I believe small organisations like African Initiatives have an important role to play alongside the larger development agencies. It is often easier for smaller charities to become truly embedded in the communities they work in and to really understand community group dynamics, attitudes and behaviours so they can reach the unreachable.
I also feel it can be easier for smaller charities to work in deep and meaningful partnership, minimising the imbalanced power dynamics that can exist between INGOs and local agencies because of size. Smaller charities provide a different perspective, different skills and support, and can be the catalyst for change. But not change for the sake of change; rather change that facilitates individuals to have and make choices in life, and to be able to achieve their basic human rights.
African Initiatives is one of those charities that prides itself on its close, symbiotic relationships with local partners; supporting them to do more of what they already do well and, consequently, to positively affect the lives of women, girls and people living with a disability or HIV in a holistic manner.
On paper, African Initiatives’ five-year strategic plan looks ambitious – it aspires to affect education, health and well-being, sustainable livelihoods and equal rights. What makes this achievable – and what drew me to the organisation – is the intense programme focus (northern Tanzania, the most marginalised) in order to ensure deep, lasting impact. Already, I can see that there is potential to build upon this model of profound and holistic relationships and expand into new geographies one step at a time.