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Shifting Traditional Power Dynamics: Flexible, Direct Grants to Local Leaders
Episode 624th July 2022 • Connected Philanthropy • Foundant Technologies
00:00:00 00:32:48

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Move92 is a nonprofit organization that partners with and empowers local leaders to solve problems in their communities through simple yet revolutionary tactics; direct unrestricted grants.

Geneva Pritchard , Executive Director | Move92

Geneva has nearly 20 years of experience working in international development. Her varied experience includes involvement in water and sanitation programs with CARE International in Nicaragua, drug-resistant malaria among migrant communities, vocational incentive projects for people living with HIV and innovative education systems for mobile populations on the Thailand/Myanmar border, and diabetic retinopathy among marginalized populations with The Fred Hollows Foundation in Nepal and the Pacific Islands. Geneva holds a degree in International Studies from Seattle University and a Masters in Public Health from Thammasat University located in Bangkok.

Geneva has a wealth of experience working for large NGOs and grassroots organizations. Relationship building has, and always will be, at the center of how Geneva operates. All of the streams of Geneva’s experience have perfectly converged into her current work with Move92. As a philanthropy advisor, Geneva now gets to put relationship building at the forefront of her work, with the aim of curating relationships between openhearted philanthropists and dynamic local leaders in all corners of the world.

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Transcripts

Logan Colegrove:

Welcome to Connected Philanthropy. In today's episode, we hear from Geneva Prichard, who is the executive director of Move 92. The topics discussed are the importance of empowering local leaders, unrestricted grants trust, measuring success, among other topics. So without further ado, let's dove right in Thank you so much for joining us today, Geneva.

Geneva Pritchard:

Thanks for having me, Logan.

Logan Colegrove:

To start off, could you tell our audience a little bit about yourself and your background?

Geneva Pritchard:

Sure. So I've been in the international development and aid sector for about 20 years. I knew I wanted to get into this very young. I got my undergraduate degree in international studies from Seattle University, and in my junior year I got to work for CARE International in Nicaragua. And when I graduated, got my first job on the Thailand Burma border, working with philanthropic funds directly supporting the migrant and refugee communities on the Thai side.

Geneva Pritchard:

So anyone that had kind of moved over from the Myanmar side and had settled in Thailand. And in the last 20 years, I've worked for big aid organizations and small aid organizations. And it's really exciting for me where I've landed here with Move 92 because there's there's this real magic in unrestricted funds that the grant maker has It's very different from government funds or big aid organizations.

Geneva Pritchard:

There's, there's a different way that you can listen to and empower communities when you're working with these grant maker philanthropic funds. So I am just so excited about moving to and to talk to talk to you about it today.

Logan Colegrove:

Something that's just so striking is how well-traveled you are. You've kind of been all over the world. I'm sure that you bring a lot of diverse cultural perspectives and experiences to your current work at Move 92. Do you feel like that's the case?

Geneva Pritchard:

Yeah, probably. I think my my global background is was so unintentional. I you know, I'm from this quaint little street in Spokane, Washington, and my parents have never left Spokane. And so constantly my mom always looks at me and says, Child, I do not know where you came from. I've had four really, really fantastic mentors in my journey that have kind of inspired me to make my own decisions and constantly seek out new opportunities.

Geneva Pritchard:

So I think that in terms of my global living, the experiences that have provided the strongest foundation for the work I do today is when I lived on the Thai Burma border and it was two and a half years that I lived there, and it was full immersion in the community. And the biggest lesson was, my gosh, these communities have the answers to the unique challenges that their communities are facing.

Geneva Pritchard:

They do not need Westerners to come in and tell them what to do or how to get things done. And so it was just this really eye-opening time to shift my own perceptions of a Westerner moving, moving to the region. So for me, yes, I've lived all around the world, but the times that I've lived fully immersed in the communities are the experiences that that are the most powerful for the work that I do today.

Logan Colegrove:

That's a really nice transition. I'd like to dove right in and talk about move 92 and I'd love to start with just asking what's the story behind of the name.

Geneva Pritchard:

So there's a really powerful statistic which is annually around $10 billion is allocated to projects that support gender equity. Now of that $10 billion, 92% is given to large, large aid organizations, which means only 8% gets into the hands of local leaders and organizations.

Geneva Pritchard:

So our goal and we have 92 is to move some of that 92% from the big aid orgs into the hands of the local leaders and organizations.

Logan Colegrove:

That's excellent. And is that your mission statement? What you just said there?

Geneva Pritchard:

You know, if you go on our website, we don't have a defined vision or mission. In fact, as an organization, we rewrite our strategy every six months.

Geneva Pritchard:

And so we talk a lot about the word unrestricted. And we that's really important in the way that we partner with our local organizations around the world, that it's really important for how we work as a team. If we had when we started, if we had a really concrete five year strategy and then COVID hit that strategies out the window.

Geneva Pritchard:

So what we are finding is and I think it's in a strange way, a bit of a silver lining of COVID is let's let's let's detach from the notion that we need to know what the world is going to look like in three to five years. So we every six months totally pivot. But in terms of a of an aim and a goal, I would say that what we want to do is we want to inspire grant makers to give unrestricted long term direct funds to grassroots organizations around the world, to local leaders around the world.

Geneva Pritchard:

We want grant makers to be inspired by real life and real people rather than fancy marketing campaigns or perfect log frames and spreadsheets.

Logan Colegrove:

Yeah, it kind of seems like whoever has the bigger marketing budget or whoever has the story that's most likely to make you cry will likely get the most dollars. And that's kind of a different approach that you guys have is support the people and the local leaders and give the money directly to them.

Logan Colegrove:

Why is it so important to get more philanthropic dollars directly to local leaders?

Geneva Pritchard:

I like to talk about the the ecosystem in the international development sector and we are all critical parts of it. So the big foundations and the big aid organizations and the grassroots and the intermediary organizations, we are all part of this ecosystem. Playing really different roles.

Geneva Pritchard:

And what's really important to us is asking when the local leader is involved in the decision making process, so in a classic larger aid organization, they will indeed work with local leaders and organizations, but often as implementing partners until the design and the development is done in a Western setting, and then they bring in the local organization at the tail end.

Geneva Pritchard:

Hey, here's our ideas bring them into your community. We'll give you funding if you do it this way. But what we talk about is bringing them in at the very beginning at the table from the start to say, what are the ideas that you have for the unique challenges that your community is facing? And that's where the magic is.

Geneva Pritchard:

And that's again where these private philanthropic funds are so powerful because they're there, they're more flexible. And so we have the opportunity to listen from the very beginning. But one thing you just said, Logan, I wanted to dove into a bit more, which is the marketing campaigns that tug on the heartstrings. So again, living in the communities, there's two things that we're really powerful.

Geneva Pritchard:

One, they have the idea is they're innovative, brilliant, smart, motivated, and the other is nobody's sitting around looking at their dirty faced child going, I can't believe I'm a refugee. That's not happening. This is joyous, vibrant, I like to say the first year I lived on the Thai-Burma border, I think I laughed more in that year than I did all of the years leading up to it.

Geneva Pritchard:

It was just lighthearted and fun. It is shifting the perception that people in poorer countries are are sad or dirty faced or helpless and hopeless. It's you know, we we are a part of when we talk about our work, we like to shift the narrative. And by doing that, you have to shift the vocabulary. So there are certain words that we try to stay away from, like charity, donor, poor, helpless and the words that we like to really, really use to describe our work, our partnerships and relationships and innovative ideas and community led solutions.

Geneva Pritchard:

So again, those marketing campaigns where they push forward the base of of a dirty like a dirty face child or a dirty face baby. What we say is, you know what, the the part of the story they're not telling is that child's mother might be a leader in that community.

Geneva Pritchard:

Researching innovative ways to address maternal and child health. But they're not telling that story because they're just trying to make people feel sad and give money from sadness. And we're trying to tell the real story and the full story and have people share wealth from being inspired

Logan Colegrove:

I think that's just such a more appropriate way to look at it and talk about it.

Logan Colegrove:

And I love that you even talk about the vocabulary. You said partnerships. And you also briefly touched on bringing in the local leaders earlier in the process. I think that's so valuable, even relating that to things that I do. Having the right people in the room at the right stage because things can blow up in your face if you bring them in at the end and then you get the feedback, this isn't the right plan.

Logan Colegrove:

Or have you considered this? If only those people would have been brought in earlier as partners, then you could avoid some catastrophes or deploying resources not as effectively as you could have. So that's really refreshing to hear.

Geneva Pritchard:

Exactly. And I look and I love it when people draw parallels to the development sector to other sectors because often I think the development sector is kind of off off on its own because of the altruistic nature of it.

Geneva Pritchard:

But it's but it's it's just like any other sector where it's so important to include the whole team, just like you said in the decision making process and part of the team The issue is that the local leaders haven't been part of the team. So it's bringing them in. And this is we're all at the table and we're all part of the team.

Logan Colegrove:

I love that Could you describe Move 90 two's reach? Where all in the world do you guys do your important work?

Geneva Pritchard:

Sure. So we currently work with we really have two key groups that we work with and then create relationships between the two. One is are the grant makers. We currently work with grant makers in the US, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore.

Geneva Pritchard:

And that number is constantly growing And then in terms of our local leaders and local organizations, we have in our network 36 trusted local organizations in 12 countries and those 12 countries really span the globe. We're in South and Southeast Asia, Central and South America, Europe and two different parts of Africa. And again, both of those groups are expanding rapidly.

Logan Colegrove:

How do these local leaders and organizations get on your radar initially?

Geneva Pritchard:

We have a way of finding new organizations, and there's two different things that we do. So if a all I'll explain it by giving an example. We have a grant maker here in Christchurch that approached our team and said, I spend half my time between Christchurch and Athens and what I'm seeing in Athens is there's a huge population of homeless asylum seekers and this grant maker had contacted the big aid organizations and she said, I have money and I want to help this demographic.

Geneva Pritchard:

But it's very political and very complicated in Athens to work to fund asylum seekers directly. So she came to us. We had no experience working in Greece, but we have a lot of experience working with mobile populations, refugees and asylum seekers. So I said, Give us a couple of months, we're going to figure this out. And what we did is we activated our networks so our team everyone on our team has extensive experience in international development.

Geneva Pritchard:

And we asked our networks who has worked in Greece, who's worked in Greece, who knows the situation? We pulled together an advisory group to just do a deep dove on everything about the region and the mobile population, the islands, the urban setting, And from there, we got recommendations on organizations, and then we do what we call building trust bridges.

Geneva Pritchard:

Well, we trust our network and our network trust these organizations. So we're that's how we end up moving into new countries and a new networks. And through that process, we identified three local organizations doing exactly what this grant maker wanted, which was working with the homeless population in Athens. To this day, she is now funding the core operating costs for one of the most phenomenal community led organizations that I've worked with.

Geneva Pritchard:

In fact, she just went to Athens to meet with the team. So we are able to use that same process in different countries around the world. Even tricky ones. We have a grant maker that wants to fund girls education in Syria and another girl's education in Afghanistan. And as you can imagine, this is very complicated. So we are slow and steady and we really do the due diligence to make sure we are recommending organizations that have a lot of people that believe in them.

Logan Colegrove:

Something you mentioned was trust in networks, and I know kind of a buzzword is trust based philanthropy. I was wondering if you can talk a little bit about the role trust plays in philanthropy and how people know that they could and should trust the networks and leaders.

Geneva Pritchard:

Yeah, this is one of my favorite topics to talk about it, mostly because when I first when we first started moved 92, it seemed so it seems so obvious that you should trust local leaders, but that was really because of so much experience, personal experience that I have had working and living with local leaders around the world.

Geneva Pritchard:

But what I finding is there's a bit of a hesitancy and a, there's a bit of vulnerability in trusting the unknown. So especially in the US, we have been I was born and raised in the States, really bombarded with these marketing campaigns that communities in poor countries are helpless. They need our help. But the reality is they actually just need to be heard.

Geneva Pritchard:

And so for us, the trust is facilitating this paradigm shift rather than trusting the marketing campaign to trusting a real person. And it's okay for this to be vulnerable and uncomfortable and part of our role as the team is, is curating this journey of trust in something new. And a big part of that is power dynamics. As well.

Geneva Pritchard:

Now, if someone is in the fortunate place to be a philanthropist, it's likely that they have been developing really great ideas and implementing them and are have been innovative and have come to a place in their life where they have wealth to share. And then they come to our table and we say, Oh, welcome. Now it's time to listen.

Geneva Pritchard:

And that is confronting. So it's these it's a table full of kind of difficult, uncomfortable conversations that when you can crack the code, the other side of it is so powerful. When we see the grant maker make the shift from I'm not quite sure how to trust to wow, I never knew this was an option. This is exactly how I wanted to share and partner and curate relationships around the world.

Geneva Pritchard:

It's it's the most rewarding part of our job to tackle these power dynamics. And I think the thing with trust it the thing that you can't not talk about is the power dynamics that come with that.

Logan Colegrove:

This is kind of a high level question but what are some effective ways to build trust generally?

Geneva Pritchard:

Hmm. Well, I think a big part of it is if curating the relationships so any any act of philanthropy is an act of trust.

Geneva Pritchard:

So if you give $5,000 to the Red Cross, you're trusting that they're going to do the work that they have promoted in their marketing campaigns. You are trusting that. But if you give $5,000 to a local leader in Nepal that says he's going to use that work to build a mountain bike pump track to keep kids from dropping out of school, that's a trust that's just far more personal.

Geneva Pritchard:

And so what we're doing is curating really. It's like it's like micro trust because you get to trust individual people and community stories rather than kind of the more classic style of trust in philanthropy, which is trusting a brand Yeah. And I think people build a relationship with a brand more easily because a lot of times the individual local leader, you know, may be the best you could hope for is a highlight video or phone call with that person on a one to one basis.

Logan Colegrove:

I'm sure there's a bunch of different reasons as but do you have any idea why 92% of dollars don't get to local leaders currently?

Geneva Pritchard:

Gosh, that's a really good question. I don't know the reason. I can only speculate that it's the international development sector and philanthropy sector there. They're very old sectors that haven't been challenged enough And so the very beginning of this sector, the money was held in a Western setting and given to countries around the world.

Geneva Pritchard:

In that old model of the rich helping the poor. And so the majority of that money is still held in that old paradigm. But the exciting thing is that I'm sure I mean, you hosting a podcast like this, you'll see that there is a movement and people don't want it to be like this anymore. So there's I think it's going to be a really exciting decade.

Geneva Pritchard:

This is not going to happen quickly. This is not a sector that can be shifted right away. But the fact that people are willing and excited to have these conversations is shows that if when they do another study maybe that 92% will get to 90 and that will be a really big deal.

Logan Colegrove:

Do you have any advice or actionable steps that our listeners could take to get involved?

Geneva Pritchard:

Yeah, a couple of things. One, especially for American base listeners, the the Trustees Philanthropy Project which is based in California. Their website promotes all of their events, but they host so many events that really dig deep on the concept of trust based philanthropy. So I always recommend checking their website out and going to their events. Move 92. We're also hosting a four part series.

Geneva Pritchard:

Again, digging deep into the concepts of trust based philanthropy. And so those are kind of educate panel ways of learning more. But in terms of concrete, if someone wanted to go out today and say, Okay, I'm ready, I want to give some money and a trust based philanthropy style to really ask the organization, at what point do you involve the local organization that you're working with?

Geneva Pritchard:

If your website says, We fund education in Uganda, who's doing the program development for that? Is it the teachers in Uganda or is it someone in Palo Alto? And so that is kind of shifting that idea of is this an organization that promotes community led solutions? And if so, then that is really your ticket to know that this is going to be a trust based, philanthropy style organization.

Logan Colegrove:

Absolutely. Are there any questions that I didn't ask that you were hoping to talk about?

Geneva Pritchard:

You know, one I think that we didn't cover is why unrestricted is so important. Now, that's a word. Unrestricted and flexible are two kind of buzzwords, kind of like trust based philanthropy. It's like what is trust based philanthropy? Why is an unrestricted and flexible grant so important in the concept of trust based philanthropy?

Geneva Pritchard:

And for us, it's really enabling our partners to have the power to pivot. Now, in the last two years in particular. Nothing is what it was. We had a grant to a school in northern Thailand that was educating migrants. Again, it was an education grant. And then COVID hit, and they said, All right, none of the kids are coming to school.

Geneva Pritchard:

We want to use that money to make soap and hand sanitizers and print materials to take it out to all of the refugee camps to make sure people are informed and protected. Can we use the money that you gave us for education to do this? We're like, yes, absolutely. You know, without question. Now, some of their other donors would not allow them to use the money for anything other than education.

Geneva Pritchard:

So they had money sitting there that they couldn't use because they couldn't have kids in school. So the unrestricted grants were the ones that were able to really make an impact with what was happening in the community at that moment. Another story of unrestricted is in Indonesia after COVID. One of the biggest issues they were facing was food security.

Geneva Pritchard:

It was really difficult for families to have access to food because they couldn't leave their house and the markets were far away and many of them were day laborers, so they weren't making money. So the community organization we worked with said, Can you give us funding to help people start their own kind of little patches? So we gave them money and they started a WhatsApp group to to do basic education on how to have your own garden.

Geneva Pritchard:

And through that WhatsApp group, these women became really close. And what what happened was a few of them were experiencing catastrophic violence, domestic violence at home, and they were able to use this WhatsApp group to say, Hey, I'm in an unsafe situation, what do I do? And so the organization contacted us and said, Wow, we thought food security was what these women needed.

Geneva Pritchard:

But it turns out violent violence against women has skyrocketed. Can we shift the remainder of this grant to help get some of these women out of their houses? Into safe situations? We're like, Yeah, of course. Like, that is what unrestricted funds are for, because sometimes you start one thing and you have to do another. Yeah. It just goes back to, I think the combination of trust and unrestricted funds are so powerful and I'm sure every nonprofit out there wishes every single dollar they got was unrestricted.

Logan Colegrove:

Do you think that philanthropy would be better served if all dollars were unrestricted?

Geneva Pritchard:

Yes, I do. I think that, I mean, unrestricted allows the really opens up for more community led solutions when they want a dream that would be gone. She said that I was like, Wow, I don't think I would be like, Okay, close up shop. We've done.

Geneva Pritchard:

We've done it. It's over.

Logan Colegrove:

Yeah, I know nothing about it. I guess my my understanding is just, yeah, the donors have something they care about deeply, and with that, they feel the need to put bumpers around the dollars they are giving and say, okay, food security is, is something that I grew up and saw the firsthand impacts of how terrible that is.

Logan Colegrove:

So I would like this donation to only go towards that. And they don't consider that well, actually being agile and being able to pivot when a different problem arises is really helpful, even though that might not stick with your initial vision of what those dollars would be towards.

Geneva Pritchard:

We like to say that the grant maker gets to decide where the money goes and then the local organization decides how the money is spent.

Geneva Pritchard:

And so it's a partnership in that sense with the new grant maker comes to us. We talk a lot about if they have an interest, if it's a regional interest or a thematic interest or sometimes both and we'll really create a relationship with a partner organization where we can get the money to a place or theme that is very special to the grant maker.

Geneva Pritchard:

That's a that's an important part of what we do. And so I think in terms of if we say if all funds were unrestricted, there's still a really important part of the process, which is accountability and unrestricted doesn't mean lack of accountability. We're still getting reports and stories, but the difference is a partner organization can come to us and say, hey, this isn't working or we need to change it.

Geneva Pritchard:

And so the accountability is still there. But again, it's just that kind of more of a fluid way of working.

Logan Colegrove:

Yeah. Do you hear any pushback to things like unrestricted funding or trust based philanthropy or common themes that people take issue with with the work you guys are doing?

Geneva Pritchard:

Yes, absolutely. So I think that's why the concept of trust is so exciting to talk about, because if I am talking about the work that we do to somebody brand new, I would say 95% of the time the person will say, Well, how can you trust a local leader?

Geneva Pritchard:

It just seems like this totally foreign concept, and there's always kind of a look on the face. How do you how do you know that they're not swindling you out of your money? And it's fascinating to me because it just brings to the forefront that trust is hard. Trusting something different is hard. And also, we talk a lot about instincts and and trusting your God and trusting your instincts that it's this kind of beautiful way of working and living that in modern society, it's not something you can bring to the board table anymore.

Geneva Pritchard:

Like, I get a really good feeling about this, but that's how we work. So constantly will build a relationship and be like, man, this feels so good. It feels so right. You can feel when you have a connection with a local leader because it's open hearted and it's honest and it's authentic. And so the pushback is for me, where I really lean in to say, okay, ooh, yes, great.

Geneva Pritchard:

Let's dig into this more. But there's definitely pushback around it because of what we're used to. So another story is in Sri Lanka, we work with a school there for girls, and the the director there had a donor that gave funding for a set amount of student. So funding for 20 students. Now, during that year, I think it was the first year of school that they had a handful of girls drop out and a handful that had to go back to their communities to make money for their families.

Geneva Pritchard:

And so the numbers were smaller than what they anticipated. And the donor rather than listening to the stories of why their numbers had shifted. Looked at it as a failure Oh, you're having girls drop out. Your school must be feeling pulled all of the funding and it was catastrophic to that particular school. And so they were only looking at the numbers and not the stories.

Geneva Pritchard:

So I think the pushback again is in in modern society, in the way that we live and work how are things measured? Excel spreadsheets and numbers and log frames and what does success look like? So again, the pushback is shifting people's perception on what success looks like and what measurements look like.

Logan Colegrove:

Yeah, I think choosing the right metrics is super important.

Logan Colegrove:

Also relating this back to some of the work I do, I'm on the marketing team here at Foundant and metrics are kind of front of our mind and you think about coming up with the right metrics to determine if a web page is good or bad. You might say, Well, let's measure time on page And we say, Oh, they're on page for an average of two and a half minutes.

Logan Colegrove:

That's great. They're obviously reading all of our content and engaging with our videos and learning a bunch. Well, not necessarily. Maybe they're spending that much time on page because it's confusing and they don't know where to click and they're frustrated. So there's also that little nuance of metrics of like the numbers are the numbers but what's causing those numbers is sometimes a mystery.

Logan Colegrove:

And you shouldn't view that one dimensionally. What's the story behind it? Is is definitely worth considering.

Geneva Pritchard:

The challenge of disaggregating data like that is not an easy task. That's right. Well, that we talk about that a lot, too, with big marketing campaigns. If you hear a statistic like I don't know if I'm totally making this up, but you know, all the funds raised with this big aid organization have reached 98% of the women in this community, but then it's only like they're not reaching the marginalized communities or the harder to reach.

Geneva Pritchard:

It's like, well, 90%. 98% of what? Who is missing here? And again, it's kind of always looking at these stats that seem too good to be true and saying, well, who didn't who didn't you include in this study?

Logan Colegrove:

Yeah. Cherry picking the numbers that you want. Yeah. Yeah. Well, my final question is, do you have any parting thoughts or advice to leave our listeners with?

Geneva Pritchard:

Yeah, I think 11 thing I've really been honing in on lately when people ask me that is for people to stop and really begin trusting their instincts. What feels good And in the in the context of philanthropy, where are there times when I can trust a real person and a real story and just start looking deeper into different opportunities to fund and support, inspire and empower locally led, community led solutions?

Logan Colegrove:

Well-said. Well, Geneva, thank you so much for hopping on this call. Being on our podcast, we'll definitely have some links in the show notes to the resources that you mentioned. You have a great rest of your day down there in New Zealand. And thanks, everybody for listening So that was our conversation. If you'd like to hear more conversations like this, please subscribe to the podcast.

Logan Colegrove:

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Logan Colegrove:

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