EPIC Africa is a new member of the WINGS community. We interviewed the Co-Founders Rose Maruru and Adwoa Agyeman.
1- Can you please tell us about the work of EPIC-Africa?
Across the continent, CSOs provide vital services for communities. Although they vary greatly in type, size and purpose, it’s widely understood that they contribute mightily to well-being on the continent. Yet little is known about the sector in terms of data and mapping – what groups exist and where, what they do, and the impact they have. As a result, many worthy organizations remain under the radar of funders. Insufficient funding means that many CSOs face difficult resource constraints, especially in terms of organizational health and effectiveness.
Our aim is to increase philanthropic impact by filling critical data and capacity gaps in the philanthropic market infrastructure in Africa. Specifically, EPIC-Africa is establishing an index of African civil society organizations to bring greater visibility to their work and increase their discoverability by those looking to fund African CSO initiatives. We are especially interested in enabling individual Africans, on the continent and in the diaspora to connect with and fund groups that are effectively addressing causes that they care about. The index will be the basis of annual CSO excellence awards.
2- How is the African philanthropy landscape nowadays?
The African philanthropy landscape is diversifying, growing and an exciting space. New actors and ideas are coming into the ecosystem. Despite the clamping down of civil society space in some countries, governments – across the continent – increasingly recognize that philanthropy is an important contributor to the achievement of the sustainable development goals. Civil society organizations are becoming more creative around tapping into local resources. On the other hand, the support infrastructure remains generally weak. For example, few entities exist to provide advisory services to the sector and to governments, to advocate for an enabling giving environment, provide data and research to guide policy decisions or for focus giving.
3- What are the biggest challenges in gathering data on philanthropy in the African continent? Is it challenging to find a common language for data in all Africa?
The challenges are many. Key among them is the lack of standardized, comprehensive and centralized data repositories that are regularly updated. Even in countries where CSOs are required to regularly submit data to governing authorities, this data is often not easily accessible and their format does not lend itself to easy analysis. In a just completed scoping study by EPIC-Africa, we found that while there are a number of databases of African CSOs, some of which include thousands of organizations, the majority provide basic, directory-like information, and many of them are dated. The study surfaced several assessment/accreditation efforts both on the continent and abroad that offer ideas for creating more detailed and robust profiles of CSOs. But these efforts require considerable amounts of human and financial capacity. A third challenge centers around willingness to share data especially when the value for doing so is not clear. Finally, there are concerns for groups working in environments hostile to civil society and where sharing data may endanger those working on sensitive issues or with certain vulnerable populations.
Finding a common language is important to ensure inclusivity and contextually rooted and appropriate indicators. Although it is not yet a big challenge, we expect that as efforts to collect philanthropy data increase, this will become an issue and that the conversation will take on more nuanced dimensions.
4- How do you believe philanthropy support organisations can improve and expand the available data on philanthropy?
Philanthropy support organizations can have a more multi-sectorial approach and greater transparency in working to expand available data on philanthropy. Greater collaboration is needed to develop common standards, language and tools to enable aggregation and comparison. They can also collaborate to push a data movement, especially in the context of enabling the sector to measure its contribution to and impact on the issues it seeks to solve.
5- How is being connected to a global network strategic for your work or work being done in this field in Africa?
Being connected to a global network is strategic for EPIC- Africa’s work for a number of reasons. Firstly, we see it as a learning partnership with connection to resources from WINGS and to peer organizations globally. Secondly, it offers a platform to share our experience and to amplify our work. Finally, by joining WINGS we feel that we belong to a community and are contributing to something bigger than EPIC-Africa.