Believe in the power of communities

Nina Blackwell

Community philanthropy is one of the most potent mechanisms for sustainable change in Africa. We aim to prove it by creating a theory and practice of support for community-based organizations (CBOs), enabling African CBOs to become community grantmakers, and by shaping international thinking on community philanthropy.

For almost two decades, Firelight has sought to build the capacity of African CBOs giving them the power to build better, more effective solutions for children and youth, to advocate for change in child or youth-centered policy, and to change the lives of the children around them.

We have seen the incredible power of community philanthropy over and over again and in a number of ways: contributions from community members to a CBO not only reduce dependency on outside help, but are the ultimate manifestations of local buy-in and involvement. Individuals and groups who help shape, and in other ways contribute to, programmes feel a greater sense of identity and power. Their voice and agency is increased many times when they are able to fund and drive social change in their own community. A CBO that is enabled by community contributions also has greater transparency.

We have seen results. Our CBO partners have leveraged our grants in almost every community, matching Firelight’s contributions by at least 20 per cent and sometimes up to 100 per cent with contributions from the people around them. They have also used our funds to successfully support community-driven lending circles, table banking and social funds in myriad contexts.

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