of people affected by global natural disasters in 2013, preparedness is particularly crucial. Yet in that region, community philanthropy organizations have limited access to resources.

 

A conversation with people who cannot hear?
Given that community philanthropy organizations show a commitment to the well-being and resilience of their communities, the apparent lack of awareness of their contributions among development and humanitarian relief agencies and bilateral aid organizations is disappointing.

When the Balkans experienced extensive flooding in May 2014, the community foundations Mozaik, Tuzla and Trag didn’t wait to be coordinated by international organizations.  Mozaik’s Executive Director, Vesna Bajsanski-Agic, said that when you get over your disbelief in, and shock about, a disaster, you just have to react. In Bosnia, Mozaik mobilized people it trusted, established points of local contact, and distributed help quickly and effectively, with 30 per cent of the funding being raised locally. Few external agencies even thought to get in touch with the local foundations.

Participating in a recent GFCF discussion, Suranjana Gupta, coordinator of the Global Campaign for Community Resilience of the Huairou Commission, emphasized the importance of flexible resources and local knowledge in building community resilience to disasters. The priorities of local organizations are often quite different from the priorities of national-level programmes, she said.  Rita Thapa agrees.  She describes people in Nepal as survivors, not victims. Tewa is providing direct support in communities, but, as Rita explains: “We have already requested families we give cash relief to, to make a tiny contribution so that these monies can go to places that are even more in need, or come back to these communities in the form of a revolving fund. So far the response has been 100 per cent.”

If this isn’t turning the paradigm of aid and relief on its head, then what is?

Local people are not just survivors, but they are empowered to be donors. When speaking about disaster relief and preparedness at a GFCF seminar in London in May, long-term relief expert Bobby Lambert suggested that we could effectively address community resilience when development agencies think in terms of risk, and humanitarian agencies think in terms of power. Perhaps the story of what is happening at village level in Nepal will encourage both sets of agencies to listen to local people as well.

 

By: Avila Kilmurray, GFCF Director of Policy & Strategy

This piece originally appeared on the Alliance Magazine website.

Help us to help Tewa, the Nepal Women’s Fund – and here’s why…

This piece was originally posted on the GrantCraft blog on 4th May 2015. For an update on Tewa’s activities since, please scroll down. The GFCF’s JustGiving campaign in support of Tewa can be found here

You could have heard a pin drop. It was September 2011, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Rita Thapa, who founded Tewa, the Nepal Women’s Fund back in 1996, had just described to a room of NGO and development practitioners how Tewa had a network of over 3000 individual Nepali donors – “ordinary” people – whose combined contributions have formed the backbone of Tewa’s small grants to women’s groups and organizations across the country for almost twenty years. After the silence, the marvel…“If you told me you were talking about the Netherlands,” said one man, “then I would believe it…But you are talking about Nepal! If this is possible in Nepal, then it must also be possible in Bangladesh!”

That is what is so remarkable about Tewa, whose bus drives through the streets of Kathmandu and its outskirts, with the words “Philanthropy for Social Justice” painted in English on its side. For twenty years, this organization has been living its values in a profound, and also rather humble, way. Tewa is a women’s fund, shaped by the politics of feminism. Women continue to constitute a highly marginalized majority in Nepal, where common practice dictates that women must seclude themselves during menstruation and levels of domestic violence remain high.

Tewa is also a community philanthropy organization that has walked its talk, embracing the values of local ownership and local agency in the way it does its work. Tewa’s small grants to local women’s groups have always been sourced from local donors (that “3000-in-Nepal-not-the-Netherlands” mentioned above), a principle that seeks to reinforce the importance of local participation in development and that there are resources in even the poorest countries. In the same manner, community organizations that receive these grants are often encouraged to “give back” (no matter how small their contribution) as a way of flattening power dynamics that often prevail between “donor” and “recipient” and fostering a sense of shared and equal ownership of the Fund.

And the vision of Tewa has always been long-term: external funding has helped support operational costs but they have also been leveraged to enable the construction of the Tewa Centre, a complex of offices and, most recently, a residential centre that perch on a hill on the edge of Kathmandu and overlooks rice fields. It was just in November last year that Tewa hosted a meeting of GFCF grantees who came from all over the world: everyone – whether they came from China, Russia, Zimbabwe or Mexico – was blown away by Centre which is a testament, in bricks and mortar, to the power of community philanthropy. The name of each donor is carved into the wall, with foreign donors listed alongside local ones.

Tewa staff assist in earthquake relief, May 2015

In recent months, we at the GFCF have been exploring an area of work around the role that community philanthropy can play in disasters and emergencies. We believe that, while there are clearly crucial roles to be played by specialized internal and external actors in the immediate aftermath of a disaster (helicopters to deliver food, heavy lifting of rubble and debris, the establishment of emergency / temporary medical facilities), community philanthropy organizations – who are known and trusted in their communities, have a huge role to play. Five years after the earthquake in Haiti, a Haiti Community Foundation is on the verge of being registered, after an extensive process of community consultations.

We believe that communities will turn to organizations that they know and trust and that these organizations possess unique insights into and knowledge of their local communities and they are perfectly positioned to play an important role in making sure that community voices are heard as talks turn to reconstruction. In 2005 in the United States, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, community foundations played an instrumental role in physically bringing community members from the most marginalized communities who had been displaced by the hurricane – often hundreds of miles away.

Today, Tewa – like so many in Nepal – has found itself in a situation it had probably never envisaged for itself, at the heart of a national emergency on a huge scale. Tewa staff are relocating from their offices on the edge of town to a café in downtown Kathmandu. In the short term, they plan to mobilize their network of volunteers to distribute essential supplies to neighbourhoods on the edge of the city, and will also prioritize pregnant and post-natal women in some of the makeshift camps to ensure that they have access to medical care. In addition to these and other priority areas that they have identified, Tewa is working with a range of different impromptu networks that have emerged.

In the short to medium term, Tewa will be assessing the situation of its grant partners in more remote areas of Nepal with a view to both immediate relief and rehabilitation. In the long term, Tewa will continue to be there too. That is why the GFCF has launched a campaign in support of Tewa, the Nepal Women’s Fund. It’s amazing how quickly one’s world can be thrown up in the air. Tewa is there and ready to work: let’s help them.

Jenny Hodgson

GFCF Executive Director 

Tewa staff visiting rural areas, May 2015

*********************************************

Update on Tewa

 

  • In the weeks following the earthquake, Tewa and its partner organization Nagarik Aawaz, have concentrated on providing relief to communities that they know and have worked with before, delivering relief and prioritising maternal and child health. In the words of Rita Thapa, a founder of Tewa and former GFCF board member: “We are realizing that one of the fundamentally important things is not to underestimate the enormity of this disaster, but also not to allow anyone to blow it out of proportion. We need to carefully examine who tells our story/ies and with what intentions. There are many tragic or sad tales, but there are also stories of fortitude and strength, of compassion and kindness. The entire Nepali people, it feels like, are working as one and for each other.” You can read regular updates on Tewa’s relief efforts on their Facebook page.
  • The GFCF’s fundraising campaign for Tewa has so far raised over US $18,500 from more than 100 individual donors.