Dear Dalitso

Everyday lessons for tomorrow

Building from Scratch… The SIVIO Institute Story

September 7, 2023
Letter #

I cannot say whether it was inspired by Divine Power or it was just a pragmatic decision. It was just after the military assisted transition in November 2017 and I was going through a lot. I had several job interviews lined up. Establishing and running an institute was not part of the plan. I had perhaps joined many others in thinking that there is very little that one can do from and in Zimbabwe. I was resigned to securing a job in a foreign country. In the meantime I was carrying out research on African led forms of philanthropy (which was eventually published in 2018)

Then we had the military assisted transition in November 2017. I was not even in Zimbabwe. For a moment Zimbabwe was dominating headlines for what seemed to be good reasons. There was a hint of international goodwill. The new government also had a pitch- ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’. There were a number of conversations with colleagues and friends in international NGOs and private foundations. At that particular moment my focus was on raising funds for civil society organizations in Zimbabwe. Something I had done in my previous job. Others kept asking about what my role in all this would be. My interest on the Zimbabwe crisis was not lost to many. In 2015 we (myself and Tendai Chikweche) had coedited ‘Beyond the Crises: Prospects for Zimbabwe’s Transformation’. It seemed like a good moment to consider what could be done to achieve the ideas of transformation that we had introduced in the book. The idea of an institute started congealing. Thanks especially to Sipho Malunga who encouraged it over several discussions .

The rest as they say is history. We opened our virtual’ office in January 2018. We realized the need to make noise quickly. Our first project was and the citizens perceptions and expectations survey. The new President had promised so much and we felt the need to track the sincerity in converting promises into actions. At the same time I had the opportunity to embark on a Fellowship at the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio. Here I was setting up an organization in Harare, then departing for Dayton literally a day after launching the ‘First One Hundred Days in Office’ report. Even my team was not convinced of what I was setting out to do. The momentum gathered in January to March dissipated. It was unclear to the rest of the team on how we were going to work.

We had to go through defining work flow process of working remotely. Our funding challenges meant that we could not secure permanent offices and had to learn how to work remotely. By the end of year we had mastered the idea of working from multiple sites- to an extent that by the time COVID-19 we were probably one of the few organizations with a working virtually protocol. Anyways I have gone ahead of myself.

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