Community Foundations: A Game Changer?

World Connect Malawi, a local grant-making and Community Foundation Support Organization has been supportive of the two and other eight community Foundations in Malawi World Connect Malawi, a local grant-making and Community Foundation Support Organization has been supportive of the two and other eight community Foundations in Malawi - pic by Daniel Chisoni

Sub Traditional Authority (STA) Jere of Nzimba, a firm believer in the prospects presented by Malawi’s Vision 2023, sees a bright future for Malawi. Vision 2063, launched in 2020, heralds a significant shift as it aspires to make Malawi an inclusively wealthy and self-reliant nation.

This visionary blueprint advocates for self-sufficiency in a country that is long dependent on foreign aid and struggling to attain economic sovereignty.

But in the face of donor fatigue, how can Malawians, whose aspirations underpins this ambitious vision, contribute to turn it into reality? According to STA Yohane Jere, the paradigm shift outlined in Vision 2063 recognizes that true development should originate from, be designed by, and primarily financed by Malawians themselves.

It’s this belief that leads the local chief to endorse the works of a Community Foundation, called Tikwenda Community Foundation, currently operating in his area.

A Community Foundation, a novel concept, serves as a locally-based development coordinating agency collectively owned by the community. It focuses on providing grants in specific geographical areas, with the aim of promoting local giving and community philanthropy by mobilizing local contributions to support community-led initiatives.

Since January of this year, Tikwenda Community Foundation has been actively engaging with the 17 communities under STA Yohane Jere’s jurisdiction. They’ve been encouraging these communities to contribute both ideas and resources to address their most pressing needs.

The organization has initiated various fundraising activities within the community, all aimed at promoting self-reliance and active participation in development.

Manson Soko, the Executive Director of the foundation, says they want to enhance community involvement in development.

“We want every member of our community to play a role, whether through financial contributions or in-kind donations, in developing projects that they themselves have identified. We are also reaching out to community members in the diaspora, urging them to give back to their original home,” Soko said.

As of now, the 17 communities, through the foundation’s efforts, have already begun constructing Agriculture Extension Offices, raising over 1.5 million kwacha for the project.

Their ambitious plans also include building a Junior Primary school, renovating teachers’ houses, and repairing bridges, all funded by local contributions.

While these accomplishments showcase the power of community-driven development facilitated by Community Foundations, what truly excites Sub T/A Yohane Jere is the growing sense of community cohesion and trust.

“My people are more united and involved in development than ever before. The transparent handling of community contributions inspires trust, which is why all my chiefs support this initiative. I am confident we will achieve even greater things in the years to come,” he said.

But the success stories are not exclusive to Tikwenda. In T/A Ndindi, Salima, another Community Foundation; Luso Langa Community Foundation is similarly mobilizing resources to support local development. For example the Foundation is rejuvenating teachers’ houses at Chipoka Primary School through local contributions.

World Connect Malawi, a local grant-making and Community Foundation Support Organization has been supportive of the two and other eight community Foundations in Malawi.

According to Daniel Chisoni, World Connect Malawi’s Programs Communications and Outreach Coordinator, the organization has enhanced technical capacity of the ten community Foundations, facilitated their legal recognition through registration, and provided material support for fundraising initiatives.

In a country accustomed to dependency syndrome, Chisoni expresses his excitement about how Malawians have embraced the community philanthropy initiatives espoused by the Community Foundations.

“The community Foundations have received heartwarming response and support from stakeholders and local chiefs within their communities and that demonstrates great potential for the growth of this philosophy in Malawi. This strong community buy-in reflects a willingness to take ownership of development efforts and embrace a culture of giving,” he said.

The other Community Foundations supported by World Connect include Grassroots Action and Support Organization (Dedza), Community Action for Development (Nkhotakota), Youth Action for Success and Development (Lilongwe), Transformation of Community Lives (Nchinji), Children of Hope (Mulanje), Youth Empowerment Towards Development (Nkhatabay), Mulepa Organization (Machinga), and Chamanza Community Foundation (Ntcheu).

These Community Foundations are not just changing the game; they are rewriting the rules, empowering local communities to shape their destiny and contribute to Malawi’s journey toward self-reliance.

With their transparent, community-led approach, they are weaving a tapestry of trust and unity that will undoubtedly lead to a prosperous Malawi in 2063 and beyond.

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