What Don’t We Fund?

Having looked at the kinds of things we like and the sorts of projects we fund, I wanted to briefly consider the sorts of things we can’t (or don’t) fund. Occasionally, we’ll receive applications or proposals from individuals and organisations working on projects in fields far removed from those we fund. While they can be interesting to read, it’s probably not the best use of our time and it’s certainly not the best use of applicants’ time.

Photo courtesy of Howard Lake

First, if your project takes place outside of Africa or isn’t intended to benefit those in Africa, we are extremely unlikely to fund it. Clearly, there are lots of organisations doing fantastic work using technology and development in places other than Africa, but our geographical remit is quite clearly defined.

Secondly, we only support technology-driven projects. This is quite a broad remit and covers fields as diverse as agriculture, education and health. Still, if the project doesn’t involve a significant element of modern ICTs (usually mobile and/or web), we’re highly unlikely to fund it. We know technology alone cannot be the solution, but we do think it can often be part of the solution and as a technology funder, if your project doesn’t use tech in some way, then it’s probably not for us. One further thing to say here is that we rarely fund tech ‘infrastructure’ projects, i.e. those that seek to distribute or provide technical equipment for communities, schools etc. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that as a small funder we would never be in a position to provide technology to more than the tiniest handful and we think we can make a greater impact by funding those projects that leverage the power of technologies that people can already access. What’s more, such ‘infrastructure’ projects bring with them concerns about sustainability and appropriateness. How do you ensure that people know how to use equipment they’ve never seen before and who takes responsibility for fixing it when things go wrong?

Thirdly, we sometimes receive proposals from organisations providing basic ICT skills training, such as how to use the internet, Excel or other Microsoft Office programmes. We know that such training can equip people with incredibly useful skills, but as a small funder we don’t feel capable of making much of a difference by funding such training. Instead, we tend to work to strengthen the capacity and skills of local tech communities to help them develop technology solutions for their fellow citizens. Working in this way allows us to maximise the effect of our funding by reaching thousands of people, rather than dozens.

A fourth kind of project we are trying to move away from is one-off events. We will still consider applications for exceptional events – particularly ‘practical’ events such as mobile app competitions – but we are currently reducing our portfolio of grants in this area.

There are, of course, many others kinds of projects that we won’t fund and even those that fit within our remit may be unsuccessful. That’s not necessarily a reflection on the quality of the project, it may simply be that we don’t feel capable of supporting it. But if you do think that your project might be of interest to us, don’t hesitate to contact us.