Successfully Launched in Morocco; Plans Expansion in 2015
As the debate continues about how to make development programs more impactful and inclusive, a new narrative on community development is being written in Morocco, borrowing from US Peace Corps and AmeriCorps models. It is called CorpsAfrica and is based on the assumption that Africans are quite able to undertake grassroots economic development in their own countries if given the tools and access to resources and support.
I recently interviewed Liz Fanning, Founder and Director of CorpsAfrica – an NGO that prepares Africans to work in their countries as volunteers doing Peace Corps-type community projects defined by their host community. CorpsAfrica launched its first cohort last year in Morocco, where Liz had served as a Peace Corps volunteer. As she points out: “CorpsAfrica is helping to establish a path toward public service across Africa by giving young people the opportunity to understand extreme poverty and the skills to help.”
In their first several months of training, the volunteers meet with a range of NGOs and government offices and agencies to learn about how to access resources and support for community-based projects. This includes multilateral donors, US agencies, and Moroccan government programs, as well as NGO and civil society organizations. The volunteers learn how to tap into existing networks to develop support for projects in rural areas. Among its current partners are the OCP Foundation, Amis Des Ecoles (rural education), Anarouz Social Enterprise (rural women’s economic development), Al Akhawayn University, the International Youth Foundation, and UNICEF Maroc.
As Liz explains, “CorpsAfrica volunteers serve as facilitators and liaisons – they live in a remote, high-poverty village for one year to help the communities develop a project that addresses self-identified priority needs, and then they bring in the resources to make it happen. The projects happen through the volunteers – not by them. This participatory approach allows volunteers the flexibility and creativity to respond to the unique characteristics and challenges of a given community.”
“Because they do not have a ‘plan in place’ before entering a community, CorpsAfrica volunteers start by listening deeply to the needs and practical concerns of the individuals and the community as a whole. Projects are generated from the people within the community and thus are culturally sensitive, logistically practical, and, most importantly, the people who will ultimately benefit have a strong sense of ownership for the management and long-term sustainability of the projects.”
As its model proves successful, Ms. Fanning is excited about the coming year. “It will be a turning point for CorpsAfrica. We are more than doubling the program in Morocco and working to ensure a successful and transformative experience for the volunteers in the field and to perfect the model to use as a template for other countries in Africa. We are working to expand to Senegal and Malawi and hope to open those new offices before the end of 2015.”
For more information on the volunteers, their projects and how this small initiative is becoming an engine to transform and empower communities, check out their link at www.corpsafrica.org .