The work of CAPSI is enabled through the funding from donors who have aligned themselves with our vision through their financial support. One of our long-standing donors is the Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY). Their relationship with us began when the Centre was founded in 2018 through a grant that enabled us to accommodate and support emerging researchers and academics in African Philanthropy, at both Masters and Doctoral levels. We spoke with Andrea Johnson, Programme Officer for the Higher Education and Research in Africa (HERA) program, and Alloya Elwadie, Programme Analyst for HERA. They shared how the work of CAPSI has been supported by CCNY, while unpacking the role of donor funding in the modern context.
One of CAPSI’s notable achievements that Andrea highlighted was our focus on ‘Africanising’ the Centre. This plays an important role in shifting the narrative around the history of philanthropy and the position of Africa in this history. Our efforts through the building of the skills capability and knowledge exposure of African researchers on philanthropy, thanks in great part to the funding from CCNY, has seen a growing number of postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows enter our doors.
“By funding CAPSI, we are funding work in line with our current priorities, which include African higher education,” remarked Andrea, to which Alloya expanded by sharing that “one of CCNY’s objectives is to offer support to programmes and initiatives which will develop and retain the next generation of African academics.” When reflecting on the outcomes that CAPSI has achieved since its launch, Andrea and Alloya remarked that they were greatly impressed with the rapid pace and attention to quality that CAPSI has presented.
CAPSI has shown progressive initiative by using parts of the funding given by CCNY to respond to the needs of research students through tactical offerings such as academic writing retreats and virtual publishing workshops. These were well received by what will soon be the next generation of academics, who will go on to produce a rich body of knowledge that will be contextual which we aim to make available in other languages for Africans across many corners of the continent.
One of the standout practices which we have displayed as part of our way of working is responsiveness to opportunities such as fellowships and speaking engagement, that may arise, as well as the ability to connect students and staff to these opportunities. While perceived as a soft skill, responsiveness to opportunities is a critical skill in the modern world of work, and is evidence that we have set ourselves up to remain engaged with donors and all other stakeholders. Andrea remarked that this has shown that CAPSI is fully engaged with the opportunities that CCNY as a donor has offered, in addition to the existing funding.
Both Andrea and Alloya noted that CAPSI’s position as a Centre, located within Wits University, is a powerful measure of confidence in the sustainability of the institution. To strengthen this, Andrea recommended that CAPSI continue to build relationships with internal and external stakeholders, thereby ensuring the true fulfillment of the vision the Centre has set. Andrea remarked, “Academic careers continue for many years; therefore it is important that the work which CAPSI has begun can continue in order to provide an independent think tank or platform where the next generation of African researchers can set the agenda and form part of the global conversation around philanthropy and social investment.”
Looking ahead, the partnership between CCNY and CAPSI will no doubt see more researchers emerging from within the continent. What is most encouraging for CCNY, a major lesson for any donor-funded institution, is that CAPSI has invested significant effort in ensuring that the day-to-day operations are sustainable and enable the growth of the institution, even through what is truly an unprecedented time for all, socially and economically.