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Aug 16, 2012

Update on the Storytelling project

10 successes and 20 mixed outcomes per 1 failure
10 successes and 20 mixed outcomes per 1 failure

The Pulling for the Underdog Fund you support focuses on helping the "underdogs" - small, community-based grassroots projects. We want their voices heard and their ideas funded.

I have been with GlobalGiving for 4 years, and since 2010, I’ve been helping to give communities a voice in one very tangible way – through the GlobalGiving Storytelling Project ( In Kenya and Uganda, our network of partner organizations has helped us find young people who want to interview others in their community. We train these ‘scribes’ to ask others to talk about a time when a person or organization tried to help someone or changing something in the community, and then they write down what happened.

We think that communities are full of experts on what the community needs, and that the world would run a little better if there was someone out there helping these experts provide context and perspective on what is happening all around them back to community leaders. Some day aid will act like democracy, and this is version 0.01 of that.

We’ve collected over 43,000 stories! Here is an example:

“Violet is a student who is schooling abroad. She get her Scholarship while in High School. She excelled in High School and joined Nairobi University. After finishing her course at the University of Nairobi, She went to work abroad as well as continuing learning. She has sponsored students in high School and she caters for their education herself. This is inspiring because she now has the capacity to help others. She is now actually a doctor. These students are therefore able to pursue their Secondary School education through Violet. Thanks to her and God for enabling her to reach where she is now.”

We encourage you to click the link below and read more stories, but as this is an update on the progress we’ve made, here are some of our lessons from this big feedback experiment:

  • For every 10 positive stories we collected, we got 1 story about failure, but 20 stories with mixed outcomes. These mixed-outcome stories are encouraging because they can provide organizations with a deeper, nuanced narrative to learn from than the typical feedback with a strong positive bias.
  • In 13,000 stories about education, school fees and the lack of opportunities after graduation are common themes.
  • Job training and business skills programs were seldom mentioned – even by people telling stories where these skills could have prevented failure.
  • People often talk about basic needs but don’t ask for food, water, or shelter. Poverty is just the context. They often talk about what would truly empower them beyond handouts. One thing they agree upon is having a steady income.

I’d like to show you through pictures what these stories have in common (see the images below). The blue dots represent words from 15 thousand Ugandan stories, while the red dots represent words from 224 GlobalGiving projects in Uganda. The pink/purple words overlaps between stories and projects. In the full view were too many words to print, but if we had to describe the one thing that matters most to Ugandans from among the things GlobalGiving partners do there, it would be INCOME generation. 

So in the second wordtree map I've "drilled down" on the subject of income in Uganda. Pink words overlap between stories that mention income and Ugandan organizations that focus on it. You can see all the words that each group uses frequently in their stories. We hope this kind of information will facilitate more discussion about what matters to the people in each community.

Our goal is to improve upon these methods until our partner organizations are seeing the world more clearly, and perhaps making decisions that are better informed by community feedback. Please spread the word, share your ideas, and if you like – donate to this fund to help continue this experiment.

I'd also like to thank the Rockefeller Foundation for grants over the last three years to develop this new method for continuous community feedback. What we're working on now are better visualization tools to help partner organizations learn from these stories, and simpler tools for collecting them.

Orange: where stories came from. Green: projects
Orange: where stories came from. Green: projects
Describing Income Red: Ugandan orgs. Blue: stories
Describing Income Red: Ugandan orgs. Blue: stories
Blue: stories Red: Ugandan orgs Purple: overlap
Blue: stories Red: Ugandan orgs Purple: overlap


Aug 7, 2012

Moving Forward

Students plant seedlings - Kenya Rainwater Assoc.
Students plant seedlings - Kenya Rainwater Assoc.

“The climate has changed and it is not as easy to grow crops and vegetables as it used to be. Therefore, it is fantastic that ActionAid is supporting us….we are learning farming techniques that makes it possible for us to adapt to the dryer and harsher climate.”

Cecilia Mwangi, 60, of Kenya, is one of over 13 million people who were affected by the severe and persistent drought that started across the Horn of Africa last year. When it became apparent that the rains across much of East Africa would not be enough to sustain the crops and livestock that comprise the food economies of the region, organizations like ActionAid ramped up their activities and partnerships to reach as many people as possible with lifesaving food, water, and medicine. But the work doesn’t end there.

Cecilia participates in ActionAid’s Food for Asset program by working at the Kambi Sheikh farm project, one of over 28,000 participants building community-owned assets in exchange for staple foods.

The droughts, conflict, and high food prices that caused the 2011 food crisis and famine have not gone away. Over 9.1 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are still in need of humanitarian assistance.

“Before, I planted crops and they dried out on my own farm. Now I can grow crops even when the rain is not enough.”

“I managed to sow just before we got some rains 3 months ago. If it keeps improving, I believe that I will be able to cope without the relief food we receive at some point.”

The goal is simple: find long-term solutions to long-term rain shortages.

Not (too) far away, students at the Matuiku Primary School are enjoying the benefits of two recently completed water projects: the construction of separate latrines for boys and girls, and the completion of a water tank stand for a new rainwater harvesting tank for drinking, eating, and school activities.

Mr. Ronald Kamadi, the Kenya Rainwater Association Technical Assistant who constructed the latrines and water tank stand, says this project has already had a dramatic impact on the lives of students at Matuiku Primary School:

"The headteacher of Matuiku Primary School told me that the project has had a very positive impact on the school and community so far.  Absenteeism has gone down, and he believes this is because the children are suffering less from water-borne diseases such as diarrhea.  He has also noted an improvement in the assertiveness of girl pupils in class, which he attributes to them feeling more comfortable in the school environment (due to the improved latrines) and to feeling less tired as they no longer have to walk a long way to collect water."

"There is still a need to improve the nutrition of the children. Future donations will be used to construct a farm pond to supply water to the school vegetable garden, which will improve the school feeding programme.  Funds will also be used to upgrade the capacity of the existing 10,000-litre tank, as there is a growing need for water for drinking, handwashing and cleaning."

The Kenya Rainwater Association would like to thank the generous donors of GlobalGiving UK for the £581 grant which is helping to make these plans a reality.

We here at GlobalGiving would also like to thank you. Thank you for your generous contribution to the Horn of Africa Drought and Famine Relief Fund in support of the people who found themselves in dire need last year. Please remember, though, that this year’s rains are still delayed, and over 9.1 million people are still in need of assistance. Would you consider giving again? Your donation will support programs such as emergency feeding programs, medicine for the sick, and training and support for life-sustaining rainwater harvesting and climate adaptive farming techniques.



Mattie Ressler

Cecilia Mwangi - ActionAid International
Cecilia Mwangi - ActionAid International
Matuiku kids - credit GHARP/KRA
Matuiku kids - credit GHARP/KRA
Aug 1, 2012

Project of the Month Update: August 2012

Dear Project of the Month Club,

We’re pleased to share with you that last month, you and 127 other Project of the Month Club members raised $3,561 for "War Vets Heal With The Help Of Shelter Dogs," a project pairing returned veterans with shelter dogs because shelter dogs need homes, and war vets need companionship.

The leader of this project, Cathy King, wanted to let you know that your generous donations will help provide placement for 100 dogs, as well as healthcare, vaccinations, microchips, and board fees before they find their new home. 

For August's Project of the Month, we're pleased to introduce to you a project recently visited by one of our In-the-Field Interns called "Plant 50,000 Walnut And Cherry Trees In Morocco." This project will build a community tree nursery with 25,000 cherry and 25,000 walnut saplings in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Many families in this area rely on farming traditional low-value crops like barley and corn, and live in poverty as a result. These trees are especially valuable for villagers because they do not require pesticides, they offer a high market value, and local people already possess the skills vital to maintaining them and marketing their fruit. By providing these saplings to communities in need, more than 3,000 people from 400 households will multiply their income, improve the environment and local diets, and diversify the economy.

Hilary White, Project Leader wanted to share with you her message of thanks upon learning that she was selected to participate in the Project of the Month Club:
"I am delighted to hear that HAF's tree nurseries project has been chosen to be the Project of the Month! HAF tree nurseries benefit so many people, helping them transition from extreme poverty to being able to make a decent living, eat better, send their children to school, and remain in their villages rather than have to leave and try to earn a living in the city. Club Members' contributions to this project will help improve the lives of members of entire rural villages, at least doubling their income in the first 6 years, with a ripple effect that will continue for generations to come."

We are so grateful for your support, and hope that you are proud to know that you are offering a sustainable and high-value opportunity to families in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

Thank you again for your kindness and generosity. Your support is having an earth-changing impact around the world.

Warm regards,
Mari and the GlobalGiving Team

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