By Dr. Narmeen Hamid, Dr. Sara Seims and John Worley
At the start of 2022, AmplifyChange embarks on a fresh chapter, as the original consortium* gives way to a new independent not for profit entity to support sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) advocates and with a new CEO, Grethe Petersen, at the helm. The next phase of AmplifyChange will continue to build on the impact, achievements and ethos of its work since it began operations in 2014. Much has been learnt since then in supporting SRHR advocates that provides a strong foundation for its future work and role within the global movement to strengthen SRHR. This moment of change offers a good opportunity to reflect on some of the achievements and lessons of AmplifyChange as it takes forward its next phase of work.
AmplifyChange set out at its inception to be a progressive and positive ‘disruptor’ within the global SRHR advocacy architecture, to offer the diverse range of advocates in the Global South more choice and a new way to support change, no matter their size or organisational affiliation. AmplifyChange sought to fill a major gap in support for SRHR advocates, and in doing so, to help build and strengthen the movement for SRHR and encourage and nurture new advocates to grow in capability and ambition. How did it do?
AmplifyChange: The first seven years
Through its consortium partners and networks of country based advisers, AmplifyChange took a proactive strategy to alert civil society groups and raise awareness of its role as a new mechanism to support SRHR advocacy. Whilst awarding grant support on a competitive basis, AmplifyChange also worked hard to ensure groups applying for funds had the tools and knowledge to increase prospects for success. Its ethos was and is to support applicants for grant funding succeed. And its range of grant types meant that even the smallest advocacy groups were able to secure support for community based initiatives often out of reach from more conventional donor funding arrangements.
For Madagascar, AmplifyChange is the first partner to really enable us to do what we want to do. I really appreciated how they valued the voice of a small grassroots organisation.Anonymous Grantee
As a result, within the seven year period of the first phase of its operations, AmplifyChange delivered over 40 funding rounds, processed more than 6,000 applications and provided over 950 grants in more than 60 countries. It channelled and disbursed more than EUR 100m in support of advocates working to empower communities to realise their SRHR.
Whilst focused on groups in the Global South, AmplifyChange supported a growing number of advocates who had never before been able to secure external funding for their advocacy work. To maximise prospects of success, advocates were connected with local and other experts in the region and beyond, able to offer support and mentoring based on the lived experience of their own SRHR advocacy experiences. Overall, nearly 90% of AmplifyChange grants have been directed to small advocacy groups, with other grants available to support them to form coalitions with other like-minded advocates. AmplifyChange has supported the development and growth of nearly 100 SRHR coalitions, of which some were new or nascent, across over 40 countries.
Supporting and including community-led voices
With a philosophy and commitment to empower local decision making, AmplifyChange focused on outreach and partnerships with local advocacy groups, provided explicit support for strengthening capability and resilience, and adopted a light touch in its approach and procedures to minimise the burden on grantees. It was – as of course it should be – advocates themselves who decided on their priorities and focus, how grant resources were to be allocated, and determined the metrics by which their work would be assessed and evaluated. In this spirit, AmplifyChange actively encouraged local advocacy groups to address the most sensitive SRHR issues, led by representatives of communities commonly the target of SRHR stigma and violence, or without access to essential services.
AmplifyChange adopted governance and decision-making arrangements to ensure that voices and expertise from the Global South guided and shaped its strategy, ways of working and learning agenda. The suggestions, feedback and circumstances of the groups it supported were instrumental in evolving the approach of AmplifyChange and in shifting the influence and agency in decision making more to where it should be. New grant and grantee consultative arrangements will help ensure that in its next phase of work, AmplifyChange will continue and strengthen its commitment to putting advocates at the centre of all that it does and in ensuring that it can effectively support and help connect the advocates best placed to lead and bring about change in the Global South. The grantee reference group will deepen and embed ways to achieve stronger mutual accountability and transparency, and further democratise power, in decision making as AmplifyChange takes forward its next phase of operations.
We joined the Grantee Reference Group because it is rare that funding groups actively create spaces which allow for free interactions amongst grantees and where the grantees have a full voice in deciding the agenda of the group. We hope to learn from best practices of other partners and understand the workings of AmplifyChange.Pravah
AmplifyChange has been and will be driven by its core values of responsiveness, respect, transparency and innovation in what it does and how it works, guided and informed by the advocates it supports. It will continue to serve as a platform to amplify the voice of SRHR advocates and seek opportunities for ensuring advocates can occupy and influence policy arenas, highlight their lessons and experiences and make the case for change. In working to support positive change, AmplifyChange has contributed to and helped catalyse more than 30 significant improvements in SRHR policies, laws or budget allocations across 24 countries and within the SADC region. It will continue to build on, extend and defend these important gains.
AmplifyChange has been more than a grant funding mechanism. It has invested considerable resources into knowledge and learning, fostering connections among the diverse range and geographies of SRHR advocates in order to share lessons and experiences and strengthen social movements for change. AmplifyChange Learn provides a dedicated space for advocates to exchange ideas and offer insight into their strategies for advancing SRHR, serving as a platform for peer review and communities of practice on key themes and issues. It has been a vital resource for advocates through the Covid-19 pandemic, in supporting them to adapt and adjust their work in the face of the severe restrictions imposed on ‘normal’ ways of working. AmplifyChange will continue to build on its role as a platform to serve and support groups share their lessons and knowledge.
We are grateful to AmplifyChange for their flexibility in the organisational strengthening aspect of our grant, because we have been able to provide the needed infrastructure and our staff now work from home in response to COVID-19.Circuit Pointe
AmplifyChange has evolved its scope, approach and ways of working extensively since its inception in response to the needs, concerns and circumstances of the civil society advocacy groups it supports. AmplifyChange well recognises the balance in power that shapes the relationship it has as a grant provider with the advocacy groups it supports. It has listened to advocacy partners concerning all aspects of its operations and supported advocates themselves to lead in determining their priorities and in how progress and change should best be considered. New Partnership grant arrangements are one example of how decision making in grant support and management will be devolved to groups on the ground across different countries and regions.
AmplifyChange has sought to foster partnerships based on trust and a commitment to provide more sustained and predictable support. It has been prepared to take risks in providing support to groups that had never previously been able to access any sort of funding for their advocacy work. This has been accompanied by intensive assistance to support groups put in place the sort of administrative and fiduciary procedures and capacity to successfully implement their plans, manage grants and also enhance prospects for seeking funding from other sources.
The [Opportunity] grant enabled us to get the organisation formally registered and become a legal entity. This in turn made it possible for us to open bank accounts and put in place basic structures, such as financial management systems. As a result, we are now in a position to seek and apply for funding from a wide range of donors. Furthermore, with the support from AmplifyChange, we have been able to hire more permanent staff, creating a better working environment for our team.Youth Network for Community and Sustainable Development (YNCSD)
In the relatively short period in which it has operated, AmplifyChange has made a strong contribution to building the SRHR advocacy movement across many countries. It has become the ‘go to’ source of support for many civil society SRHR advocates.
The next phase of AmplifyChange as an independent not-for-profit grant fund mechanism has a solid foundation on which to build, and a clear strategy to guide its future work. We are confident it will do so successfully, as it explores and strengthens ways to support SRHR advocates and ensure decision making supports local leadership, ownership and priorities.
The huge challenges to realising SRHR for all that remain in so many countries demand a response that AmplifyChange has provided and will continue to provide.
* The original AmplifyChange consortium: MannionDaniels, Global Fund for Women and African Women’s Development Fund.