The Learning Spot

Our Initiatives

November 20, 2017

Firelight's "hotspot" clusters

Children living in poverty have a wide range of needs. We partner with organizations that work with their community to assess problems and develop solutions. We provide funding for holistic approaches that deliver measurable outcomes for vulnerable children in the areas of education and resilience. Our current programs include:

Our Approach

December 17, 2014

Four-Stage Partnership Model

In fulfilling its mission, Firelight seeks to support grantee-partners over a long-enough time to enable them to enhance their programs for children and families and strengthen their capacity as organizations. Firelight also aims to identify and support new emerging groups.

However, faced with limited resources, Firelight continually weighs the addition of new grantee-partners against the need to sustain existing partnerships. Therefore, Firelight has taken a proactive approach to prepare groups to transition out of Firelight’s funding portfolio in order to make room for other worthy organizations to receive our support.

This approach has a defined length of partnership and investment in building the organizational capacity of partners. Firelight believes that a period of funding between five and nine years is typically long enough for organizations to reach a level where they can sustain their work and graduate from Firelight funding.

Tools for CBOs & practitioners working with CBOs

December 17, 2014

Organizational Development Tool

One of Firelight’s key objectives in working with grantee-partner organizations is to improve their organizational capacity. Firelight developed the Organizational Development Tool as a way to systematically assess capacity, inform targeted capacity building support, and track change in capacity over time. The tool evaluates a grantee-partner’s capacity across eight areas:

  1. Identity and Agency: Focuses on an organization’s clarity about why it exists and how that sense of purpose guides what it does and how it does it. It also reflects on an organization’s confidence to achieve results based on knowing and leveraging its core competencies.
  2. Child Rights: Documents the way that the organization engages children, including participation, context, and rights of the child.
  3. Structure and Function: Explores whether an organization has organized itself in a way that optimizes working relationships internally and ability to achieve goals and mission. In addition, it attempts to understand clarity of roles and ability to build effective working relationships.
  4. Strategy: Surfaces whether and how an organization focuses its direction and how it maintains relevance in its programming by examining the range of factors that contribute to effective programming: understanding the problem, planning, approach, monitoring, as well as learning and adapting.
  5. Relationships: Queries the role of networking within the organization, as well as nature of relationships with children, community, and external stakeholders.
  6. Human Resources: Documents adequacy of staffing and effectiveness of volunteer management, staff development, and human resource policies.
  7. Financial Resources: Explores both resource mobilization and financial management of the organization.
  8. Governance, leadership, and management: Understanding role and function of the board, and leadership, while also exploring the existence of systems and procedures to guide efficient management of the organization.
Each of these areas has between three and six questions. Each question is scored on a scale of 1 to 5. The score for each area is derived by taking the average of question scores within the area. The overall score is derived by taking the average of all the area scores. Thus, each question has equal weight within each area, and each area has equal weight within the overall score.

The attached documents include a PDF and Word Form version of the tool, as well as instructions and sample questions to provide guidance around using the tool to assess organizational capacity.
January 16, 2015

Adolescent Girls Survey

The purpose of the survey is to understand experiences in order to design a program that more effectively responds to their needs. Instructions are provided to help make the survey a positive experience for the girls and encourage open and honest feedback.
December 17, 2014

Planning Form: Training

Many of our partners incorporate a variety of training workshops for staff, families, and community members in their programs. Firelight developed a simple planning form as a way to help them thoughtfully plan, implement, and evaluate the success of these trainings.

Grantmaking Practices

December 17, 2014

Sample Grant Agreement Language

Firelight has developed and refined the grant agreement language below for use in our international grantmaking. The grant agreement has been designed with the intention of keeping the language simple and brief, while still clearly laying out our expectations.

The purpose of this document is to share information about Firelight's grantmaking practices. You should always consult with an attorney before signing anything that will affect your legal rights and obligations.

Findings & Publications

November 23, 2015

Interim Evaluation Report - Early Learning Innovation Fund

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation recently commissioned an external team to dive deep and evaluate the Early Learning Innovation Fund, including Firelight’s work through it. This has been an invaluable opportunity to reflect on our progress to date and to look to the future of what we believe will be sustainably stronger community organizations and sustainably better outcomes for children in the communities where we work.
September 26, 2015

Grantee-partners ICS and AGAPE presentations from REPSSI Forum 2015

This past August, the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI) organized an international forum in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe on the topic of care and protection of children. Firelight grantee-partners, Investing in Children and their Societies (ICS) and AGAPE AIDS Control Program, two organizations working to improve child rights and child protection in Tanzania presented on their work. Their presentations are available to download below.
May 26, 2015

Leveraging Networks of CBOs

Since networks hold a great potential for CBOs seeking to become less dependent upon institutional funding and more sustainable, Firelight commissioned this study to better understand its grantee-partner networks and what role they may have on organizational sustainability.
May 18, 2015

Learning Series, Issue 1

The first issue of our Learning Series summarizes findings from the first year using the Zambia Child Assessment Test (ZamCAT) to assess school readiness of children in our partners' ECD programs as well as comparison children from the same communities who are not attending ECD programs.
January 16, 2015

Protecting Our Children eBook

Eight African community organizations joined us in a three-year initiative to improve child protection. Protecting Our Children is a summary of what we learned in the process. It highlights the central role that community organizations play in activating and strengthening local efforts to protect children from violence.
December 17, 2014

Khadija: A True Story of Girl Power in Malawi

This graphic novella was made with Khadija Chikoya, now 20-years-old, in June 2013 at her home in Nkhotakota, Malawi. Khadija, a dedicated and talented student, had a bright future to look forward to after winning a scholarship to attend boarding school at 16 years old. But after leaving home for the first time, Khadija found herself ill-equipped to face the many challenges adolescents experience, including navigating her first relationship. An unexpected pregnancy forced Khadija to leave her boarding school and return home to raise her child. When Khadija thought her opportunity to complete school was lost, the grassroots organization Nkhotakota AIDS Support Organization (NASO) entered her life, reassuring her that as a teen mom she can indeed return to school, and they will support her in achieving her potential.

Established in 1992, NASO mobilizes communities, creates awareness and builds communities’ ability and capacity to manage HIV- and pregnancy-related care and social services for vulnerable children. Recognizing that teenage pregnancy rates in sub-Saharan Africa are some of the highest in the world, NASO saw an opportunity to help girls in Malawi who had been forced to drop out of school after becoming pregnant. NASO supports programming for smaller community-based organizations to create Girls’ Corners in schools and community centers to provide safe spaces for adolescent girls, trainings on reproductive and sexual health and vocational skills. A key part of the Girls’ Corner concept is to encourage teen moms to return to school, and to train them as peer mentors.

Khadija’s story is part of the Grassroots Girls Book Club graphic novella series that depict the true stories of six incredible girls. Each girl co-authored her own story and one of six talented emerging female artists illustrated her words. These graphic novellas aim to show that positive change is happening for girls, and to also raise awareness for the many girls who still need urgent support from organizations like NASO. Khadija’s hope is that her story will inspire you to discuss the issues facing girls globally and learn more about the grassroots organizations that are changing girls’ lives for the better. At the end of this graphic novella is a discussion guide to dig deeper into the issues Khadija faced.