why do we support CBO-to-technical expert networks?

Our Program team is Africa-based, which means they have intimate knowledge not only of our grantee-partners and their communities but also other local actors whose input is valuable. Our network of global experts and consultants forge strong relationships with grantee-partners, while our geographic or thematic clusters foster local mentor-mentee networks.

The story of Zambian Firelight CBO grantee-partner Mulumbo Early Childhood Care and Development Foundation illustrates the power of supporting CBO-to-technical expert networks:


Firelight grantee-partner Mulumbo Early Childhood Care and Development Foundation serves five villages in the Kabwe District of Zambia and was born out of a need to develop systemic, low-cost, community- and family-based quality early childhood development (ECD) services where only institutional, church-based, or private ECD centers existed previously. Under its Firelight-funded ECD initiative, Mulumbo aims to improve the quality of the interaction between parents and children from birth to 3 in the home through the Care for Child Development (CCD) curriculum and to improve the cognitive development and learning of children from ages 4 to 8 at its community-supported ECD centers.

From the outset of the project, Mulumbo hoped to increase its capacity in meeting national ECD standards with the help of a network that could build upon the good work they were already doing. Beatrice Matafwali, an internationally-recognized academic expert in early childhood development, was enlisted by Firelight to partner with Lead Partner Luapula Foundation to provide continual and tailored capacity building to all CBO grantee-partners in the ECD initiative, including Mulumbo.

For Mulumbo, Beatrice’s support has been catalytic. From attending CBO directors’ meetings to helping to brainstorm grantee-partners’ capacity building needs to respectfully collecting and analyzing data about the impact and challenges of the CCD program in the communities where partners work, Beatrice humbly and enthusiastically approached her role in capacity building as a true partner. She began by understanding grantee-partners’ goals for themselves, how they wanted to grow and develop as organizations and in their impact on early childhood development. In addition to improving the quality of their ECD programs, Mulumbo, for example, wanted to maximize their scale by partnering closely with and seeking support from government institutions.

Beatrice has supported Mulumbo through beneficiary mapping and structured innovation exercises, which has helped them to adopt complementary activities – such as having grandparents tell stories to children at the centers – into their existing programs as well as to include the most vulnerable parents and children in their programs. In terms of government collaboration, Beatrice has supported Mulumbo to receive support from the Ministry of Education, which has now conducted specialized trainings on maternal and child health, nutrition, and CCD for Mulumbo’s caregivers and staff, as well as provided teachers to the ECD centers and teaching materials to program coordinators. In addition, Beatrice invites Mulumbo to government-sponsored conferences or meetings within the country, where Mulumbo can learn from other ECD practitioners and learn how ECD programs are evolving in Zambia. 

On an ongoing basis, Beatrice participates in Firelight and Lead Partner workshops to help plan next steps, monitors Mulumbo’s progress on its goals, and offers continual advice and support when needed. Mulumbo has already seen the impact Beatrice has made on both their programs and internal capacity, noticing great improvement among caregivers, who are more motivated and eager to put into practice what they have learned from Beatrice. This has even been noticed by other funders who have seen tangible increases in Mulumbo’s capacity; these funders have begun inviting Mulumbo to present their work at international conferences.

 “Our assessments have shown that children have improved, and parents are coming to testify that the information we have provided them has been very helpful. As an organization, we can comfortably say that our capacities have been enhanced – we can effectively identify gaps, design, implement, monitor, evaluate, and document our programs. We are more focused, efficient, effective, and we are really achieving and seeing results.”  - Ronah Lubinda, Mulumbo

Through Firelight’s emphasis on multiform mentorship from local, national, and international experts, organizations like Mulumbo are able to grow and become stronger, deepening their impact on children in their communities.

“We would not have been able to do any of this without the support provided by Firelight and Beatrice.” Ronah Lubinda, Mulumbo