What was initially intended to be a programme grew into a fully-fledged Foundation, which has transformed communities across all 10 provinces of Zambia. Since being established in 2009, the Zambian Governance Foundation (ZGF) has built a rich history of supporting civil society to engage in policy processes. ZGF’s focus has been on promoting government accountability by supporting civil society using grant-making coupled with capacity development. With an overarching goal of encouraging a more responsive state that implements policies which consider the vulnerable and margainalised, ZGF’s work has always been deliberately focused on strengthening communities.
ZGF’s unique heritage began when a group of bilateral donors, namely, Department for International Development (DFID), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Irish Aid came together in 2008 to discuss a more coordinated manner of channeling money to civil society organisations. At that time, the practice of independently supporting CSOs in different ways created a duplication of work and kept transaction costs high.
Donors committed money to the pooled funding mechanism and the Danish government volunteered to facilitate an international tender for the management of the newly created Zambia Governance Fund. Through this process, the current Chief Executive Officer, Barbara Nöst was hired to play a team leader role and commenced work in January 2009 with her deputy Mulima Akapelwa. The newly set up fund faced some initial challenges, the most pressing being the lack of a legal identity that gave it the ability to operate independently. Through a process of deliberation it was determined that the fund would become a company limited by guarantee of five Zambians volunteering to establish the foundation. The founders, Prof Selekani Banda, Mr Munakupya Hantuba, Ms Lucy Muyoyeta, Mr Rueben L. Lifuka and Mr Rhidah Mung’omba, were instrumental in setting up of the Zambian Governance Foundation.
Barbara recalls “ZGF was a programme which was supposed to manage a pooled fund but soon we realized that we did not have legal status as we were not hosted by a local organisation. We were just a group of people only trying to implement a programme. Soon it raised questions on how we were going to sign contracts without the legal capacity”.
From strength to strength
In October 2009, ZGF launched its first national non-thematic call for proposal. It resulted in 16 grant contracts being signed in 2010. The second call for proposals was made in 2011 and it attracted the biggest number of applications with 237 applications received. In 2012, ZGF began to design a non-state capacity development programme under the 10th European Development Fund which was later signed in 2014. In 2013, ZGF acquired its own premises with money from funds it had been able to mobilise. In March 2015, ZGF signed its 100th grant contract. In 2016, ZGF started thinking about setting up a social enterprise unit through establishing an independent business unit to lead on exploring ZGF’s role as a social entrepreneur. Today, ZGF has a total of 32 employees and has supported over 150 plus initiatives throughout Zambia.