You probably heard the news last week about Concern Worldwide getting a grant from the Gates Foundation of 41 million dollars. I was so delighted to hear the news that such a great organisation had secured this grant. Of course the 30 second news clips weren’t enough for me, so I asked Richard Dixon, Director of Fundraising at Concern Worldwide, would he mind answering some questions for me. He kindly said yes and here is how we got on:
Congratulations on Gates Foundation grant, how was the news broken?
The relationship with the Gates Foundation is managed through our US office, so they had to release the news (8am New York time) and as soon as it was publicly available in the US, we released it here to the various outlets. At the same time, we sent an email to a group of our key supporters and contacts to ensure that they heard it from us.
I am intrigued to know more about the process involved, I imagine it was a pretty in depth pitch?
We responded to a call for proposals issued by the Foundation just over one year ago. Concern were selected from short list of 15 to submit a proposal. We finally got confirmation last November that we were successful. We spent the intervening period establishing the structures within Concern, recruiting key staff and confirming the working arrangements within each country of operation.
What do you think tipped it in favour of Concern
Concern has over 40 years experience working and collaborating with communities throughout the world. Our approach is always to listen to the needs of communities and to work with them to find solutions. Concern has a history of researching and developing new projects and solutions in the sectors of healthcare, education, livelihoods and emergency response – for us, trying new and innovative solutions is nothing new! It is a huge honour to be selected by the Gates Foundation and it is recognition of the high quality of our work and the respect that Concern has, both at an international level and on the ground.
The projects your are going to fund are being described as Dragons’ Den-style initiative to identify new ways of improving essential healthcare in Africa and South Asia, can you tell us some more about that?
The aim is to understand the key challenges to delivering healthcare to mothers and children in the countries we are targeting. We will then invite people from all sectors of society to submit ideas on how they would propose solving these challenges.
We’re particularly interested in hearing from those who may not traditionally have a voice, allowing them to share their ideas, their solutions. We really want to seek out solutions as far and as wide as we possibly can, recognizing that the most innovative solutions may come from the most unexpected sources. In order to reach out to the broad community we will use channels such as national radio, community radio, television, websites, newspapers, public notice boards, professional organizations and associations, word-of-mouth, community outreach, and travelling fairs.
We will then carefully assess the ideas, short-list the ones with most potential to have greatest impact and then work to further develop those ideas. It’s a bit like the “Dragon’s Den” for Development!
It’s a different type of collaboration, involving the private sector, universities, entrepreneurs, community leaders and mothers. Every sector of society will be invited to help find the solutions. The public call for ideas will start in Malawi in September. Sierra Leone and India will follow suit in November. Three more countries will be added to the project in 2010. The total duration of the project will be 5 years.
How do you plan on communicating the results you will have or will that be done through the Gates Foundation?
The results of the research emerging from the Project will be made available to the public in a way that maximizes the benefits to the developing world.
You are being described as a conduit for the funds, how will this work
Legally, the funding agreement is with Concern US Inc and will be implemented by Concern Worldwide (“Concern” – headquarted in Dublin).
Are there strict guidelines in place the use of the funds in terms of how you administer it
Absolutely. The funding is very specific to this initiative and cannot be used for Concern’s other programmes.
What is the time scale of the grant?
It’s a five year programme which will be delivered across 6 countries.
Do you think this will have any impact on your fundraising, either positively or negatively (or maybe a bit of both) here or Worldwide.
We were very away of both the potential benefits and risk in announcing the grant. The risk is that supporters might conclude that a grant such as this meant they did not need to support Concern financially anymore. We have tried to make clear that funding for the Gates project is for the specific purposes of finding new solutions to maternal and child health in the six project countries. It is in essence a grant to fund research and development work to investigate new ways to tackle health care challenges. We cannot use this money for any of our current work in our 28 countries of operation. Thus we continue to need the support of the public for vital ongoing programs. On the up-side, the grant has been seen as the strongest possible endorsement of Concern’s way of working, and we’re hoping that this will open other doors for us.
What do you, personally , see as the being big Impact of this grant
The whole point of this initiative is to come up with breakthrough solutions and so the investment is in the idea of a ‘public good’ which can be applied across the world to save millions of lives.