Photo credit: International Treatment Preparedness Coalition

Photo credit: International Treatment Preparedness Coalition

There are so many exciting and innovative grantmaking approaches focusing in Africa these days. Some foundations are taking the lead in challenging traditional models of grantmaking on the continent and working hard to make sure resources go directly to people in communities who are making change and struggling for equity and justice. In addition, tremendous opportunities have evolved around collaborations between foundations that have traditionally targeted issue areas separated by politics and policies, but linked in communities and people’s lives. The recent highlight of the collaborative foundation work in Liberia in this week’s Chronicle of Philanthropy is but one example. If you have a subscription, check out the article: Foundation-Financed Office in Liberia Seeks to Build and Guide Philanthropic Efforts.

At Tides, we moved $7.2 million to Africa in 2009 through such innovative strategies as the HIV Collaborative Fund for Treatment Preparedness, the New Field Foundation, the Money Well Spent Fund, and the Africa Family Planning Integration Fund. Tides’ commitment to moving money to grassroots organizations has demanded that we develop the infrastructures and systems to ensure money gets to those organizations and people with the cultural competency to partner well with activists in Africa; as well as directly fund organizations on the continent that are well positioned to provide services in their own communities.

The organizations supported by Tides through the various Africa-based initiatives provide services in a way that responds to the needs of the communities; involves them in the process; and provides opportunities to leverage resources and build effective models for sustainability. As part of our commitment to strengthening infrastructures, Tides supports direct services; the creation and implementation of international policies that secure resources based on need; and efforts to track the efficiency and effectiveness of resources spent in regions and on issue areas.

Getting the infrastructure right is essential when moving money to grassroots communities in Africa. If we don’t get it right, the dynamic, creative, and systemic change that is happening will have a harder time flourishing; and the energy for changing the way philanthropy works in Africa will not be sustained, nor will it evolve.

Written by Ellen Friedman and Renée Joslyn