1. Tell us about your mission.
Spark Microgrant’s mission is to enable communities to design and launch their own social impact projects. We believe in a world where everybody lives with dignity and determines their own positive future.
2. How is The West Foundation supporting your mission?
The West Foundation grant provided Spark with the support needed to implement strategic training projects that would improve management, internal reporting, and program accountability and transparency. Funds from The West Foundation helped to support the Development of Spark’s SMS-based feedback tool, used to send messages to remote communities and collect the thoughts and opinions of our rural partners.
3. Considering your impactful work to eliminate poverty, how is The West Foundation’s philanthropic support providing you with sustainability and mobility?
The qualitative data collected through conversations with facilitators and community members, found the SMS tool to be effective in providing a platform for additional feedback. The feedback from facilitators and community members found that this tool helps community members to raise their voices by giving feedback as individuals and not as a group; this enables them to be as open as possible without fear of criticism. The community members also noted that this tool helps to hold them accountable after training since questions around “what they have learned” are asked and they realize they have to be present as well as pay attention during meetings.
When the global pandemic reached East African countries in March of 2020, Spark Microgrants took action to develop a strategic COVID-19 response plan, set new policies in place, and assess the needs and impacts on our communities.
After government restrictions and lockdowns in Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda, community organizing and access to information became more challenging for community members. Utilizing Spark’s existing SMS text messaging platform, the Task Force launched an SMS campaign to reach out to all communities and communicate crucial information on health and send messages to encourage continued social cohesion.
Between March and May, country teams sent a total of 24,593 SMS text messages to all 325 Spark communities, with about two to six texts per week. The content of these messages focused on COVID-19, reinforcing information from the Ministry of Health and World Health Organization. SMS messages also included updates on community FCAP projects and disbursements. The SMS messages were sent out in two batches, the first focusing on immediate and critical information, and the second to gather information on community needs and plans to manage amidst COVID-19. In addition to this, Spark shared information through community mobilizers with a megaphone who made announcements and provided key messages from a distance. This ensured that those without mobile phones could still have access to this crucial information from a trusted source.
4. How are you realizing your potential?
In 2020 we celebrated 10 years of building the civic and economic power of rural communities facing poverty in East Africa and West Africa. During that time we partnered with 325 communities. The community designed and implemented 450 impact projects, 85% of which were income generating. We have supported nearly 250,000 community members in driving their own economic and social development. Our goal in 2021 is to expand our work even further and into more communities.
5. What’s one important thing you want others to know about your organization?
At Spark, we believe in community-driven development. We believe that sustainable change does not simply come from financial support, it comes from having community advocates who believe in the work you do, and who are willing to work and fight for the kind of change they wish to see.
6. How can people reading this help you?
Donate. $500 is enough to support a community project.
7. What are your deepest needs as an organization?
We are still growing and expanding our work and are looking for advocates who believe in the work we are doing.