World Connect Focuses on Grassroots, “Local Systems Approach”
Poverty remains a stubborn reality throughout the world, and the international community continues to focus much attention on projects and programs that are sustainable, locally focused, and benefit women and children, who bear the brunt of low economic growth. Morocco has been one of the leaders in combating poverty through its National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), which seeks to improve marginalized rural and urban communities through sustainable social and economic development programs.
Recently, we had the opportunity to interview Pamela Nathenson, the Executive Director of World Connect-USA who brought us up to date on what their organization is doing to complement Morocco’s efforts, especially at the local level. What is especially interesting about her organization is that it is not trying to launch projects imported from other sources. Rather, World Connect “collaborates with field-based partners such as the Peace Corps to identify and accelerate locally-led development.” With a limited funding-base model, World Connect, like High Atlas Foundation and CorpsAfrica, uses a community-based approach for identifying and funding its programs, often partnering with Peace Corps volunteers to supplement existing projects or enable them to initiate new local efforts.
Despite the billions of dollars in development assistance spent annually, there are still challenges in implementing small-scale projects that enable communities to take charge of their futures. Doing just that is a goal that World Connect shares with INDH. World Connect believes that it is helping to close the gap between programs the international community supports that tend to favor institutional actors and “grassroots organizations as leaders and innovators in international development service delivery.” A quick glance at its website shows the range of projects in 21 countries that are having a significant impact in rural and urban areas through sustainable, low-cost projects that have multiple positive benefits on local communities.
On October 1, 2015, World Connect-USA will host its second annual benefit in Brooklyn, NY, at which it will highlight its work in Morocco, particularly a youth-led citizen journalism project that was initiated with a $457 grant to a Peace Corps Volunteer with a previous career in journalism to teach interested young people in Ouarzazete about journalism. The project has continued to grow through an additional three grants, and is now a sustainable media company. For a total of less than $9,000, the E-News Association currently has a roster of 17 journalists, photographer, webmaster, and editor-in-chief, publishes in English and Moroccan Arabic on its website, and reaches more than 25,000 people monthly.
As World Connect proudly points out, “most of the Ouarzazate E-News members are state department fellows. In addition…World Connect has launched a women’s agricultural cooperative, a number of women’s artisan crafts cooperatives, an interfaith forum, a youth-led cultural cafe, women’s health programs, and many other projects, a total of 63 projects in all.” For a description of World Connect’s project work in Morocco and to understand how, with modest budgets, it impacts local communities through locally-generated projects especially benefiting women and youth, check out http://worldconnect-us.org/category/country/morocco/ .
With growing recognition that local populations, if provided the tools, are indeed able to generate efforts to improve economic growth, enhance social development, and sustain and expand beneficial programs over time, World Connect will be in the forefront of redefining foreign assistance from a handout to a hand up.
For more information on the October 1 event in Brooklyn featuring World Connect-USA programs and projects in Morocco, go to https://www.worldconnect-us.org/stories-from-morocco/