Methodology at Spark MicroGrants

Spark Microgrants works in impoverished communities in Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, with 116 community partners across the three countries.

Using an in-country fellowship program, Spark trains and employs recently-graduated university students to serve as project facilitators. These facilitators reach out to villages with particularly poor infrastructure, in order to involve them in a six-month planning process of carefully structured weekly meetings.

Community members develop their own project proposal, and Spark awards a one-time microgrant of up to $10,000 to support the initiative’s implementation. Spark additionally provides six months of management support and up to two years of follow up support.

Spark follows five steps within a project in order to catalyze change within a community:

  1. Partnership and Community Building: a leadership committee is elected, a mission statement is developed, and the committee conducts resource analysis and mapping.
  2. Goal Setting: the community brainstorms and creates a goal, develops objectives for reaching this top goal, researches progress towards each objective and prioritizes focus, and identifies a project that will help reach the goal.
  3. Proposal Development: a monitoring and evaluation system is created to track the project’s impact, a plan for implementation is established using action plans and budgets, and risks are analyzed and bylaws are established in accordance with the sustainability plan.
  4. Technical Advisory & Proposal Review: the Spark team and a technical adviser provide feedback, and the proposal is then revised to create a stronger plan.
  5. Implementation: resources are mobilized and implementation begins, Spark provides supporting funds in installments and advocates for transparent and accountable financial management.
  6. Post Implementation: the community participates in the development of an exit strategy, partnerships are built with other organizations, local government, businesses, data is collected and evaluated based on original M&E goals, new initiatives are brainstormed, and key members of the community are trained on the Spark process to facilitate future projects.

The Spark process is centered on 5 core principles:

  1. Cohesion- measured with four different dimensions:
    1. A sense of belonging
    2. A communal approach
    3. Conflict resolution
    4. Social trust and social capital
  2. Civic engagement – determined with three dimensions of participation:
    1. Participation
    2. Commitment
    3. Ownership
  3. Leadership – with four dimensions of measurement:
    1. Extent
    2. Equity and diversity
    3. Quality
    4. Transparency and accountability
  4. Capacities – measured with four dimensions:
    1. Social skills
    2. Project and technical skills
    3. Confidence
    4. Agency
  5. Sustainable local impact projects – measured by project sustainability and the community’s ability to meet their own project objectives.