Fellows Ginny and Sarah in Afghanistan, 2004
This report is coming to you because you have been kind enough to donate to our appeal for Peace Fellows on GlobalGiving. Thus far 126 donors have given $15,319, for which we are truly grateful.
Our last and eighth report to you in November reviewed the accomplishments of our 2018 Fellows, who were deployed to six countries. With recruitment again under way for this coming summer we want to share some of the lessons learned. In this day and age it is more important than ever that young people are exposed to the challenges that face people in the Global South. We feel that our program offers them a unique opportunity. But it can always be improved.
Finding innovative solutions
Over the past sixteen years we have deployed 305 Peace Fellows from over 60 universities, including those shown in the photos. Their job has been to provide 10 weeks of technical support to our community-based partners, and we are constantly reminded of just how well they do it. We recently posted new web pages on Uganda, where we help the Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) to install accessible toilets in primary schools. GDPU has built 19 toilets and hand-washing stations in three remote schools since 2015. As a result, 2,000 young Ugandans can enjoy their right to a decent education. We can also see how WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) can lift enrollment, build tolerance towards students with special needs and involve the local community – in other words, change the way these rural schools operate.
This is as exciting as it is unexpected and it would not have happened without the hard work of the eight Fellows who have served at GDPU since 2011. This Uganda project shows how graduate students can come up with innovative ideas and trigger social change which still studying for a Masters degree. We have posted other inspiring examples on our website.
This year we will be working with nine community-based partners like the GDPU. Six will be receiving Fellows. As always we advertised the placements widely and received around 50 applications for the six slots. We charged a small fee ($25), to make sure applicants were serious, and visited as many universities in person as we could. We also received several strong applications from Europe.
Providing technical support - without imposing
Our main goal in recruiting Fellows is to strengthen partner organizations in the Gobal South and enable them to meet their program goals. This poses something of a dilemma. Community-based organizations (CBOs) are strong in motivation and social capital (contacts, networking etc) but weak when it comes to professional skills (monitoring, evaluation, money management). They are the first to acknowledge that they need help. But there is also the risk that “capacity-building” by a foreign NGO, however well-meaning, will be resented if it is imposed.
We try and thread the needle by offering six services (developed with partners) and inviting the partner to choose. We then provide a week of specialized training for Fellows before they leave. The services offer help with startup development, story-telling, fundraising, social media/websites, and international outreach. Our Fellows can also help produce annual reports and strategic plans – important deliverables that can be written in ten weeks and provide lasting benefits.
This approach has shown us that in spending our grants and working with our Fellows, CBOs acquire important skills such as keeping receipts, reporting to donors, setting goals and developing budgets. We call this “indirect capacity-building.” The other point to make is that “capacity-building” works both ways. Our Fellows – and our own organization – benefit from these partnerships. As a result, we ask partners to assess our capacity and let us know how we can do better.
We have gone into some detail about our approach because we feel very strongly that CBOs can be agents of change, but only if donors tailor their support to the needs and strengths of their partners instead of imposing their own agenda. This is one reason why we appreciate GlobalGiving.
What we look for in Fellows
So what is special about a Peace Fellow? Over time we have come realize that a 26 year-old graduate student with relevant professional experience (eg Peace Corps) possesses attributes that are badly needed by CBOs like GDPU in Uganda. To list a few: curiosity, friendship, adaptability, the ability to work in a difficult environment, a commitment to goals and achieving results, a knowledge of English, international contacts, a liking for online fundraising, and a familiarity with ICT (websites, social media, and Excel). These are valuable resources for a group of highly motivated people who are trying to build a professional organization on next to no money.
Of course, it doesn’t always work out. In recruiting Fellows, we can misjudge someone’s ability to put up with pressure (which can take many forms). Partners, too, have to invest in their Fellows if they are to get the most out of them – and sometimes they don't make the effort. But such examples have been few and far between. Of the 305 Fellows we have deployed since 2003, only five left prematurely. Most of the others exceeded our expectations. Last summer alone, Fellows raised $70,467 for their hosts and gave us a wealth of blogs and photos which attracted over 120,000 views. Most important, they left their hosts stronger and better able to manage cutting-edge programs like the WASH program in Uganda. And as always AP benefitted. Our website received 524,764 visits from 193,451 individuals in 2018 – a 31% increase over 2017.
We’ll report back in June when this year’s Fellows head out for their assignments. In the meantime we invite you to read more about the Fellowship program; dive into the blogs; see how Fellows live throigh their videos; view their photos; and get a sense of how the lives of Fellows have been changed by the experience. You can also read more about the field programs in our annual reports.
Your donations have gone a long way!
The AP team.
Sylvie writing blogs in the DRC, 2010
Dina offers IT training in Uganda, 2011
Mariko sells Malaysian baskets, 2007
T.J. helped make the Nunca Mas quilt in Peru, 2014
Chris joins the dig for toilets in Uganda, 2018