The Start Fund being championed in Malawi by MANEPO
MANEPO (The Malawi Network of Older Persons’ Organisations) coordinates over 60 civil society organisations that work with ageing issues, specifically on those related to security, care and inclusion. MANEPO is not a direct member of the Start Network but works through its association with HelpAge International who does not have a physical presence in Malawi.
Andrew Kavala is the Country Director for MANEPO overseeing a staff of 32. He is also doing a PhD in Strategic Management, chairs a Start Fund members coordination group, is a member of the Membership Committee and is the Start Fund Regional Advisor.
Here Andrew speaks to us on his interaction with the Start Network specifically through the Start Fund and his hopes for continued initiatives to support on localisation in East Africa.
Can you tell us how you first got involved with the Start Network?
I came to know about the Start Network in 2014 when I attended a humanitarian training in Harare, Zimbabwe. Since then, my interest in the Start Network has been growing every day. I soon became linked to the Start Fund decision-making group through our partner organisation HelpAge International; and in 2017 we secured funding from the Start Fund through them (Alert number 144). This project focused on food, non-food items and shelters for older people affected by flooding and was implemented jointly with Malawi Red Cross. The local media picked it up and the name of the Start Network and MANEPO was all over the country. We were able to put MANEPO and the Start Network on the map without even being a direct member of the Start Network. As a result of the Start Fund, MANEPO is now highly respected in Malawi. MANEPO was also the budget holder for a Start Fund anticipation alert on cholera in 2018 which we co-implemented with World Vision. Although HelpAge International was the contract holder with the Start Network, they passed the funds to us in-country and we then sub-contracted World Vision. A national organisation financing an INGO! We are a perfect model for localisation.
“The Start Network provides national organisations the space to lead.”
Can you tell us something about the work you do for the Start Fund?
I have been part of the Start Fund member coordination group since 2016. It has been amazing to be part of this. Through participation in the group, I have a better understanding of the Start Network mission and its values. We are about 6 agencies in total, including Save the Children and Plan International, and we discuss alerts and what is happening in Malawi. I knew these organisations at a small level previously but now we are all very familiar. The position of chair of the group has given MANEPO space and influence at the country level, not just with larger organisations but also with the government.
I have also been the East and Southern Africa Regional Advisor for the Start Fund for a year now. We are allocated 3 days a month and my role is to coordinate work around the Start Fund in the region. This role has connected me to many countries in this region and has enabled me to learn how they manage themselves around crises.
How would you like to be involved in the future with the Start Network?
MANEPO did apply for direct membership so that we could be more efficient in our work in Malawi, but understand that the focus is now through hub membership. Through my role as Regional Advisor, I believe that this region would work well as a hub. Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia all get the same crises at the same time. We were initially just one country before the partition of Africa, so we have a similar language and approach to things.
Hubs are a perfect fit for the localisation agenda where international and national NGOs work together, ensuring that national organisations are fully empowered and pushing the decision-making to those affected by the crisis. I would want to be part of that process. When we sub-contracted World Vision, we had to have that trust. The relationship went well and sometimes it is more about "business unusual"—looking differently at the potential of national organisations. More recently in 2019, the Start Fund also supported assistance for a response to Cyclone Idai (Alert 310). HelpAge International signed the contract and funds were transferred to MANEPO, where we then signed MoUs with Islamic Relief and GOAL who co-implemented the project. At the end, we consolidated the narrative and financial reports with the finance and MEAL team for HelpAge to submit. I feel this is the whole localisation agenda, where national NGOs have space to participate and compete for funding whenever there is an alert. This is in contrast to what happened before where national NGOs were just seen as partners to INGOs, without space to influence the processes.
The Start Fund is collectively owned and managed by Start Network’s members, and supported by the governments of the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Jersey and the IKEA Foundation.