Recent years have seen the philanthropic sector shift focus from charity to social justice issues that reflect the common threads of humanity that connect us all: equality, prosperity, and peace. As long term advocates of grassroots led development, this is a welcome change that breathes new life into the, now widely recognized, inadequate international aid and charity sector of the past.
It was therefore exciting to hear the recent World Humanitarian Summit highlight the significance of local actors and regional philanthropists in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is now commonplace to pay lip service to locally driven development, and the announcement of the commitment to increase funding at the local level to increase from 0.3 per cent to 25 per cent by 2020 is encouraging.
There are those of us also, who are already working on the success of this goal, Thousand Currents (IDEX), One World Children’s Fund, Global Fund for Women, Global Fund for Children, and there are new networks and collabor atives being launched to facilitate the transfer of funds directly to local organizations at the grassroots level, Grassroots Forward Fund-GFF, NEAR Network, Grassroots Climate Change Fund. Hopefully, larger funding institutions reach out to us and seek our guidance in order to successfully meet this ambitious goal.
In spite of all of this encouraging news and respectful dialogue, there is one key concern that is worrying and demands our urgent attention. The hype is not meeting the needs on the ground.
Each day, as you read news from around the world, you will see growing inequality, an expanding refugee crisis that is costing lives, inadequate healthcare systems that allow pandemics to spread at an alarming and deathly rate, increased school dropouts , natural disasters at an increasingly common occurrence that kill the most vulnerable, and a growing isolation of large parts of the world’s population who feel left behind and ignored.
When it comes to humanity and the future of those of us who call this planet home, we cannot afford to wait any longer. We must move beyond the rhetoric and noise in the conference halls and do everything we can, together, to see these much needed funds reach the grassroots level- and that they do so, quickly.
The message we hear from our grassroots partners in all corners of the world is loud and clear: ‘……..we need access to resources and we need a seat at the decision making table!.’ At One World Children’s Fund, we have invested time, money, and trust in our grassroots partners.
Grassroots leaders, such as Obed Kabanda of Action for Community Development-ACODEV in Uganda, have represented One World at various international conferences & meetings, including AGAG, IHRFG, Women Deliver, EDGE, and more. By opening up these bridges, trusting local partners to represent ourselves on a global platform, and breaking down the barriers that are preventing the sector from pushing past the rhetoric, we have already seen effective results.
This year alone, we have disbursed more than $1 million in funding to over 50 grassroots organizations in strategic and self -defined projects targeting children and women. We recently received news of a $400,000 grant that will go directly to a locally run, public health organization in Uganda. With thanks to the generosity of a family Foundation and a $500,000 grant, we are excited to launch the Grassroots Forward Fund, which has 3 main goals:
1) Provide more than $2.5 million each year to 50+ grassroots organizations.
2) Diversify philanthropy and the funding decision making table.
3) Build partnerships to increase grassroots capacity.
These goals are significant and meaningful to our partners, and will go a long way in ensuring public health care systems in rural communities can be strengthened, victims of trafficking can be rescued and reunited with families, and former child soldiers and child victims of neglect, violence and abuse can be reached with support services, educated, and provided a safe and loving environment in which to grow and thrive.
It is however, a drop in the ocean, compared to the need, the attainment dream of the SDGS, and the global commitment to reach a funding goal of 25 per cent to local actors by 2020 (This commitment only speaks to the humanitarian aid sector which alone is a $28 billion industry.)
So, we call on philanthropists, practitioners, and public officials, who are ready to move beyond the rhetoric and direct more funding to the grassroots level, to join us and the other leaders in this space who have spent years building relationships with effective grassroots leaders and let’s make sure that not only are the SDGs met, but that a new progressive humanitarian and social justice sector emerges from the crises that we are witnessing in today’s world.
We, humanity, cannot afford to wait any longer.
Obed Kabanda, co-founded ACODEV in 2003 and currently sits as the executive director.
Steph Heckman is the executive director of One World Children’s Fund.