As President of the African Heritage Foundation (AHF), a grassroots organisation now approaching its second anniversary, I believe that collectives such as ours have become too dependent on international funding agencies. I am going to share with you what I consider to be a plausible workable solution to the above stated dependency. I was doing some research on how international cooperation and support from individuals for grassroots organisations could change their capacity to effect change in small island states, and found an article written by Jennifer Lentfer and published on the “HOW MATTERS” website to be particularly interesting.
She says, “some of the larger international NGOs working out of a rights-based approach have begun to recognise the importance of supporting local organisations and social movements to be sovereign. But despite the talk of “rights” we continue to witness local organisations or “partners” being assessed, even self-assessed, against templates, checklists and models of institutional “best practices” developed in the North and having their capacity built accordingly.” I am adding that individuals in the international community should recognise the crucial role they can play in the process of helping to make grassroots organisations in small island states sovereign.
Jennifer goes on to say “we witness lively volunteer-based organisations and emerging grassroots movements being rebuilt into more professional organisations that lose their character and represent only the interests of the community that align with funding or NGO guidelines. We witness them developing into better-behaved “partners,” possibly alleviating some small vestiges of poverty in the short-term, but angry only when the funding slows or stops. The anger then no longer is directed at the injustices the organisations were born out of. As a result, they can become a pale shadow of their potential at best and a blockage to authentic development at worst.”
The AHF is resolved in the retention of the ability to work and asses itself without being at the mercy of the abovementioned checklists and models of institutional best practices. Jennifer Lentfer says, and I agree that “we witness vibrant, if disorganised, community-based organisations, movements and local NGOs, continuing to line up for funding from international donors. This means fitting themselves, their work, structure, language, indeed their life, into the templates of short-term funded projects and tightly contained project-cycles. Thus, local organisations continue to be the service-providers of donors and government to achieve externally-formulated project goals, with a few token participative processes thrown in to give them local flavor. Most are assisted by NGOs and professional consultants, themselves competing for funding and held to account against external measures. And as such, sovereignty is a hard thing to achieve.”
The AHF will not have its sovereignty tampered with by creating a dependence on funding from international funding agencies. We are of the opinion that by creating our own international donor network of persons who will give monetary donations to the organisation periodically, we will be able to avoid dependence on international funding agencies for project development. People who understand the importance of grassroots activity when seeking change in a society are encouraged to support the qualities and processes of our development initiatives. We find the real challenge of economic growth for NGOs such as the AHF is attracting local and international donors. This is why we are now going to build a network of donors who will give donations of $20 or over at least twice a year to the organisation. The Foundation is not looking for handouts from the international community. It is in fact asking for support in its business initiatives when they are presented. AHF donors are those who are making the pledge to the organisation and to themselves to purchase an AHF member product or service at least twice a year. The development of international markets for our various businesses is vital to the growth of our projects and their sustainability.
The work of developing a network of donors for grassroots organisations such as the AHF must be rooted in developing a deep understanding and respect for what is indigenous, giving thoughtful and careful consideration for support to these organisations where it is needed. The black communities in the USA, Canada and Great Britain alone have the collective economic power to help effect significant change through grassroots organisations. It is well known that support from friends and families in these countries is crucial to the survival of many in small island states. If a fraction of this support was given to organisations working for change in the countries where these families who are being given support live, the donor would be further assisting to ensure a better standard of living for their loved ones. For example, if 500,000 people living in USA, Canada and Great Britain were to pledge to take US$20, divide it into 4 and donate just US$5 to 4 different organisations that are doing good work, it would lessen the dependence and underdevelopment that takes place due to grant funding in small island states. We have the power to empower ourselves.
At present the AHF needs to raise US$100,000 to ensure the commencement of its learning institute, the Barbados Alkebulan Academy for Social Empowerment (BAASE), in September 2017. This academy will be a model of progressive, positive, holistic schooling for the small island state of Barbados. It will be founded on input from Barbadian educators who want to see change and growth in the education system, while also taking into consideration the practices of the best educational systems in the world. The AHF has started the development of an arm of BAASE that offers a homeschooling service to parents who wish an alternative to public schooling and cannot afford private schools. Have a look at this article recently published in our local newspaper …… http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/91536/private-classes-rastafarians.
Everyone reading this article is asked to make a contribution to the development of BAASE by purchasing a Hekima: Wisdom Wear t-shirt at the price of US$25 plus shipping and joining our donor’s network. Please click the following link to view the t-shirts and get their history http://www.afrikanheritage.com/hekima-wisdom-wear-street-brand-with-a-plan/.
To make arrangements to give your support and get more information on what being an AHF donor entails, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call or WhatsApp us at 1 (246) 268 7084.
The African Heritage Foundation thanks you for your support. Persons giving support will be kept informed of the development of BAASE.