The East Africa Philanthropy Network (EAPN) formerly as the East Africa Association of Grant-makers (EAAG)was established in 2003 as an association of trusts and foundations that promotes and nurtures the philanthropy practice in the region.
The story of EAPN begins with a study conducted in 1999 that estimated that there were as many as 60 local grantmaking trusts and foundations within East Africa, some of which were established as far back as the 1950s and even earlier. Beginning in 2001, like-minded individuals came together to advance the conversation about indigenous philanthropy in the region. Some of these conversations were facilitated by the Ford Foundation Office for Eastern Africa that convened a series of meetings of eight regional trusts and foundations in an initiative called the East Africa Foundations Learning Group.A primary goal of these meetings was to explore the different elements of foundation-building among philanthropic organizations, asset development, grantmaking and governance, to make them more effective in their work.
The emergence of the East Africa Association of Grantmakers (EAAG) took place at a time of increased regional activity between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda brought about by the creation of the East African Community.Elections in Kenya in December 2002, which saw a peaceful and democratic political transition, also contributed to a mood of optimism in this region. The formation of an East Africa Association of Grant-makers (EAAG) took place in the larger context of regional integration. It was seen as setting a background to the many opportunities for the trusts, foundations and other civil society organizations in the three-country region to work more closely together for the common good. Some collaboration had already been initiated with the development of community foundation-like organizations using locally generated funds.At the same time the formation of the Association provided the opportunity to promote philanthropy more broadly and to strengthen grantmaking institutions that were serving the local communities.
Specifically, the association was created to: Develop the Credibility to Bring About Change. Effective grant-makers, independently governed, efficiently managed, with access to their own sources of income and brought together in an association, have great potential to make a difference at a policy level, as intermediaries between other civil society partners, government and the corporate sector, and as a focal point for mobilizing resources locally. Promote Local Grant-making and Promote Good Grant-making.The second assumption is that in order to create the credibility that local grant-makers will require if they are to attract local support in the form of donations, there are certain good practices that need to be adopted which ensure transparency and accountability and that will convince potential supporters that these institutions know how to look after and spend money wisely. Strengthen its Own Members.
Trusts and foundations will only build credibility if they can publicly demonstrate honesty and integrity in the ways that they both guard and award resources. In other words, they must have strong governance structures in place, be excellent stewards of any endowment funds and give grants in a fair and open manner. Increasing the capacity of members is a key function of the association, because its power to influence policy depends entirely on the strength and effectiveness of its members. Provide Benefit from the “Power of Numbers”. At present, trusts and foundations are scattered in East Africa. Many organizations work silos, isolated from other philanthropic institutions which may be trying to achieve the same goals regionally, even globally.
An association of grant-makers provides a focus for all the work that is being done across this region. It also provides a forum for its members to exchange experience, information and expertise.The association had a sterling run for the first 10 years, attracting a number of members from across the sector, including core philanthropy organizations comprising of Foundations and Trusts, as well as members of the larger civil society who ran granting mechanisms. The Association also engaged with corporate organizations that demonstrated great work in the CSR programs that were contributing a great deal to the giving culture in the region. The growing work of the Association reached a peak in 2015, with an increased variety of members going beyound the strict confines of foundations and trusts which necessitated the rebranding.
The current EAPN membership is drawn from Family Trusts, Community Foundations, Corporate Foundations and other types of grant making and non-grant making organizations registered as foundations, trusts and CSO’s that operate in the region and actively engage in promoting philanthropy in East Africa.
Our core purpose is to strengthen the role and contribution of local philanthropy as a key catalyst for societal transformation in East Africa. This includes looking into the resource base, capacity, credibility and practices of various development actors as well as the extent by which the operational context is supportive of thriving local giving and effective grant making.
We seek to contribute to a thriving integrated and sustainable development ecosystem, largely powered by local philanthropy and supported by an enabling philanthropy environment.
In order to realize this change, we support philanthropy innovations and collective learning (knowledge management); we invest in capacity development of self, members and key actors (capacity development & institutional strengthening); we broker collaborative relationships (alliance building); as well as contribute to existence of an enabling environment for philanthropy to thrive and contribute to National and regional development (influencing).