“We need to focus on how we change mind-sets” - Meet the Giving for Change Alliance: Kenya Community Development Foundation
Interview Conducted By: Tarisai Jangara, Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF) Communications Specialist.
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 Susan Githaiga, Director Governance, Philanthropy and Knowledge Management and Caesar Ngule, Programmes Director at the Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF), a public philanthropic foundation that supports sustainable community driven development in Kenya.
GFCF: What does community philanthropy currently look like in Kenya?
Caesar: Generally, Kenyans are very social. They care for one another and rally for support especially when there are disasters and other catastrophes. I have seen people coming together and raising mind-boggling figures. When there is anything that affects Kenyans, you see people coming together through social platforms – aided by mobile money platforms that are used to allow for quick donations. That attitude of giving defines Kenyans. Again, we are Africans and most of us are connected with rural folks, so beyond the formal giving, Kenyans give towards weddings, hospital bills, funerals etc. Looking at all these forms of giving, we find that people give in disjointed ways. However, there is a need to formalize all these forms of giving so that they not only benefit individuals but they are more structured to support systems and processes that enable access.
Susan: When you look at philanthropy in Kenya, conversations have been about how people give to help, not necessarily for long-term change. There is however, a group of “elites” who seem to look at giving in a structured manner. During COVID-19, we have seen them stepping up to support livelihoods and incomes affected by the pandemic. There is also the attitude from younger people where there is the whole debate about giving to help and the issue of black tax – where one is expected to send something back home at the end of the month. Yes, there is the Harambee (all pull together) spirit but there are debates and conversations about making it more sustainable.
GFCF: What does #ShiftThePower mean to you/your organization?
Susan: #ShiftThePower is about looking at issues to do with decision making, raising our voices and addressing power imbalance at different levels. This can be in the community or within government structures. Internally, it is about looking at the relations between what we have with different organizations, these could be implementing partners that we work with or even partners that support our work. It is generally where decisions are being made, checking the power relations, checking whether everyone is allowed to enjoy the benefits of the partnership. Our organisation KCDF is founded on that philosophy, and this is in our current Strategic Plan that focuses on shifting the power to communities. We look at the community as having the power to address and drive their own development and in our programmes, we acknowledge that communities have resources. Even when we work with other organizations, the focus is to build them to mobilize local resources. If you look at our current Constitution as a country, we have county governments and we have specific articles and benefits in the Constitution that give the community the power to participate in decision making in their communities. This could be in the budgeting processes or in the annual plan development process. This is something that we tie together and we strongly believe that is shifting power, in terms of communities developing themselves. Communities holding government to account and participating in development even with different stakeholders, including the private sector, is very key when we talk about #ShiftThePower.
Caesar: I define #ShiftThePower from different perspectives. Firstly, I look at #ShiftThePower as an opportunity for KCDF to solidify what we have been trying to do over the years – that is ensuring that communities are in the driver’s seat in terms of control of resources, decision making and just being in charge of their development processes. Secondly, when I look at it from the broader ecosystem of shifting power, I look at it as a timely movement where genuine organizations are willing to hand over that power to communities. It is a process in which we do not expect to see a National, INGO or any other donor, raising money and just handing it over to a local organization or community. It should be a process of ensuring that one is investing in the capacity of organizations to meaningfully uptake such resources not as conduits of projects but key decision makers on the use of such resources and, most importantly, enhancing their capability to increasingly raise resources in-country.
I also know what #ShiftThePower is not, and I see some people taking that direction – it is not good riddance of the Global South or North. Further, I think as we are defining what #ShiftThePower means, there should be acknowledgement that conversations about #ShiftThePower are bigger than civil society, they are inclusive and conscious of the many existing power imbalances, i.e in trade and other sectors.
GFCF: How will the Giving for Change programme help advance the community philanthropy field or #ShiftThePower in Kenya?
Susan: When I look at the programme, it gives us a chance to achieve the objective of having communities as drivers of change. It gives us the opportunity to really deepen and strengthen #ShiftThePower conversations beyond the civil society and involve the government, private sector and other stakeholders. The programme will help us to move beyond rhetoric and make more concrete steps in ensuring that development is owned by local communities. Sometimes we find that the conversations about #ShiftThePower are held amongst a select few, however, the programme presents an opportunity for us to expand to the grassroots and reach out to different players in the development space. We are implementing the project in different counties and at a national level, sharing our learnings; engaging with other countries involved in the programme will help in advancing community philanthropy in Kenya. Furthermore, the programme gives us an opportunity to transform the whole development aid architecture by testing different tools and solutions that bring about change.
GFCF: How can the Giving for Change programme help encourage donors / INGOs to really shift power and resources closer to the ground?
Caesar: We need to identify models that are working very well amongst donors that are making strides in shifting the power – as much as people want to tell the KCDF story, I always say, can we also tell stories of funders that are doing development differently.
GFCF: How has aid undermined local giving practices in Kenya and what can the Giving for Change programme do about that?
Caesar: Traditionally, we have always spoken about the dependency syndrome where people receive relief support. In the process, people somehow get used to that sort of generosity and they stop putting effort to change their circumstances. This has been the old narrative. However, dependency is not just with beneficiaries but it is with organizations that give money which does not trigger action on the part of the recipient. Support should be given in ways that allows people to engage in more innovative ways. Being more responsible with how resources are channelled creates trust and this creates long lasting relationships with communities.
Susan: The “white saviour” syndrome has also undermined local giving practices. People feel that they deserve to be supported and they are engulfed with the inferiority complex. We just do not trust ourselves. We trust programmes that are brought by others especially the West. So, there is always that notion that an organization has to be backed up by international donors. These donors are perceived as superior and you find that when a fellow Kenyan goes to a community to support development efforts, they may not even be listened to. We need to focus on how we change mind-sets.
GFCF: Any final thoughts?
Susan: I am positive that by the end of the programme we would have reached a point of understanding that #ShiftThePower is not just about talking to the communities or local government but it goes to the point of interacting and engaging meaningfully in spaces where decisions for the Global South are made.
Caesar: Power is funny! Power behaves the same, regardless of race or ethnicity. When we talk about #ShiftThePower, we need to be careful because there are national organizations that behave like the INGOs. What we need is a more collaborative approach where people are more aware of the power dynamics.