How can we take lasting action in the field of international development? By supporting the emergence and structuring of a network of civil society actors, locally. Here are some examples of Fondation de France programs in Africa and the Mediterranean region.
Education, training, agriculture transition, women’s rights, culture, digitization and healthcare are all fields – there are many others – where philanthropy supports thousands of international projects in collaboration with nonprofits on the ground and residents’ collectives teeming with initiatives.
But beyond projects, how can we help young organizations, which are often isolated, structure themselves, become more professional and build up their autonomy? How can we back their ability to act over the long term, especially when initial grants dry up? “Developing countries rarely have the resources to train non-profit actors. We therefore need to think about this aspect right from the start of each project,” highlights Karine Meaux, head of the Fondation de France International Development and Emergencies programs.
Fondation de France believes that this approach is particularly relevant to programs that support family farming in western Africa, the Mediterranean from Shore to Shore Program and the programs created to respond to major emergencies such as those in Haiti and Lebanon.
“This thinking is incorporated in the very core of each project supported,” adds Karine Meaux. "Nonprofits approach us with lots of wonderful ideas and energy. We work with project leaders on the methods that will go further than the original idea, with their experience taking root over time. Especially when it comes to assessing needs, setting out precise objectives, identifying best practices, formalizing and sharing results and so on.”
Above all, professionalization starts with civil society players forming networks. “For example, as part of the Mediterranean project, which supports nonprofits in North African countries and Euro-Mediterranean projects, each ‘class year’ of project leaders meets those from previous years, who can speak of their successes and also their difficulties,” explains Fanny Herpin, head of the program. “We also encourage nonprofits to visit one another. “Discussions focus on financial models, relationships with stakeholders, the dissemination of best practices, etc.”
Regarding the JAFOWA program that brings together farming organizations in Burkina Faso and Senegal, around 30 participants attend two workshops each year, to address all the aspects of local agroecology, from the issue of seeds to the challenges of logistics and distribution. For the PAFAO (Promoting Family Farming in Western Africa) Program, sharing draws on digital tools: online fact sheets, testimonies and chat.
In this way, all nonprofits progress, by formalizing their experience and discovering that of others. This peer-based apprenticeship can benefit from additional tailored training programs to meet the needs of each entity: drafting the nonprofit mission, managing human resources better, developing fundraising efforts and offering digitization training programs.
Providing structural support to those involved is also particularly pertinent in post-crisis situations. In the face of catastrophe (hurricane, earthquake, industrial catastrophe, etc.), Fondation de France commits to addressing the emergency over the long term. Because it supports collectives that propose more resilient and therefore more lasting models (housing, agriculture and production models), it can contribute to reconstruction. “These collectives aim to extend their work far beyond repairs, long after international organizations have left the area. They need structure and training for their teams,” says Karine Meaux. “Here too, we help them organize discussions and best practices among peers and the way create joint projects that rely on local resources as much as possible.”