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BIC Corporate Foundation and Moleskine Foundation award $5000 each to 25 African small organizations

The BIC Corporate Foundation and Moleskine Foundation have recently awarded USD5,000 grants to 25 small organizations in Africa that are using creativity to catalyze social change. The grants are given out through The Creativity Pioneers Fund, which will provide more than USD1.5 million over the next five years. The Fund leaves the organization as the sole decision-maker on how to use the money and is a boon of opportunity, networking, and visibility for its recipients.

The Fund awarded grants to organizations spanning 18 countries this year. One-third of the organizations are led by women; 80 percent are less than ten years old with a staff size that is, on average, well below ten people and an annual budget under USD100,000. They represent the diverse perspectives and experiences that the Fund wants to elevate. Over thirty percent of the 2022 grantees are clustered in Africa, representing countries including South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Egypt, and Cameroon.

The three grantees from South Africa include Bridges for Music, Free Film Collective, and Sunshine Cinema. As a non-profit organization, Bridges for Music empowers young people in under-served communities to become creative change-makers, while providing 21st-century tools and equipping them with the psychosocial skills they need to succeed. Free Film Collective is an alternative, free education project by and for African filmmakers, and Sunshine Cinema is Africa’s first solar-powered cinema network running mobile pop-up cinemas across rural Southern Africa that spark dialogue, educate, and inspire communities to action.

Alison James, Executive Director of the BIC Corporate Foundation, outlined the Fund’s ambition to build a supportive ecosystem that delivers tremendous value to the pioneers in addition to the initial microgrants. She said: “We aim to build a community of changemakers that are supported by a global network of peers, thought leaders, experts, and social impact professionals. This ecosystem of support is what differentiates the Creativity Pioneers Fund from traditional philanthropic funding sources.”

Adama Sanneh, CEO of Moleskine Foundation, said: “We are encouraging local organizations that are using creativity to address big challenges in their communities. We know that creatives are the ultimate agents of change – they will save the world. These are the underdogs in the world of philanthropy – and we want them to know that we’re in their corner.

Most creative people got to where they are because of a stroke of luck. Maybe they had a relative who mentored them, or they were born into a community with a well-funded school system. Our goal is to liberate creativity from the privileged because we know that creative problem-solving is critical to building healthy and resilient communities.”

According to Sanneh, the Fund prioritizes organizations that traditional philanthropies might deem too risky, or have no direct return on investment. Instead, he said the Fund invests “in the immeasurable je ne sais quois” that helps the underdogs succeed: courage, confidence, community, empathy, and human connection. “Not everything valuable is measurable,” says Sanneh.

Sydelle Willow Smith and Rowan Pybus, co-founders of Sunshine Cinema, echoed their fellow grantee’s sentiments: “Sunshine Cinema is embedding these new narratives of agency and youth-led action within the communities with the greatest needs and the most to contribute. Together with the Creativity Pioneers Fund and its prestigious network of partners, the youth we serve will turn a collective story of frustration and cynicism into a new narrative of individual and collective power.”

African grantees include Nigeria’s Street Project Foundation, which uses arts as an instrument to facilitate youth employment, social mobilization, and cross-cultural dialogue. As a mission-driven creative studio, the Reflektor Foundation in Bulgaria offers educational outreach to underprivileged, oppressed, and young communities in Bulgaria. Another organization, Moongirls Live, based in Ghana, encourages a richer conversation around women through graphic novels.

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