Thinking about Hewlett Foundation’s Strategy and Decolonising Philanthropy

  1. Al, there is so much here to respond to. I wish we could walk down to a coffee shop to talk it through for a few hours. And I hope we can soon. I completely agree about the three obstacles to citizen participation and I’m glad that OI, Luminate, Namati and others are thinking about how to increase access to attaining national IDs. In terms of literacy, I wonder if greater access to video and audio via mobile will change this obstacle. In fact, I wonder if we’ll use text at all in 50 years time. And yes, I completely agree that the erosion of community based groups and civic associations has led to a major decline in collective thinking about actionable ways to address local issues that affect our lives. But I’m inspired to see new civic associations sprout like the Kilifi County Information Hub and Baraza Media Lab. Finally, I’d love to talk more about your wish list. I feel like we’re already supporting those approaches through unrestricted grants to inspiring orgs like OI, Katiba, TISA, Barefoot Law, Namati, and others. So I’d be grateful for concrete examples of what else funders like HF should be supporting.

    1. @David, Thanks for reading. There is indeed a lot to discuss and unpack here – this is the downside of digital interaction. As to your question on literacy, the short answer is no. The fuller answer has to do with context. In the spaces that we are talking about, access to smartphones is still very low and the financial ability to spend money on data is even further away from them. As I have been working with Jackie Mungai I have learnt that many of the young people are so unexposed to even the most basic things – never touched a computer, never seen a bank card – let alone see an ATM being used, never seen a supermarket and for many, ridden in a private car (!). A human being is a crucial delivery tool for bringing about this literacy – some things like life skills cannot be automated. There is in fact an imperative for using any technology for literacy – and that’s basic literacy. A direct way to foster this basic literacy at scale is actually the community based organisations that need widespread support to conduct basic literacy for adults (both above 18 and young parents under 18 that are considered adults).

      Re: My wish list, you are indeed doing more than most to support these issues, but you are an outlier in the funding space. You have the standing to bring others to the realisation of the need. Much more needs to be done (by us all) to connect with the youth especially using new media. A part of measuring that is in reviewing scale – too many media initiatives connect with only a few hundred people and are deemed successful after a $50000 investment for example. I don’t have the answers in full but I have seen some working on it.

      I really think that there is a real gap in reaching the youth and getting them to be part of the conversation and more specific action needs to be taken that is focusing on them and bringing them to the table.

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