WINGS Interview with Emmanuel Marfo of GADeF

Emmanuel MarfoWhat can be done is; believe we have the power to impact our generation.” – Emmanuel Marfo

To start the New Year, WINGS virtually sits down with Emmanuel Marfo of the Global Alliance for Development Foundation to discuss youth in philanthropy, building an organization from scratch, and the power of networks.

WINGS: When did you first hear of WINGS?

 Emmanuel: I came across WINGS during my participation at the African Grantmakers Assembly (AGN) 2012 held at Johannesburg.

 WINGS: Why did you start GADeF?

 Emmanuel: GADeF was established in 2008, while I was doing my first degree at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, after I read lecture notes on the challenges that the next generation of entrepreneurs are facing. Our department’s entrepreneurship lecturer, Ralph Nyadu-Addo (PhD) used to say, “the solutions are out there”. It became an inspirational message for me to find solutions to challenges students and graduates face in the communities they find themselves in. I was then determined to build a team of change-makers and philanthropists, identify and find solutions to youth and communities challenges in my village. After we identified challenges on the capacities, connections and capabilities of the youth in pursuit of their dreams to follow their passions and make their communities a better place, I decided to build an alliance to support youth and young women to find sustainable solutions starting from one community. This in turn would expand to other communities, nations, regionally and finally, youth-led global impact and transformation. I encountered many challenges in sharing the vision with some youths and adults, but the message Mr. Ralph shared during tutorial students dinner inspired me to find ways to support youth and women in the global community. Along with co-founders Peter Nsiah, Gifty Mensah and Lord Nkrumah, we envisioned an organization that would empower youth, young social entrepreneurs and women in local communities to address the social, environmental,  political and economic issues that they face locally and globally, by creating a strong local network that worked with grassroots youth philanthropists and social entrepreneurs worldwide. With the co-founders, we also wanted to provide young people the opportunity to channel their energy toward becoming involved in both their local and global communities.

WINGS: Was there a personal experience for you that makes you think young people need to become more empowered and involved in philanthropy and their communities?

Emmanuel: I will say, the whole first five (5) year history of the organization answers it all.  I had a challenge of getting technical assistance and mentors to support and shape my skills and expertise. Again, the perception that government is solely responsible to solve every problem in the communities and the ability to mobilize resources locally became a setback to the organization’s objective of building institutional capacity. Through small grants and technical assistance among community foundations, youth-led organisations and similar philanthropic organizations, we were able to enable them to build social capital and enhance local decision-making processes in their communities.  I also encountered a challenge in letting the youth believe they can influence decisions among policy makers, governments, international development agencies and corporate agencies. With the little opportunity I had to participate in learning about youth development, social enterprise and community development through workshops, conference and seminars, I was able to overcome some of the challenges. These empowerment opportunities help young people engage in a process in which they can identify potential issues and grantees; secure monetary and in-kind donations; and evaluate outcomes. I believe though young people need mentors and connections to help them find solutions in their communities, they need to be empowered to understand partnerships for sustainable development.

 WINGS: What was the process like starting GADeF in Ghana?

Emmanuel: GADeF was founded in 2008 and registered in 2010 by the Registrar Generals Department, Accra, Ghana as a youth philanthropy foundation. It was started with 3 other co-founders Peter Nsiah, Gifty Mensah and Lord Nkrumah. By registering with each District’s social welfare, GADeF was co-created to support and work with community based organisations, community foundations and philanthropy networks locally.

WINGS: Were there organizations, people, or available information that helped or inspired your creating of GADeF?

Emmanuel: As I said, my former University Entrepreneurship Lecturer, Ralph Nyadu-Addo (PhD) who is now the Chairman of GADeF’s Social Enterprise Initiative, Phinklife Institute used to say, “ the solutions are out there”, and that motivated me to “go out there”  while studying to find “those solutions”.  Also, Addai Kwaku, my first Manager in a community-based NGO working with the vulnerable people in Ahafo mining community, shared with us foundation and non-profits toolkits and  encouraged us to register the foundation after mobilizing funds from the co-founders. With the challenges in growing GADeF as a national and global foundation, the AGN Assembly 2012 brought a WINGS staff, Ana Pinho to the scene. The networking-breaks connected her to me. She re-kindled the passion I had which was dying off due to the numerous challenges beyond my control with words like, “ Yes Emmanuel, you can do that”, “ Go ahead and find out”,  “ I will be happy to help”, etc. Her motivational  words and her positive responses to people (like  Adern Nkandela    Halima Mahomed etc. ) and organisations ( like WINGS, Foundation Center and other WINGS members)  readiness to mentor and guide me, enabled me in conceptualizing the African Youth in Philanthropy Conference which was to be launched in 2014 in Ghana but postponed to Arusha, 2015.

WINGS: What piece of advice would you offer another organization like GADeF that is just starting out?

Emmanuel: I will simply share my story and the story of GADeF to everyone. To youth philanthropist and social entrepreneurs, I believe that we have the solutions to the world´s biggest problems. What can be done is; believe we have the power to impact our generation. Create a space to influence and build the relationship with the community foundation field and policy makers, governments, international development agencies and corporate agencies. Be ready to learn as well as learn from mistakes. As starters, we have to collaborate and worth with networks which advance the field of community-based organisations (CBOs) and other local youth-led organisations to sustain these organisations and increase effectiveness.

WINGS: How does being connected to a global community-like WINGS- help provide either support or knowledge to local/regional community-oriented organizations such as GADeF?

 Emmanuel: Global communities like WINGS are helping to create a space for learning, sharing and networking through the workshops, webinars and forums.  The new trend of internal collaborations within the global community is helping us learn from other networks in different continent. For example, the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) and Youth Philanthropy Connect are currently in collaboration arrangements through the workshops and webinar networking opportunities facilitated by WINGS and Foundation Centre.

WINGS: What accomplishment, experience, project, etc. are you most proud of GADeF for?

Emmanuel: GADeF has been working at the grassroot to meet our global objectives. Though we have success stories to tell at the local level, I will say that the launching of next generation of youth philanthropists, the African Youth in Philanthropy Network (AYPN) with over 25 youth philanthropist and social entrepreneurs is worth mentioning.  The partnership approach that’s been used by GADeF made it possible to overcome regional and organization challenges.

WINGS: Ultimately, why did you join WINGS?

Emmanuel: We heard of WINGS at AGN 2012. We learnt that WINGS is a global network of grantmaker associations and philanthropic support organizations. The team at GADeF identified a common mission in WINGS and the opportunity to strengthen, promote and provide leadership on the development of youth -philanthropy and social investment around the world. We decided to join WINGS to create space and give voice within WINGS for youth philanthropy foundations and youth-led non-profit development organisations. We also anticipated our membership will help us get information, knowledge, and peer-exchange opportunities to contribute to the sustainability of the foundation and network initiatives we are developing with other foundations.

WINGS: Any further information, stories, anecdote, comment, etc. you would like to share, use the space below.

 Emmanuel: We would like to invite youth philanthropy organisations, social enterprise organization and other youth-focused initiatives and foundations to join the development of the African Youth in Philanthropy Network both at sub-regional and regional or continental level. We want to welcome all mentoring opportunities, capacity and capability building supports and funding as well as specific budget allocation for youth philanthropy development and sustainability by the global community including corporate sectors, governments and international development agencies. The participation of youth philanthropy in the implementation and monitoring process of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with innovations with current technological trends should be a priority as well. Through this, a Youth Philanthropy Forum on SDGs Initiative has been developed and opened for collaborations. The forum will target all youth philanthropy initiatives by building strong partnerships between youth philanthropic organisations, the United Nations, governments, civil society, and business. Activities will focus on building greater capacity and a better environment for youth philanthropic organisations. The initiative is registered with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.   Finally, since GADeF is growing it network to have offices in most identified counties in the world, we are opened to all forms of collaborations to achieve our mission with youth philanthropy and social investment.

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