An Opportunity to Network

A band plays outdoors with people dancing in front of them. Learning circles are at the heart of Firelight’s goal to improve, document, and leverage the strength of community organizations. They’re an opportunity for community organizations to come together and network.

Essentially, learning circles are a time for several community organizations to meet and discuss something they have in common. For example, they all support programs that benefit adolescent girls, or they are all doing work around early childhood education. The circles typically vary in size from 5 and up to 12 organizations. The groups come together to talk about what they are struggling with and offer advice to their peers.

Firelight currently funds three learning circles in Rwanda and Malawi, which are made possible through the support of our donor, the Nike Foundation. They are headed by three Firelight grantee-partners: Association Tuvuge Twiyubaka in Rwanda (ATT), Action pour le Développement du Peuple in Rwanda (ADEPE), and Nkhotakota AIDS Support Organization (NASO) in Malawi. Each of these organizations is working to improve the circumstances of adolescent girls.


In total, 23 organizations are networked through these learning circles. Since April 2012, there have been eight meetings and nine exchange visits between the members.

Rather than hearing it from us, we thought the groups themselves should say what they like about the learning circles. We sent out an email and here are the responses we received …

“The learning circle has raised our awareness regarding problems that face adolescent girls. Before, no special attention was given to young girls in our programming; they were referred to in general as we did for boys. Now, we are thinking about starting a specific program that addresses the issue of young girls’ rights violation like school drop-out for casual work such as housekeeping and babysitting without required employability skills.” Oeuvre Humanitaire pour la Protection et le Développement de l’Enfant en Difficulté (OPDE), Rwanda

“Now, we really understand the concept of learning circle and the reason why it is so important to reinforce our programming for adolescent girls. We have already started to think about new programs for young girls and in programs we are running currently, much consideration is given to young girls. For instance, while recruiting the workforce to be given the job in the construction of our office enclosure, 24 of 34 of recruited people were young girls.” SDA-IRIBA, Rwanda

"The learning circle has been a free space for us to understand why girls should be considered more than boys in our programs. It is a suitable space to share views and best practices on how to plead and advocate for adolescent girls. ″ IPFG, Rwanda

This was just the first year of the learning circles. Already, we can see how learning circles are a great way to network and exchange information. These community organizations will come together over the next year to complete the second year of the learning circles. We look forward to hearing more about what they will accomplish as they grow and learn together.