Local difference and the challenge of scaling up

AfriKids’ Director of Programme Funding, Sally Vivyan, writes about making a difference and the challenges of scaling up development…

 

 

 

Michael Hobbes’ interesting piece in New Republic caught our eye recently. In his article which implores us to “Stop Trying to Save the World”, Hobbes’ offers several cautionary tales about the current trend in development funding for bringing ideas ‘to scale’. Most poignant perhaps is the tale of the seemingly excellent ‘play pump’ idea which in some places provides a playful yet effective way of providing clean water, but when brought to scale turned out to hit challenges of maintenance, replication and even accusations of child labour!

 

Demand for ideas that can be scaled up is certainly high and it’s a requirement that AfriKids often stumbles against when developing funding relationships. It’s not that we don’t want to find solutions to problems that will work across northern Ghana and further afield when shared with fellow NGOs. It’s that we know it’s not that simple. As Hobbes says:

 

“The repeated “success, scale, fail” experience of the last 20 years of development practice suggests something super boring: Development projects thrive or tank according to the specific dynamics of the place in which they’re applied.”

 

An example of this hit home on a recent visit to AfriKids Ghana’s Talensi Nabdam Area Programme. Having heard the previous day about the challenges of finding viable gaps in the market for New Beginnings beneficiaries to inhabit with their new vocational skills in Bolgatanga, I was expecting to hear similar tales of woe in Talensi. But the situation couldn’t have been more different. In the village of Dakoto we met Dok (pictured centre above), a carpenter trained under the first phase of New Beginnings who had now set up business as the first and only carpenter in his home community. He is now employing two apprentices who are benefitting from the next phase of New Beginnings and the three of them are kept busy by a steady stream of work. The difference being that Talensi Nabdam is a district with a growing mining industry and therefore has growing villages with need of services that hadn’t previously existed. Yet it is just one hour’s drive away from Bolgatanga, a more established urban centre where the market for carpenters is saturated. It was a clear reminder that taking your time to understand local difference and tweaking a programme’s approach accordingly is crucial to making sustainable change. Yes we can train carpenters anywhere in the Upper East and fulfil the terms of our programme plan but if we want to really contribute to the region’s development there needs to be a more considered and flexible approach to the support we give young people.

 

Hobbes likens the situation to an ecosystem; “… each forest floor or coral reef, is the result of millions of interactions between its constituent parts, a balance of all the aggregated adaptations of plants and animals to their climate and each other. Adding a non-native species, or removing one that has always been there, changes these relationships in ways that are too intertwined and complicated to predict.”

 

His conclusion is that “Successful programs should be allowed to expand by degrees, not digits.” An approach that AfriKids is also committed to; gradually testing and expanding our programmes in a sustainable way. If you’d like to read more about the programmes set to grow in the next few years I suggest you take a look at the Family Livelihoods Support Programme and the Education Bridge.

Meet Helen, the newest member of the UK team

For the AfriKids team in London, 2015 began by welcoming Helen Vits to join as Events & Partnerships Manager. Here Helen introduces herself and asks for your help and thoughts…

 

 

I remember when Amy the CEO of AfriKids first spoke to me about the charity which changed her life. We were sat at Deutsche Bank and she still had the photo from her Experience trip in pride of place on her desk. I have such respect for Amy and her fundraising skills and to hear her speak so glowingly about a charity I knew they must be something special.

 

In my previous role with The Philippine Community Fund (PCF) I had started working on sponsorship and organically grown into the position as Major Donor & Events Manager. This role was constantly challenging and having been connected with PCF for nearly 6 years it was not an easy decision for me to move on. However, when I met the team and discussed the future of AfriKids, their project development, 2018 goal and most importantly the opportunity to shape a calendar of events fitting of such an aspirational charity- I was sold!

 

Over the years I have had the pleasure on working on events from The London 2012 Olympic Games right the way down to small unique festivals like Barbacoustic. My aim is to making giving as fun, unique and entertaining as possible. In 2015 AfriKids is looking to really up their “proverbial game” when it comes to events and I am looking forward to being at the heart of this development. In the past AfriKids has wowed with Gala Balls, Fashion Shows and High End Auctions and as we celebrate Ghana’s 10 year anniversary this year we want to make it our best yet.

 

For many of you AfriKids is already close to your hearts and I hope to only further this relationship by bringing the team and our mission and vision to your diaries. I am already excited to work with such passionate individuals and can’t wait to get the chance to meet as many AfriKids supporters as humanly possible. If you have any ideas or thoughts please just pick up the phone or drop me an email. Nobody knows AfriKids quite likes its friends and supporters and for that reason I would love to hear from you.

 

You can complete a really quick (1 minute max!) survey here.

 

I am thrilled to be a part of team AfriKids and look forward to a year filled with unforgettable events!

 

 

Emma’s most memorable business meeting

As AfriKids’ UK Corporate Partnerships Manager, Emma Mortoo is used to meeting businessmen on a daily basis. On her recent trip to Ghana, her first since joining AfriKids, Emma met Albert, a local business man. Here she tells us why it was her most memorable business meeting yet.

 

 

Albert (pictured above) worked for six years as a “galamsey” boy – the term used locally in Ghana for someone who works in the informal deep shaft gold mines in northern Ghana.  A dangerous occupation for anyone, but especially for a seven year old.  Albert worked with his mum in and around the mines for six years from the age of 7-12.  From a very poor family he told me his parents had managed to send him to school for a few years, so he had learnt to read before he had to drop out.  AfriKids supported Albert through the Education Fund to get out of the mines and go back to school – a complex journey involving another local benefactor who spotted his potential. Albert was a really smart kid, and he told me proudly but humbly how he had  rapidly caught up on missed years of education. At every given opportunity he spent time at the AfriKids ICT Academy, soaking up as much knowledge of computers, programming and networking as he could – he says he “loved it and happily did a few errands around the place to earn a bit of chop [food] money”

 

Following  senior high school,  Albert was offered a place at university in Ghana’s capital Accra, to study IT; without the AfriKids Education Fund he says he simply wouldn’t have been able to take up the offer.  He graduated, of course, with a first and top of his year.   A huge achievement in itself, but, the story doesn’t end there….

 

Today Albert introduces himself as the founder and CEO of Norgence –a software business that provides IT systems to the niche market of micro-finance and credit unions organizations in northern Ghana. When I met him in Bolgatanga last month Albert had delayed his trip to Tamale, a city two hours away, where he was off to secure his 45th client.  Albert wants to create employment for local young people in sales and marketing, customer services and programming and he’s set to scale his business.

 

Getting his business up and running was a challenge. He told me  that, “creating confidence in a Ghanaian designed product, especially from someone in the north was a big obstacle”.  One he overcame with a winning combination of excellent customer service and a very reliable product. I confess to a bit of smiling and polite nodding as Albert explained software platforms and programming language he uses for his systems. All of his customers have come through word of mouth. Sadly, his mum didn’t live to see what he’s made of his life.

 

Of course not all AfriKids’ beneficiaries are IT geniuses but Albert does represent the impact AfriKids has in northern Ghana on the lives of children and young people. From the streets and into schools, out of mines and into vocational training; with consistent support that makes long lasting change a reality for the poorest kids.  It’s not the cheapest international development model around but it works!  I saw a huge number of children and young people who had been lifted from poverty and were training to be mechanics and seamstresses (often supporting the whole of their families) and children who were now spending most of their time in school instead of working on the streets.

 

Hearing his story made meeting Albert by far my most memorable business meeting yet.

A Christmas message from AfriKids

There’s been a lot of publicity recently about the media’s representation (and misrepresentation!) of Africa; West Africa in particular. The Ebola outbreak and the subsequent re-release of another Band Aid single have got people discussing this and bringing pity fundraising back into question. For AfriKids it’s encouraging to see public debate on something we’re very passionate about - saying no to pity. From Emeli Sande questioning the lyrics to the charity single, to Fuse ODG eloquently explaining why he had to turn down his involvement in the single, people are engaging with some of the issues that AfriKids tackle on a daily basis.

 

The staff of AfriKids Ghana are all following these discussions carefully and wanted to share their own positive take on the situation. What better way than through song!

 

 

If you want to support the work of AfriKids this Christmas, you can do so in a way that means you could win something awesome back. Check out our Snowball Raffle for 24 fantastic prizes, or click here for alternative donation details.

 

Merry Christmas!