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Spark MicroGrants, a small NGO that practices what’s called community-driven development, an approach that invites communities to design, execute and manage their own aid projects–farms to feed families, power lines, schools or roads. There’s growing evidence, according to Spark, that community-driven development leads not just to more sustainable projects but to “stronger governments and institutions.”
“We help to create local democracy,” says Sasha Fisher, the co-founder and executive director of Spark MicroGrants. “People have have a platform to work together. Citizens become engaged and start driving local change.”
Spark isn’t designed to spark political reform, but when you give people a taste of democracy, well, don’t be surprised if they want more.
Founded in Rwanda in 2010, in partnership with the government, Spark works in five African countries: Uganda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ghana, along with Rwanda. It has financed projects in 150 communities and says that 90 percent of the projects sustain themselves, two years after launch. In 2016, Spark raised about $1.6 million for its work, with more than 80 percent coming from foundations; its biggest funders include the CRI Foundation, the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, the Imago Dei Fund, the Peery Foundation, the Planet Wheeler Foundation, the RA5 Foundation, the Segal Family Foundation and the Woodcock Foundation.