OP-ED: The Power of Local Philanthropy

Liberians have ingenious ways to ask for gifts around major holidays. During this independence period, not a day passed without us hearing someone say, “My 26 on you.” In most cases, the person who the “26” was on gave money.

Giving is intrinsic to our Liberian identity. Whether it is family-based or non-monetary, Liberians give substantially. To capture and celebrate this spirit, we launched the pilot of the Liberian Giving Month to celebrate local philanthropy.

The campaign, launched on July 21st, will last until Flag Day on August 24th, the next major holiday in Liberia.

During this period, we challenge the first 1847 Liberians to make a pledge to support SMART Liberia.

SMART Liberia is a non-governmental organization that develops innovative, youth driven solutions to empower aspiring young Liberians to create impact and be the change-leaders that will lift Liberia into a prosperous future. Since our founding in 2011, we have developed a track record of implementing successful programs that equip youth with the skills to become effective change leaders. Last year alone, we mentored six young women to launch and sustain innovative business ideas and we helped four students gain admissions to prestigious international programs like the African Leadership Academy and New York University.

This September, we are launching the Changemakers Village, a social change hub to empower promising young Liberians with the technological and entrepreneurial skills, tools, and networking opportunities to create jobs and wide-scale social change in their communities.

This new venture is built on five years of experience (successes and failures) working with young people across different sectors of our economy. Our impact study shows the importance of networks. We have seen the most transformation in those young people who stayed connected to our programs and community over a longer period of time than those who engaged one-off. The community factor, if intentional and carefully developed, can double the impact we create for each of the young people we reach.

Around the world, environments like this have created substantial, transformative impact. Silicon Valley, African Leadership Academy, Co-Create Hub Nigeria, and Ashesi University are just a few.

The Village will enhance our ability to provide opportunities to match the growing aspirations of young people in Liberia. We will recruit more aspiring leaders and empower them to transform their inspirations into the next solutions, to transform their potential into measurable and scalable impact.

The Village will have four core programs: Technology for Social Impact, Employment Accelerator, Education Advancement and Girls Entrepreneurship and Technology Program.

These programs are developed and delivered around one idea: to build Liberia.

There has never been a better time for Liberian philanthropy to empower local organizations to increase the momentum of our post war transformation.  With proposed cuts to foreign aid by the US and a decade-long trend of declining aid from others, we need Liberian funds to deliver Liberian solutions to Liberian problems.

At SMART Liberia, we believe that young people, with the right skills, networks and opportunities, can play a pivotal role in sustaining this momentum. We have seen the impact of young entrepreneurs like Odelia Acolyte (Jet-Del Housekeeping Services), Mahmud Johnson (J-Palm), Jefferson Krua (The Bush Chicken) and Charles Cooper (Cookshop).  We believe that with better programs and expanded opportunities, we can create an anthology of stories of young people being at the center of job creation, we will empower leaders who will develop the technological tools to solve health problems in remote communities, we will empower young women whose business successes can inspire their peers to break barriers, send students abroad to gain high-demand skills to fill critical human resource gaps.

Marvin Tarawally

Marvin is the Executive Director of SMART Liberia and a student at Babson College. He is a big believer in social innovation and the provision of quality education as tools for global development.

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