SPARK Microgrants

SUMMARY:Spark MicroGrants catalyzes community-led initiative through proactive small granting. We support under-resourced communities to design, implement and manage their own development. By reassigning responsibility for international aid to the communities themselves we are driving a new paradigm for development where the community is in control of their own future.

PROBLEM SPACE:Billions of dollars in aid are spent annually to help alleviate global poverty but only a fraction of the money gets to the community. There is a critical need for a scalable model to provide communities with the resources, confidence, and organization they need to drive their own development.

Younger generations around the world are demanding a new approach to alleviating global poverty. We are frustrated by traditional top-down aid that prescribes solutions to the poor with little impact and high costs. We want to see communities take control of their own future. Spark MicroGrants provides a desperately needed model for catalyzing community-led development through a globally applicable model of proactive small granting. Spark works with local facilitators who are in-country youth and community activists. Facilitators approach under-resourced communities who are not connected to support mechanisms and engages them in two to three month proposal development process and small grant. Spark connects with subject matter experts to comment on proposals. When the proposal is complete, Spark awards a one-time micro grant to fund the startup costs of their project. The community implements and sustains the project from there on. We promote these efforts through our citizen media platform, Spark Voice, and build solidarity with like-minded efforts by organizing the Local Solutions Forum (

SOLUTION: Spark’s model of proactive community granting has transformed thousands of people into champions of their own development. We address three needs simultaneously. First, we provide resources to communities, including grant money and access to experts. Over 65% of our funding has gone directly to communities. Second, we provide organizational capacity building through facilitating weekly meetings to assist communities in designing their project plans including an implementation, monitoring, and sustainability plan. Third, Spark’s process builds much-needed confidence within communities by entrusting them with international aid resources.
In two years, Spark has supported 22 communities who have each contributed an average of 1,600 hours during project planning alone. We are gaining momentum and expanding our donor base as we demonstrate a transparent, efficient bottom-up approach for communities to lead their own development with support from the global community.

UPDATE (2017): Spark supports governments and civil society to develop inclusive democratic processes. Spark has developed a streamlined village planning process paired with a seed grant that equips villages facing poverty to launch a project of their choice, such as a farm or school. On average 64 women and men, young and old, work together to develop the project idea and make it a reality. Since 2010 Spark has enabled over 170 villages to drive local change across five countries with 91% project sustainability and 94% of villages continuing to meet on a regular basis. Today Spark is working with the government of Rwanda on a national decentralization program.

CONTACT: [email protected]