The Second Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize was announced at the Emerging Societies, Emerging Philanthropies International Forum in Peterhof, Russia, 1-2 July, following the prize ceremony for the first round of the prize and the lecture by the winners, Jane Weru and Kingsley Kariuki Mucheke of Akiba Mashinani Trust (pictured below, giving the lecture).
One of the key issues facing the Forum was how best to support the development of philanthropy in emerging market countries. One approach to this is the Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize, awarded to an individual ‘who has demonstrated remarkable leadership, creativity and results in developing philanthropy for progressive social change in an emerging market country or countries’.
Jane and Kingsley were awarded the prize for their transformational efforts in building assets for marginalized communities in Kenya. Akiba Mashinani Trust is the financing facility for the Kenyan Federation of Slum dwellers (Muungano wa Wanavijiji). Today it comprises over 700 community savings groups made up of over 300,000 people. In their lecture, Jane and Kingsley explained how it all began.
When they took up the cases of slum communities threatened with forced evictions and violent demolitions, they realized they needed to develop tools that would enable these communities to get secure tenure and financing to develop the land they occupied. That’s where the savings schemes came in. ‘The poor are locked out of Kenya’s housing market,’ they said.
A group of 15 slum dwellers first approached them with a very small amount of money wanting to buy a 23 acre parcel of land, costing $1.5 million. They were told that if they could increase their number to 2,000 and raise 20% of the money needed, the Trust would finance the balance. A few weeks later, 300 slum dwellers turned up and their savings were beginning to approach the 20% requirement, thus showing they were serious. But Akiba Mashinani Trust didn’t have the 80% balance to finance the purchase, so they approached banks. Seven banks turned them down: ‘they didn’t like the smell of poor people’s money,’ said Kingsley. But eventually they did get a loan. After this other groups flooded to their office.
After the lecture, Jenny Hodgson, moderating, spoke of the power of new ideas, new ways of creating assets within communities, the power of leverage to break down barriers. Jane talked of the organization as an ‘interface’ between the community and other players, including business, especially banks, and the state.
If the aim of the prize is to throw light on relatively unknown people developing philanthropy in new ways, Jane and Kingsley couldn’t have exemplified this better. But the Olga Prize doesn’t just identify a winner. A special supplement published with the March issue of Alliance profiled all eight prize finalists, and all finalists were invited to the Forum, thanks to a special travel grant from the Mott Foundation. Bringing a new group of people into the Forum who wouldn’t otherwise have been there – or even necessarily identified themselves as part of the philanthropy scene – was a big bonus of the prize.
This is the model that will be followed for the Second Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize. This time the finalists will all be invited to attend the WINGS Forum, to be held in Istanbul 27-29 March 2014, and the winner will be announced there. Information about the prize and nomination forms can be found on the Alliance website. The closing date for nominations is 1 October.
Do you know of people in your country who are breaking new ground in promoting philanthropy? Go ahead and nominate them!
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