A quarterly collection of inspiring reads, listens, and updates dedicated to children’s rights, youth-led change, and grassroots power. At Global Fund for Children, we’re excited to have you join us here for a more playful approach to exploring new questions, ideas, and practices that shift power to create a future where all children and youth are safe, strong, and valued.
In this issue, we explore:
How can funder listening strengthen community-led approaches?
GFC President and CEO John Hecklinger and Regional Capacity Development Specialist for West Africa Amé Atsu David at the Feedback+ Summit. © GFC
Listening is one of GFC’s core practices as a grantmaking partner. GFC’s Regional Capacity Development Specialist for West Africa, Amé Atsu David, recently spoke at the Feedback+ Summit in Jacksonville, Florida, on the impact of deeply listening to partners. She highlighted how listening has contributed to building trust and strengthening a network initiative of six community-based organizations addressing violence against girls in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Here are some of Amé’s key takeaways:
- Listening is more effective when it is part of funders’ organizational culture:
Amé has cultivated a practice of authentically listening to partners because it is a core part of GFC’s organizational culture. Her approach is inspired by the way her team leader and GFC’s senior management team listen to her and give her feedback and support. Listening can only be effective when funders practice what they preach and lead by example to inspire community-based partners.
- Listening is a process, not a one-time event: Amé first practiced deep listening with these six community-based organizations during scouting visits, before the organizations were even selected as partners, to establish trust. Amé continued to listen by intentionally incorporating feedback processes into a kickoff convening and organizational capacity development efforts.
- Flexible funding makes listening and feedback relevant: Amé has heard directly from partners that they sometimes cannot meet important needs due to the restrictive nature of much of their funding. With GFC’s core flexible funding, partners can respond to their community’s priorities without being concerned about donor requirements.
- Creating listening cultures can shift approaches in communities: The culture of listening and shared learning within the partner network led to partners attending an extensive training in Liberia with Tostan that focused on the importance of listening to understand social norms governing beliefs and behaviors. As a result, partners have tried new approaches to community listening and engagement, and already they are beginning to see changes in mindsets about girls’ rights, children’s education, and ownership of their community’s development.
Check out some great resources about feedback from Feedback Labs.
How can funders follow the lead of the grassroots community to shift power?
A growing map of resources to reimagine philanthropy and global development. © GFC
Over the last several years, we have mapped dozens of emerging initiatives to reimagine philanthropy and global development. We must heed the calls to shift power led by community and grassroots actors to strengthen sustainable development, justice, and equity. Here are some initiatives with bold visions for change:
- Network for Empowered Aid Response (NEAR) – Influences agenda setting in global policy processes and institutions so local and national actors have more powerful voices in humanitarian aid.
- We Trust You(th) Initiative – Brings together funders, NGOs, and youth in a global problem-solving community for more equitable partnerships with youth.
- Grassroots Solidarity Revolution – Amplifies the voices and visions of grassroots groups and invests in inclusive spaces to build radical solidarity between activists and donors.
- Community-Centric Fundraising – Aspires to transform fundraising and philanthropy by prioritizing the entire community over individual organizations in ways that are grounded in racial and economic justice.
- The RINGO Project – Seeks to transform global civil society by interrogating the purpose, structures, power, and positioning of international NGOs.
What are we learning about fostering meaningful spaces for young people in participatory grantmaking?
A young person participating in a Feminismd event in Moldova. Feminismd is one of GFC's new Spark Fund partners. © Feminismd
Have you met GFC’s first-ever Spark Fund partners? In December, ten youth panelists selected 12 community organizations, primarily youth-led, in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine in our newest participatory grantmaking initiative. Through the pilot, we have identified many learning questions to strengthen our understanding of youth engagement and participatory grantmaking best practices. Here we share some of our observations and initial panel feedback:
- What is the ideal time commitment for youth volunteers? Our pilot process included nine virtual sessions over four months. In our panel learning survey, 70% of panelists reported it was the right amount of time, although panelists said they would appreciate more time for decision-making. In our newest panels in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, we have added a tenth design session and have incorporated more time for decision-making.
- How do we recognize youth volunteers’ time and contributions? Recognizing young people’s time, experience, and leadership is a GFC priority. GFC mitigated the additional costs Spark Fund volunteers might incur by offering a communications allowance. In current pilots in Africa, the Americas, and Asia, we have raised the allowance amount due to the different technology landscape and have seen increased interest from participants in receiving the allowance at the beginning of the panel process. GFC also thanked panel members with a digital certificate and a letter from our President and CEO. Additionally, GFC offered a $260 honorarium to each young person. In our learning survey, most panelists said this was the right amount to honor their work.
- How do we balance building momentum with creating space for relationship building? Many youth apply to be part of a Spark Fund panel because they are eager to connect with other youth in their region. As facilitators, we emphasized creating space for building relationships in our early sessions to establish trust for decision-making. Tools like Slack, where panelists could share informally, helped create that space. We were pleased to see that panel members reported feeling more strongly connected with youth activists in their country and region at the end of the process.
We will have more updates in our next Learning Playground, after our three current Spark Fund participatory grantmaking panels wrap up!
As the world focuses on the crisis in Ukraine, GFC has mobilized support for its community-based partners in Ukraine and in the region. Some of GFC’s longest-standing relationships in Ukraine are with community-based organizations working with children with disabilities. According to Ukraine’s State Statistics Service, as of 2019 there were more than 160,000 children with disabilities under the age of 18 in the country. We have heard firsthand about some of these children’s harrowing escapes and our partners’ courageous efforts to support children and their families in the midst of conflict. We are #inspired by their courage and #inspired by the support we have seen from around the world for our largest-ever crisis response fund.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST. . .
Children in Serbia playing together. © Petar Markovic
What does play mean to you? Our Programs team explored this question in a recent meeting in celebration of the launch of our Partnership to Educate All Kids (PEAK) initiative and its focus on learning through play. Our reflections demonstrate that play matters well beyond childhood:
“Play is part of creation to me. It brings out my inner creator.” – Nafiz, Bangladesh
“PLAY is the soul of human existence.”– Amé, Liberia
“Play crosses many boundaries – gender, race, orientation, age, human, animal …” – Liza, United States
“The world/society divides the mind and body constantly. Play is my bodymind coming together.” – Deya, India
“Play, you sustain my spirit to remember the days of long, hot summers, secret games, uncoding the mysteries of books and wanting to know with wonder and without shame.” – Corey, United States
“Play for me is. . .
Imagining new worlds
new languages, new colors
teaching other ways of being together
of taking care of ourselves
Play is understanding
the profoundness of life
knowing ourselves better:
ourselves as individuals
as well as others.”
– Rodrigo, Mexico
Original version in Spanish
“Jugar para mí es…
Imaginar nuevos mundos
nuevos lenguajes, nuevos colores
ensayar maneras otrxs de estar juntxs
Jugar es comprender
la profundidad de la vida
a nosotrxs mismxs
y a los demás.”
– Rodrigo, Mexico
Header photo: Young children playing in Tanzania. © Faraja Young Women Development Organization