Tuesday, August 02, 2005

AFFORD: Supporting the Supporters

Because the "Bazaar" usually posts articles about organizations that have ongoing projects in Africa, or among the Diaspora, when I first saw the AFFORD web site I began to search to determine what projects it was conducting in Africa. At first I was disappointed because I could not find that it had any operations in Africa. But then I began to settle down and really read the content of AFFORD's web site. And that's when I came to understand what a valuable resource AFFORD is.

These guys tell you right from the beginning that they are: "Supporting African diaspora's contribution to Africa's development." And by this, the mean that they do not conduct development or relief work in Africa. But they provide a lot of assistance to those organizations that do.

Founded as the "African Foundation for Development" (AFFORD) by a group of Africans in the UK in 1994 as a registered charity, the organization was designed to respond to the concerns, that while large numbers of Africans in the UK had organized to contribute to Africa's development, these groups "were effectively marginalized from mainstream development activity directed towards Africa." AFFORD was also grounded in the knowledge that African could provide each other with the knowledge to address the problems facing the Continent, and should in fact do so.

From the beginning the mission of AFFORD, has been to enhance and expand the capacity of Africans in the diaspora to contribute to Africa's development. And it plans to do this through four strategic goals:

- To shift the balance of power to Africa
- To influence the African development agenda
- To strengthen AFFORD's legitimacy and effectiveness
- To build a strong and sustainable AFFORD

AFFORD's first project was to conduct a Survey of African Organizations in London in order to inventory the existing skills and efforts already at play on behalf of Africa. Strengths and weakness had to be identified and work to develop ways to utilize the strengths and shore up the weaknesses.

This would also provide a basis for learning from the work that African organizations were already doing and to help make the work of the existing organizations more effective.

The messages that AFFORD heard were that:

The organizations wanted to end their isolation and fragmentation
They wanted to keep doing what they were doingm but they wanted to do it better
They wanted to involve more young people involved
They wanted to communicate with mainstream organizations in order to work together
They wanted to effectively connect to work for Africa's development

AFFORD has several Core Values, and I am not going to list them all here, but the first of those values is:

"We have pride & confidence in Africa & Africans & believe in the inalienable right of Africans in Africa to shape their own destiny."

And that is a very good place to begin. To see what other Core Values comprise the "Driving Spirit of AFFORD's members and staff," you can go to the following page on their site: http://www.afford-uk.org/about/values/

AFFORD says that their stakeholders are the African diaspora as an important stakeholder in Africa's development. Other key stakeholders are mainland African civil society organizations, governments, businesses, funders, bi-lateral and multi-lateral agencies, and mainstream NGOs.

Their work is organized into a range of services that are mainly organized into three areas:

Sharing information

Facilitating networks

Building capacity

Sign-posting career opportunities

Influencing development policy

In order to provide valuable resources to the organizations it serves AFFORD has a "Database of African organizations." This database is of UK based African civil society organizations engaged in development activities both in the UK and in Africa. They are also in the process of adding data so as to include agencies and organizations (such as donors, organizations located in Africa and Pan-African institutions) whose work is relevant to UK-based African organizations.

This Database is seen as an important resource to assist increased partnerships and linkages between African organizations in the Diaspora and civil society organizations in Africa and they encourage interested African organizations to add their information to increase the size of the Database.

AFFORD believes very strongly that its ability to achieve its mission is dependent upon engaging with and supporting the work of young Africans as well as UK-based African civil society organizations (UKBACSOs).

These young Africans are individuals engaged in academics, media workers, art, business and other areas and are regarded by AFFORD as key agents within UK African civil society.

UKBACSOs comprise a wide range of organizations and roughly fall under one the following categories:

African led NGOs
Alumni associations
Ethnic associations
Faith organizations
Hometown associations
National/Regional associations
Political associations
Professional associations
Welfare associations
Women's associations
Investment group/business
Welfare/refugee groups
Supplementary schools
Virtual organizations
Research/think tank
Arts/cultural groups
Development education centers

There are a lot more things that AFFORD is doing, but my job is to make you aware of their good work and then direct you to where you can learn more. However, I cannot conclude this article with out mentioning the fact that AFFORD has a program to help organizations improve their fundraising and resource mobilization skills.

This is a joint undertaking with the organization "Fahamu" to present the course: "Fundraising & resource mobilization among the African Diaspora in the UK." AFFORD says that "Fahamu has played a pioneering role in using the new information and communications technologies to support capacity building and networking between civil society and human rights organizations." The course is a distance learning course for individuals & organizations that uses CD-ROMs, email, and workshops. The course is targeted specifically towards Africans in the Diaspora and their organizations and is anchored in AFFORD's clear understanding of the unique challenges such organizations face. The course participants learn how to:

Raise much needed funds for their causes
Build a constituency in support their cause
Improve their chances of getting support from major funders, trusts and foundations
Manage relationships with their funding sources much more effectively
Prioritize their time and energy, so they are doing sufficient fundraising to get the funds they need for their work.

These are skills that all such organizations need to have. If you would like to find out more or to register interest in this course, you need to go to AFFORD's web site.

Well Dear Reader, I wanted to tell you about AFFORD's "African Diaspora and Development Resource Center (ADDARC)" but I am out of time. But you are not out of luck, because you can visit AFFORD at: http://www.afford-uk.org/

And read all about it. And there is a lot more you can read about there - as well as find links to Fahamu's and many other organizations that are about improving the quality of life of Africans on the Continent and in the Diaspora.

[Note - I should not depart without apologizing to my dear friends in the UK for turning your "s"s in "ogranisation" into "z"s and reversing the "re"s in your "centres" in my incorrigible "Yank" fashion.]

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