“We need to stop being organizations and institutions and just be people trying to make change” – Meet the Giving for Change alliance: Uganda National NGO Forum
29 Jul 2021
In this series of interviews, we will be introducing you to the lead partners involved in the Giving for Change programme! The five-year, €24 million programme will be implemented in Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Palestine and Uganda, and is led by a consortium of four organizations: the Africa Philanthropy Network, Kenya Community Development Foundation, GFCF and Wilde Ganzen. The aim of Giving for Change – part of the Dutch government’s ‘Power of Voices’ programme – is to foster local giving as an expression of voice, civic participation, solidarity and dissent. The programme will build evidence around new thinking, approaches and leadership that support community philanthropy development.
In this interview we speak with Sarah Pacutho, Coordinator – Philanthropy for Development Programme at the Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGOF), a national platform for NGOs that influence governance and development processes in Uganda, working to enhance the operating environment.
GFCF: What does community philanthropy currently look like in Uganda?
Sarah: Community philanthropy in Uganda is diverse, most of it is not structured or regulated, you give where your heart wants to give. In formal communities, philanthropy is seen in offices, rotary clubs, among class alumnae and Giving Circles. Within the rotary clubs, which are more structured, people give to hospital wards, mainly to support children with cancer. In offices there is the normal giving that happens when a colleague has a birthday, wedding or funeral and we all make contributions. At our organization, we agreed that we wanted to build a home – all staff and board members contributed towards the construction – this was our community engaging in philanthropy to build premises for the organization. With Giving Circles, a group of people contribute their resources to solve an issue. This can be a circle that contributes towards the burial expenses of a member, or women in a community who set aside money to support their farming ventures.
While informal communities consist of friends giving to friends, families, church and orphanages. Within the confines of the church, people give offerings and tithes. However, churches also raise money in auction like formats – where money is raised towards building a church or the reverend’s house. There is also the online community, where you find people utilizing platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook to mobilize resources for different causes. At the grassroots, it’s really small things like communities contributing their time in cleaning up a borehole or water source.
We insist that philanthropy is not just about money but in-kind resources too. Philanthropy really depends on the community you describe.
GFCF: What does #ShiftThePower mean to you/your organization?
Sarah: #ShiftThePower is understood on a number of levels – some people will probably think of the political and governance context. However, at our organization, the work we have done and continue to do, is about shifting the power though we do not call it that.
In the last years, we shifted the power by letting communities decide for themselves. We made deliberate efforts in which we dedicated some time to community immersions. We stayed with communities for three days while doing their chores, eating with them, just to understand the context in which they live in. Then we had meetings in which we asked the communities to list their priorities – and the issues that were raised informed our programming. We shifted the power in terms of moving from what we thought was best for communities and we let them decide. Also, in the meetings we had with communities, they also agreed to contribute towards their own development.
We have also provided trainings for our members to ensure that communities are speaking for themselves, rather than organizations engaging duty bearers on their behalf. We have community parliaments where we facilitate meetings between communities and their area Members of Parliament (MPs). We let the communities engage with their MP, to ask hard questions and to demand for accountability.
When you look at the #ShiftThePower in the sense of funding, for a long time we have had to accept any available funding from different sources. However, we are now growing our internal processes to be able to say no to funding that does not suit our programming and the type of work we do. It is a slow progress but slowly the attitude is changing, we need funds that suit our agenda and align with our policies and processes.
GFCF: How will the Giving for Change programme help to advance the community philanthropy field or #ShiftThePower in Uganda?
Sarah: Firstly, I have to acknowledge that this programme is not new, it is just the glue that is going to pull everything that we have done over the last 23 years of existence into focus. We have organizations and entities that we support, so the focus is working on their legitimacy so that they are trusted by communities, they are legal and compliant.
Under the Change the Game Academy programme, the aim is to build the dignity of people and we have a number of trainings directed at the communities. We are not only including formal organizations in the trainings but small groups, individuals, leaders in a community and even those that are not formally tied by policy. We will go where change is actually happening, help communities identify their issues, build their capacity to speak to their issues and to give towards their issues. We call it “Philanthropy for Development” because we focus on sustainable and more focused giving. The programme will open up new ways of working that is not stuck in the bureaucratic type of working. We need to stop being organizations and institutions and just be people trying to make change.
GFCF: How can the Giving for Change programme help encourage donors / INGOs to really shift power and resources closer to the ground?
Sarah: He who makes the money makes the rules, but money without people to put it into action is nothing. For us it’s about appreciation of everyone’s role – you have a donor, the organization and citizens who are all important. I will not let anyone enter my home and decide what my children will eat just because they gave me some money. That is what we are trying to say to donors – that if they really want to help, simply give me a hoe but do not come and hold the hoe for me, and tell me where to till and what to plant. The citizens should also speak for themselves and reject money that does not impact their communities.
This is not just about organizations. We are going to involve donors in this project and let them see for themselves what will be happening on the ground. We will also document and share experiences with them as well.
GFCF: How has aid undermined local giving practices in Uganda and what can the Giving for Change programme do about that?
Sarah: Aid has disenfranchised the local grassroots person that does not have a degree in development studies or is not working in an NGO because the donors have wanted to have things structured in a certain way. For this reason, NGOs are so professionalized that at times it is so cold and unfeeling.
For example, there are grassroots organizations doing amazing work but some donors may say, if they do not have a gender policy or a financial manual, they will not receive funding. However, what you cannot take away from these organizations is their legitimacy and deep rootedness in communities. When you try to squeeze those grassroots organizations into log frames, it does not change the way they live, it disenfranchises giving. The problem is we make everything glamourous but there is need to step back and let giving happen spontaneously and organically. Let’s involve community facilitators, let them take lead in engaging and let us use real processes that traditional aid has undermined.
Interview conducted by: Tarisai Jangara, GFCF Communications Specialist
Meet the other Giving for Change partners: