Connecting the Dots for Early Childhood Development

Social progress and impact do not come from operating in a vacuum. Today, more than ever, there is a need for collective action in tackling complex global challenges. Happily, Foundation Maps for Early Childhood Development (ECD) in East Africa  makes connecting the dots between funding trends and gaps, seeking out thought partners, and building a collaborative global network a little bit easier.

The West Foundation is an internationally-focused family foundation based in the Midwest, which separates us in distance and space from the direct work of our grant partners. Many of our likeminded funding colleagues with an international giving focus are headquartered in disparate locations.  As a result, we must be extra-entrepreneurial in scanning the landscape to identify collaborative partnerships and leverage strategic opportunities.

Fortunately, we live in a virtual world where inter-continental partnerships are both possible and increasingly feasible.  The ECD funding map is a practical resource to help both donors and nonprofits better understand and navigate the ecosystem of ECD funding in East Africa from a computer anywhere in the world.

My colleagues and I at the foundation are already engaging with the maps in multiple ways. First, we reference the rich data provided to actively build out our knowledge and network of peer funders.  We find it is generally very helpful to get to know like-minded funders we might work with to co-support outstanding projects as well as those who challenge our thinking and push our own risk-taking.

Understanding how other actors in the space are investing their time and resources also allows us to see what potential funding gaps exist for our current and prospective grantees. The map provides context on the broader matrix of foundation and bilateral/multilateral grantors. Down the road, we foresee leveraging both subsets of knowledge as we plan for impact and explore emerging issue areas.

Additionally, we will continue to contribute data to the map in an effort to increase our own transparency as an organization.  Transparency is a core value of the foundation, a huge challenge in the sector, and an essential attribute of any deep partnership. We constantly examine ways we might be more transparent which – at a minimum – includes openly sharing details about the grants we make.

Finally, we recommend the resource to our grant partners! Just as we benefit from learning about other organizations and key players, so too do the nonprofits engaging in the difficult task of mobilizing change on the ground:

“I think Foundation Maps for Early Childhood Development (ECD) in East Africa is an awesome tool to gauge both who is funding and who is working on similar issues in the space. So many times smaller NGOs have a hard time figuring out answers to both of those questions,” shares George Srour, Founder and Chief Dreamer of Building Tomorrow.

Building Tomorrow, a long-time grantee of the West Foundation, works in primary education in Uganda. Srour adds, “What I especially appreciate is the thoroughness with which assembly of the tool was executed. One can be guided through the use of the tool through the video tutorial and from there it is intuitive to explore. This makes it all the more worthwhile to use.”

With such a user-friendly and comprehensive knowledge bank at your fingertips, how might you use Foundation Maps for Early Childhood Development (ECD) in East Africa to build networks, become more transparent, and drive change from your own corner of the world? 

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