Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Challenge of Articulating Criteria: Part Three – Savings Clubs


We’ve been working at articulating the criteria we will use to evaluate whether or not a household, a project or a savings club should appear on the GAD website.  It’s been a challenge to get what is in our heads, down in print, in a way that makes sense to others.  We want to be transparent and admit that it is a challenge and not a fully resolved challenge either, so we invite you into the wrestling match and encourage you to share your ideas.  Part one of this series of blog posts looked at people, part two looked at projects, and now we look at savings clubs.

The idea of savings clubs, we’ve talked about before in previous posts both here.  In the initial discussions that led to Give Aid Direct being born, the idea of savings clubs didn’t even come into the picture.  The possibility of projects was discussed, but savings clubs?  Not at all.  And yet, it is one of the wonderful things about working with a team of people as this is where the idea of savings clubs came from.  In many ways it is a perfect fit for GAD as it is about supporting a group of people who have articulated their goals for saving and are regularly contributing as a group to achieving this goal.  There is mutual accountability between the members of the group and the process helps build the sense of worth, confidence, and dignity among the group members.  Give Aid Direct comes alongside of this and facilitates the ability for donors to match the contributions of the group helping the group achieve their goals quicker. 

At this point, our criteria for working with a particular savings club are:
  • The group must have been in existence for at least 2 years
  • The goals of club must be environmentally sustainable and have elements of building resilience and disaster risk reduction within them
  • The group must have good governance in place – both a trustworthy leader and robust financial practices


We’ve also been wrestling with the idea of sponsoring individuals who are working in local communities building the capacity of local community-based organisations.  Or maybe it could involve sponsoring a trauma counsellor to work the girls at the fistula hospital in Niger we mentioned in the projects post.  Again the idea is rooting in the value we see in building local communities to develop, however we have yet to figure this out and determine if it is the right fit or perhaps not.  Again it is something that we see enormous value in doing, but the reasoning seems stuck within our guts and we have been unable to articulate it well.  While we have made progress in being able to think through the criteria for savings clubs, projects, and people, this idea of sponsoring someone, we are still in the beginning stages of the wrestling match.  If you have some insights on this, we’d love to here from you.

At the moment, we are continually on the look out for situations, projects or savings clubs, so drop us a line here if want us to consider something you are aware of.  

Monday, 25 February 2013

The Challenge of Articulating Criteria: Part Two - Projects


As I mentioned in part one, we’ve been working at articulating the criteria we will use to evaluate whether or not a household, a project or a savings club should appear on the GAD website.  On the one hand, I thought it would be quite easy, but in reality determining appropriate criteria is a challenge.  Part one looked at people, now we turn our attention to projects.

It’s tough too because there are projects we come across that my entire being immediately jumps up and screams “Yes! We must support that!” like the fistula hospital in Niger providing surgeries and counselling to young teenage girls who are married while they are still children and then become pregnant at ages when their bodies are not fully developed, causing all manner of problems.  Like the Step by Step school in Tanzania providing a chance at education for children with mental and often physical disabilities.  These are projects that I feel we must support as they are providing opportunities for people who are vulnerable and often cast aside by society.  However, I also am aware that I am not overly interested in supporting schools or hospitals in general.  It’s hard to articulate why other than hospitals and schools are targets of many other reputable charities doing great work, which I’m not convinced there is value in duplicating.  So I guess there is something in the impact of the projects as I think both the fistula hospital and the Step by Step school seek to help their recipients rebuild some of their own dignity.  There it is – the main criteria – not completely 100% and the wording can likely improve, but that’s the heart of it.  Of course there are other things like being legitimately registered in their country, having annual accounts, business plans, a sustainable ethos, and a history/background that can be confirmed, etc. 

At the same time, in the category of projects, Give Aid Direct values livelihoods over handouts.  I know this may sound odd due to the fact GAD primarily came out of the notion of giving cash directly to people affected by a disaster, but I see the two working together.  When disasters strike, those affected by the disaster often need assistance to get back on their feet again.  I think all of us do.  This doesn’t need to be a huge amount of support; it can be small, but receiving something small helps.  In a similar vein, GAD wants to give a small amount of cash to people, individual households, to allow them to choose how to use the money to begin to restore their lives.  We have no illusions that we will solve all their problems or that cash is the only answer.  We believe that GAD works along side of other agencies who are rebuilding health clinics, schools, roads, and training teachers and health staff.  The cash from GAD is direct to the household level of the community.  However, in terms of projects that GAD wants to support is around livelihoods like small businesses in the local community, which also get affected by disasters and often need support to become operational again.  At this stage, we’ve defined it as wanting to support projects that build the capacity of local businesses to
  • be more resilient to disasters,
  • build more resilient, fulfilled, and inspired communities
  • create a future that is inclusive and values all members of the community (e.g. employs vulnerable people as employees)
  • protect and restore the environment

That’s it at the moment, that’s where we have got to.  It needs more work, but it’s a starting point and I think gives a flavour for what we are seeking after. 

At the moment, we are continually on the look out for situations, projects or savings clubs, so drop us a line here if want us to consider something you are aware of.  

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Challenge of Articulating Criteria: Part One - People


We’ve been working at articulating the criteria we will use to evaluate whether or not a household, a project or a savings club should appear on the GAD website.  On the one hand, I thought it would be quite easy, but in reality it is very tough to nail it down in a way that makes sense to someone who hasn’t been involved in the conversation.  Honestly, we are not there yet.  We are not satisfied that we have it articulated the best way.  However, one of the values of GAD is to be transparent about what we do, how it is done, and the challenges we are facing.

Determining appropriate criteria is a challenge.  Full stop.

It is a challenge partly because the criteria needs to be linked to our values.  At Give Aid Direct, we place a high value on choice as we believe that there is an inherent link between choice and dignity.  

At its heart, GAD was developed with the dream of bringing together advances in technology to create a platform enabling donors to give directly to people affected by humanitarian disasters.  But then in a criteria discussion, questions arise like which type of disasters and what does “affected” mean, etc.  Good questions, but sometimes hard to articulate as we want to balance the need for clarity and focus, but also the desire to be agile to needs as they arise.  Frankly, we are still wrestling with this one – both with the criteria to use and how to pilot and test this out.  We are keeping it broad at the moment – people affected by the disaster means people living in a community which has been impacted by the drought, earthquake, landslide, cyclone, conflict, etc.  For the moment, we are wanting to do a blanket distribution in the community to help ensure the cash transfers do not cause conflict, however this will be done in coordination with the community leaders and if they would prefer to target only the vulnerable (as defined by the community) households, we would go along with that.  

At the moment, we are continually on the look out for situations, projects or savings clubs, so drop us a line here if want us to consider something you are aware of.  

Monday, 11 February 2013

Schools for Children with Disabilities


I’m in Tanzania at the moment enjoying the sun and heat as a welcome change from the coldness of the British winter.  It’s enjoyable to be away from the compactness of London and be confronted with the vastness of the Tanzanian landscape.  What I love about coming here is meeting people who are engaged in fascinating projects. 

I’ve met Margaret who started a school for children with mental as well as often physical disabilities.  The school started in 2005 after Margaret and her husband grew frustrated with the lack of education options for their daughter Ruth who had special needs and had been rejected numerous times throughout her life.  The school now provides education for 12 students with disabilities and is funding completely by tuition fees and donations.  The school is called the Step by Step Learning Centre and its website can be found here.  I find the project quite exciting as people with disabilities, especially mental health disabilities, are overlooked and forgotten about in most countries, throughout the world.  There is often a sense of shame that people feel about children with disabilities, which I find very sad.  What I love about the school is their sense of possibility for the children rather than hopelessness.  We are beginning discussions with the school about how Give Aid Direct might be able to help them in their work.   Keep following us to find out more..