Interview with Evans Okinyi, CEO, East Africa Philanthropy Network (EAPN)
June 22, 2021
We recently talked to Evans Okinyi, who is the CEO of the East Africa Philanthropy Network (EAPN), a network bringing together trusts and foundations aimed at promoting local philanthropy in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, about philanthropy and accountability, as well as EAPN actions in this regard.
With a membership encompassing corporate foundations, family trusts, and community foundations, EAPN focusses on knowledge management (by investing in research and documentation of good practices and innovation), alliance building (by profiling the sector as a strategic partner with government, the private and communities in national policy and development processes) and influencing (by advocating for a conducive environment that enables local philanthropy to thrive).
GS: How does the concept of accountability relate to the EAPN’s work?
EO: EAPN works with grant makers and civil society organizations from the region, and the concept of accountability in all of its forms is a major component of our work and of our members. For EAPN, it is important that our members not only ascribe to accountability standards but also actively practise them, given that this is crucial for building good working relationships with the sources of resources, as well as with the beneficiaries of those resources.
For mobilizing local resources, the general public must be part of these efforts. The public will only mobilize their own resources if there is trust. And accountability is fundamental to promote trust. In this regard, an accountable civil society will be a trusted civil society, able to mobilize the support of the public towards development initiatives.
Transparency and accountability are not only moral principles but are good business practices to unlock opportunities for partnerships with other development stakeholders. In our engagement with governments and the private sector, they ask for a transparent and accountable civil society. Yet, accountability is also part of the equation in our conversations within the philanthropy sector and civil society itself.
For this reason, we are currently coming up with some standards for the philanthropic sector in East Africa, and these efforts are embedded in the general conversation on accountability.
GS: How can grant makers as well as grantees become more accountable to the communities they serve? What actions or practices can EAPN promote in this regard?
Grant makers can become more accountable in different ways: 1) by being transparent in the management of funds received, 2) by putting in place oversight and control systems that prevent corruption or embezzlement of funds, 3) by being open for scrutiny from third parties and 4) by developing close working relationships with the recipients of the resources where the grantees and the communities will be able to hold grant makers accountable.
As part of our EAPN work, we have undertaken several actions to furthering this conversation around dynamic accountability and participatory grant making during the past three years. Among other actions, we have provided a platform where our members can learn about accountability practices, so they do not reinvent the wheel but customize them to our own context. We are currently spearheading the development of accountability standards, so our members can adopt specific measures that ensure some minimum standards of accountability for the sector. We began by conducting a survey among our members to map existing accountability practices and then coming up with some basic guiding principles, while also collecting information on experiences from other regions of the world. We hope to summarize this information and come up with our own draft standards for accountability while taking into account the context in which the region operates. Once we complete drafting our standards, we will circulate them for validation by our members and close partners who are accompanying us in this process.
EO: For EAPN, building the capacity of grant makers and grantees is a top priority. In this regard, the support of the Global Standard for CSO Accountability to EAPN in terms of sharing of experiences from around the globe is critical. Through cross-learning, due to the range and scope of work of the partners of the Global Standard, EAPN can benefit from international good practices which are not always easily accessible to us. In addition, we see the Global Standard as our key partner for the continuous refinement of tools for accountability for regional and national bodies of civil society organizations in the region as our context is quite dynamic.