“What would it look like if we decided to find and fund local organizations applying themselves to bringing value to their communities?”

The question came from American philanthropist Andy Bryant, executive director of Segal Family Foundation. He was visiting the Population Services International office in Bujumbura where I worked.

The question caught me off guard because, in East Africa, it was rare to be asked how to solve problems. Especially by someone like Andy to someone like me — a native of Burundi and a community builder. This was not the set-up I was used to. Often, solutions came already theorized and packaged by foreigners, ready to be rolled out. Often, solutions arrived without substantial input from the people being served or by the people already doing that kind of work. Often, aid dollars arrived too late to stem the tide of the emergency for which they were designated.

What we built together turned out to be Segal Family Foundation’s Social Impact Incubator (SII). SII is a seven-month program that provides tools for local leaders and connects them to funding. It’s geared toward people who saw a problem in their community, decided to fix it, and are making substantial progress leading sustainable change. We call these leaders “champions” — they are deeply rooted to the issues and engage communities in their own development. The champions attend regular trainings where we break down concepts like strategic planning and offer new financial management tools and systems. Then the champions can take practical steps to support their vision. Slowly, we saw this network providing healthcare services to communities that struggled to access it. We saw our SII champions creating opportunities for women to self-determine.  We saw champions building relationships, inspiring and supporting one another to action.

Read the full article about connecting local leaders to funding by Dedo N. Baranshamaje at Medium.