7 tips for making your charity more sustainable, and scalable to boot!

Charity generally conjures an image of endless giving: a one-way flow of resources, money and time to people or communities in need. But that’s not how we see things at Hello World. We know that the best way to support people is to supply them with the tools they need to be self-sufficient. Sustainability is an overused word but it is at the heart of all we do.

Written by Katrin McMillan

Ø1. Encourage Community-Ownership

The Hello Hubs are community-built which means that everyone is encouraged to come along to the build and help with the construction, from the youngest to the oldest,  men and women. By building in this way, each individual has ‘skin in the game’ and the community takes ownership of its hub. We go even further, we ask communities to invest by donating the land for the hub – requiring buy-in from the elders and leaders in the community. The community takes responsibility for the longevity of the hub, and ensures fair access for all.

Douglas Alinaitwe from Ruhoko Hub in Nakivale Refugee Settlement put it best when he said; “Everyone always plays a very big role in the hub building, no matter the age, religion, country, tribe, colour just because of one thing… it belongs to everyone.”

Image: You might be too little to use the heavy tools but you’re never too small to paint the seats at your Hub.

Image: The community chooses how they make the seats and what materials they will use, from bricks, tyres, bottles and wood.

Image: Break time on the build and the Hub engineers say hello to the baby bump and turn their attention to thinking names.

Ø2. Create Transferable Skills

Once the hub is constructed, the community are taught how to maintain and use it – valuable transferable skills. This keeps operating costs down and ensures the hub continues to function long after we have left. We always invite those who have built a Hub to go on to teach other communities how to build theirs, and we recruit our ever-growing team from the Hub communities that we have worked in.

Ø3. Leverage the Wider Community with Local Partnerships

Hello World believes that successful community-owned Hello Hubs require strong local partnerships with community-based organisations like Unleashed and Imagine Her as well as support from infrastructure partners who have a stake in the success of Hello World. We are lucky to be partnered with Ugandan-owned Roke Telkom and Nepalese-owned Everest Link, the Internet Service Providers who donate the massive data sets to connect the Hubs to the Internet. No small donation, our kids are using 10Mbps of data a month to learn, play and call home.

Technology giants like Google’s project loon will be a perfect future partner for connecting our communities to the internet

Ø4. Source Locally

Hello World sources from local suppliers wherever possible so that the local economy is bolstered by our work.

Ø5. Build Sustainable Infrastructure

We aim to work with the poorest communities (and we do a baseline poverty index as part of our impact measurement to check that we are achieving that goal). Working in the most marganilised and disadvantaged communities means that there is often no local infrastructure at all, like power, water or internet towers. 

The hubs must therefore be energy-autonomous. The Hub kit includes a solar-power station to power the 8 screens, to provide charging ports for personal devices, and lighting so that the Hub is safe at night. Often the Hello Hub is the only lit area in the community by night.  In some places, there may be a lack of sunshine. So our ingenious engineering team has also designed a pedal-powered magneto Hello Hub! You’ll soon see it in action in the Amazon Rainforest – and starring in the next X-men movie!

Ø6. Establish Sustainable Funding Models

We are working on partnerships to monetise the Hello Hubs so that they will be financially sustainable (or as close as can be). Because many thousands of people use the Hubs and they have an iconic design it’s a good place to position carefully chosen advertising that funds the ongoing upkeep of the Hub. We are also experimenting with a click-through to the Internet in Nepal with banner ads.

Ø7. Create Jobs

We see a lot of businesses spring up from the Hubs because people research and launch their business ideas. Tailoring (using the web to source new designs and inspiration), hair salons (hair braiders learning via online tutorials), engineering (skills acquired on the building and managing the Hubs), photography and film editing, music production, coding and web design, typing and secretarial skills, to name a few. Now we have launched additional vocational training for community business collectives so that Hub users are skilled enough to fill the local demand for jobs and   – we hope – will close the loop and go to work for our Internet and infrastructure partners. A homespun solution to the unemployment crisis and lack of skilled labor to fill the jobs that are available locally. Part of the income from these Hello Hub community-businesses will go back into building more Hubs. 

Partnerships with microfinance organisations like Grameen and other charities doing Village Savings and Loans like CARE  can leverage our ready-made community infrastructure to these Hello Hub business start-ups.

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