Nairobi — Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) Founder and CEO Dr. Kennedy Odede has called on international aid organisations to shift their mindset from being just donors to being partners with local entities who are spearheading change in their communities.
Speaking during International Rescue Committee (IRC) leadership forum in Nairobi on Tuesday, Dr. Odede said donors and funders must find out what the communities they serve are good at and leverage on local expertise to drive change at the grassroots.
“For far too long, donors have become imperialists. But Covid thought us that we cannot do without local leaders and organisations.
“Covid opened the eyes of high-end NGOs who are controlled from the West that they cannot do without the locals. We must decolonize aid funds and trust the local leaders to spearhead change at the grassroots level,” Dr. Odede told over 200 IRC senior staff from over 40 countries who converged in Nairobi.
The SHOFCO boss said as much as donors are bringing in resources to local communities, they must appreciate that there is lived experience that is valueless.
“We have worked very well with IRC because they came in as partners. They brought in resources and we used our deep grassroots network to locate refugees who were in need within and outside the slums.
“Through IRC’s RE-Build program, we have 226 both refugees and locals who have received job placements after trainings since 2021,” Dr. Odede stated.
The Shofco, who has been leading localization of aid resources globally, lauded IRC through the leadership of David Miliband for channeling 10 per cent of their resources to grassroots organisation.
“IRC has done well by channeling the 10 per cent of the resources to the grassroots organisations but it can do more. We need to see the organisation increasing the allocation to 15 per cent and more.
“At USAID Advisory Board where I am a member, we are pushing to have up to 25 per cent of USAID funds to go to grassroots organisations,” he said.
He added: “We’ve seen even international organisations who are working here in Kenya not willing to partner with Kenyan NGOs. It is not right. We need to work together if we genuinely want to address the problems in the areas we serve.”
On his part, IRC President David Miliband lauded SHOFCO’s on-ground approach to solving the most pressing challenges in slum and rural communities.
“I’m impressed by SHOFCO’s penetration in the grassroots. We could not get a better partner than SHOFCO to work with us in reaching out to refugees in slums. Within a very short time, we have been able to touch and change lives of many refugees who were hiding in slums thanks to SHOFCO,” Miliband said during the forum.
When he visited SHOFCO Mathare site in February this year, Miliband praised Dr. Odede for ensuring that Re-Build Program initiated by IRC was a success in Kenyan slums.
“Some people believe that one plus one is equals to two, but Kennedy doesn’t believe that. He believes that one plus one is equals to three. That means Shofco plus IRC equals to more than just the addition of the two organisations.
“He is my friend and partner. He likes to think, learn from clients, and spread the lessons to reach more people,” Miliband said during his first visit to SHOFCO in February.
Miliband was introduced to Shofco by President Bill Clinton who described him as “one of the ablest, most creative public servants of our time”.
Miliband, who served as 74th Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom, and Member of Parliament for South Shields from 2001 to 2013, was once tipped as a potential UK Prime Minister.
David narrowly lost Labour Party leadership election in 2010 which pitted him against his brother, Ed Miliband.
Dr. Odede started Shofco in Kibera in 2004 with a soccer ball and Ksh20, and it has now spread across Kenya serving over three million people yearly.
The organisation is currently running seven programs which include girls leadership and education; water, sanitation and hygiene; healthcare; community organizing platform; gender-based violence response; sustainable livelihoods; and community libraries.