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  • Writer's pictureChris

A funders' responsibility doesn't end with the grant.

Last week we had a great opportunity to pitch our case to a group of eminent foundations.  It was a big milestone for us.  

To be able to stand in front of the leaders of international development funding in the UK was to say the least, daunting.  Pitching to the Dragon’s Den would have been, i feel, easier.  There at least you know you’re pitching for money, and you know their motivation is more money.

But how should we approach this group committed to shifting the power in philanthropy?  Do we appeal to the wallet or the heart?

Below is the presentation we gave, please feel free to share any thoughts or comments.

—————————————— Good afternoon everyone,

Thank you for inviting us here today.  For those of you who have had the fortune of not having their inbox spammed by one of our persistent emails, my name is Chris and this is Federico.

First of all, we’d like to put your mind at ease that we’re not here to ask you for money.  

What we’d like to share with you today is a bit about who we are, what we’re looking to achieve with FieldWorks and ways that you might be interested in working with us.

We plan to talk for about 5 - 10 minutes and then give space for discussion.

For the last decade or so, Federico and I have been working with International NGOs, mainly in Asia and the Middle East, with a short stint for both of us in Haiti.  

Like many aid workers we were frustrated with the system, but ultimately felt powerless to do much.

From our experiences we had seen that

  • Grassroots organisations are better connected to their communities needs and, in general achieve better results than their international brethren

  • The system unfairly favours big INGOs which limits the right resources reaching local NGOs, impeding creativity, and simple grassroots created solutions to grassroots experienced problems

So in 2016 we were presented with an opportunity to act on our “what if….” frustrations and use our experiences to do something about it.

At the very essence ..

of everything we do we have a visceral belief that whatever social change needs to happen, it needs to come from local communities and civil society.

The reduction of inequality and injustice, the SDGs, call it what you will.

There needs to be a greater shift in the sector towards the resourcing local NGOs above that of international behemoths.  

Because we believe that, with the right support they have the right solution for their problem that they’re experiencing.  We know you believe this too, because otherwise you wouldn’t have formed this group and wouldn’t be sitting here today.

And we know there are others who believe this too.   Others who believe, like us, that local NGOs not only need more champions of their work, but who also believe that these impactful NGOs should be able to access with greater ease;  the resources of all, individuals or institutions, who want to invest in the human potential of community-led solutions.  

Can you imagine what it would look like if the great partners we all have met or worked with, had easy access to the resources they need in a way that didn’t deplete their already over-burdened means?

What could happen if others who believe what we believe but who don’t have the means to do extensive research, and who are not part of the right affinity groups, could find those impactful partners and engage with them quickly and reliably?

Our platform starts to make this possible. 

Not by replacing the donor-grantee relationship building exercise, or interfering with the grant making process.  Not by “pushing” NGOs onto unwilling funders.

But rather by complementing every actor’s efforts to make the finding and trusting of those great local partners, a little bit faster, and a little bit easier.

Our platform can help everyone access the knowledge and contacts they need quickly, and in a way that allows them to initiate relationships confidently. We democratise information and knowledge for the benefit of a wider variety of actors so that time, money or network are no limitations to good partnerships.

And  eventually through FieldWorks’ collaborations and partnerships we can start to offer these great partners of yours the easy access to the services they deserve to achieve their missions.

Quite simply

we’re building an online directory of grassroots organisations.  

  • Imagine you’re a small foundation or small UK-based NGO that works with local partners.

  • You need to find a potential partner in a country that you have no or little experience in.

  • You simply log in, search according to your criteria, and done.  You now have a long list of possible partners.

You also have access to previous donors who have worked with those partners - so you can connect to a much larger network that you didn’t necessarily know existed.

You also can see the previous average grant size - so you know what they can reasonably handle

You could also pay to access 3rd party reports or certifications, like Humentum’s financial capacity assessment, or Philanthropy University’s organisational capacity assessment.

Right there, directly from the profile.

These profiles of organisations contain much of the information that is needed to do a simple desk-based, pre-analysis before initiating a discussion.

And we build these, not by creating an entirely new mechanism, but by leveraging information that already exists in the system.

These are just vehicles and have potential for so much more.

But does it create social change?

This doesn’t reduce inequality or injustice, true.  But we start to create the conditions for the first step in this journey.  

We begin to make it easier to find and trust these grassroots organisations, so that it helps others who share yours and our same beliefs to amplify the NGO’s exposure and mobilise support for communities world wide

It helps you nurture innovative solutions to social change problems, in an environment where they can be diffused globally and organically;

It helps your “exit strategy” by giving your partners the best possible opportunities to continue their development and achieve their social change missions;

And it helps build momentum to show your commitment to yours and your partners’ mission beyond that one relationship in time. And with each relationship the NGO has, with each capacity development it undertakes, or impact it achieves, so grows its credibility, and so grows its “trustworthiness”.  so grows the “impact”

How can you help?

Over the coming weeks we’re finalising the build and test of our platform and then launching.  We want to grow steadily but with a level of certainty in the profiles and environment being created.

To do this we’re looking for collaborations with funders / foundations who share our values and want to help us because it helps them.  We’ve had positive discussions with GNDR, Epic Africa and Stars Foundation about sharing this opportunity with their partners and stakeholders.  The process doesn’t require any endorsement and doesn’t infer any recommendations, so it is risk-free.  It is simply communicating another opportunity to your grassroots partners, and nurturing an environment for more direct and democratic resourcing for civil society.

At a more governance level we’re looking for individuals to be part of an advisory board and to help us -

  • stay true to the vision and values,

  • To ensure we continue to work in the interest of local organisations without creating new issues,

  • To ensure we maintain relevance within the philanthropic space,

  • To support us with grow our credibility

If you'd like to understand more about what we're doing or discuss specific questions then please do get in touch.

Thank you!

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