8 Valuable Learnings For Community-Led Initiatives From Tanzania, Uganda, And The Philippines

Two programs across three countries offer learning opportunities for organizations looking to build community resilience and enable community-led initiatives and partnerships to thrive.


Since 2019, GlobalGiving has partnered with organizations under two initiatives designed to explore and test new ways of reaching grassroots communities that institutional donors have had a hard time reaching. One of the key challenges for communities is that resources rarely reach them in a way that enables local agency and sustained, durable change. These learning initiatives in Tanzania, Uganda, and the Philippines have therefore focused on centering community leadership to enable shifts in practice and funding flows.

    Kukuza Uwezo Program

    Offering a multi-faceted approach to strengthening the disability sector in Tanzania and Uganda, this initiative has been building the resilience and responsiveness of Organisations for People with Disabilities and community-based groups through funding and support. The program has strengthened existing networks for collaboration and coordination, and led to proactively assessing the funding landscape and identifying opportunities to increase resources for the disability sector in these regions.

    Assets, Agency and Trust (AAT) Program

    Designed to test and learn how to better support community-led actions by reflecting on practices and processes that contribute to equitable partnerships in the Philippines, by strengthening locally-led resource mobilization and community philanthropy approaches, as well as other initiatives.

Uganda, Philippines, and Tanzania Learnings For Success

  1. Build relationships based on trust, accountability, and equitable partnership.
    Prioritize the development of strong, trusting relationships with your partners, which includes taking the time to understand, acknowledge, and respect their goals, systems, context and capabilities. It also means interrogating and even unlearning your biases and ways of working, to highlight the uniqueness, diversity, and strengths of every community you work with and then to build collective goals from that point.

    Mutual transparency and accountability is also key. It forms the backbone of equitable partnership and provides the necessary steps towards challenging power dynamics that are structurally inherent in partnerships. It is critical for organizations, especially funders and donors, to undergo a process of self-reflection and to analyze their processes and policies for a trusting partnership.
  2. Invest in partner feedback.
    Feedback mechanisms allow for the collection of partner feedback which is crucial to enable understanding of what is working and what isn’t. This gives space for adapting the work, systems and processes as required to facilitate greater access and engagement for your partners. These feedback mechanisms must be culturally appropriate and considerate to the community.
  3. Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility!
    To achieve what is mentioned above you need to be flexible. Flexibility during implementation is crucial to account for shifts in partners’ needs and priorities. Being flexible means you will be able to cope with partners’ emergent priorities as they arise, and also be better positioned to pivot in case of unexpected external factors. Always be aware that the context is dynamic and changing, and be prepared that original plans with partners can shift. It’s also important to recognize that community issues can be complex and therefore, a linear approach won’t work.
  4. Transcend transactional relationships.
    Relationships are forged and nurtured over time, so it’s important to have adequate support and contextual understanding of your partners. Partners possess a wealth of knowledge and should lead with their priorities aligning with the overarching goals of the initiative, but they can end up getting caught up in some of the transactional aspects. Avoid this by:

    • Shifting the burden from partners in your processes i.e. grant applications and reporting.
    • Invest in trust-building and fostering mutual accountability by providing a safe space for partners to openly share their challenges and come up with mutually agreed solutions.
    • Look at the partnership beyond the scope of a specific project and instead, offer support and connections to weave into the overall work of the program; be it in the area of economic empowerment, disability, social, climate or gender justice.

  5. Encourage collaboration among partners.
    It is crucial to provide partners with opportunities for networking, cross-learning, sharing experiences and forging collaborations to create a network which can not only support each other but also potentially approach future opportunities together. In the Philippines, partner organizations shared the opportunity to gather in the same room which provided a space for solidarity and a platform where they could proudly share their work. They felt inspired, supported and valued by other members of the sector. They could openly share and reflect on their challenges, without any fear of judgment or consequence, for example the threat of funding support being pulled. It is also less intimidating for partners to learn from their peers, and various cross-learning visits have since been organized by the partners themselves.
  6. Appreciate differences between partners and their communities.
    By gaining insight into what drives your partners, you will be able to support efforts more effectively and ultimately address multiple communities’ needs and priorities. This may be challenging for some experts and organizations that have been conducting development and humanitarian work without appreciating nuances between communities. To them, it may feel like communities have the same issue, so the same solution is valid. This isn’t always the case. For example, in Liberia, the nonprofit Village Improvement Project distributes free solar lanterns. Through visits to homes with solar lanterns, they learned the solar lanterns weren’t being used at all. A simple fix was identified with villagers: training on how to charge the lights had to be provided at the time of distribution. The right solution for the villagers came through listening.
  7. Build from existing local philanthropic practices.
    By understanding local culture and context, you can identify and build from existing practices such as bayanihan in the Philippines. When aid and philanthropy are connected to these existing cultural practices, community-led change is enabled. In a world where political and economic structures are viewed as drivers of change, anchoring on cultural practices and values is often sidelined. This could also perhaps explain why funds or money are viewed as more valued than non-financial assets of which the community contributes.
  8. Invest in community-led initiatives.
    As explained above, developing real relationships and understanding with partners requires time and concentrated effort, while being aware of local contexts and supporting individual partner needs requires extensive insight. Another crucial non-monetary investment is commitment —to adhere to walk the walk and truly get on board with your partners. It means looking at your structures, policies, and processes and making strategic choices that prioritize this commitment, which comes with a willingness to be a better and more equitable partner. Similar to other investment decisions, risks and even loss, are a possibility. The no-regret policy ensures that instead of blaming others, lessons are learnt and commitments reaffirmed.

Learn more about the Kukuza Uwezo and AAT programs.

Featured Photo: Give Women Recovering from Fistula a Bright Future by Kupona Foundation
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