When Moses Tai founded African Development Choices (ADC), he took it in the direction that many non-profits are only now beginning to follow: placing you at the heart of our digital experience. Over the past decade or so, companies worldwide have transformed their business models to meet and exceed the needs of their users. Non-profits, for the most part, have only recently started structuring their own models in this way.
As a social enterprise that took this approach from its inception, ADC is a pioneer.
The formation of our digital teams
It was imperative to create several digital teams to attract the necessary skills to achieve ADC’s goals, the complexities of which require designers and storytellers, creators and architects, strategists and planners. Soon we had a host of volunteers, all eager to help support and champion that vision: graphic designers, web developers, marketing and communications professionals, social media gurus, copywriters, filmmakers, bloggers, journalists, content designers, photographers and public relations specialists all joined ADC’s cause. Once aboard, we set about achieving our vision.
The challenges we faced
The first challenge that we faced was: what exactly is our vision? At the time, around the beginning of 2020, our website was fairly rudimentary, and did not clearly communicate ADC’s core message. Our first mission was to define ADC’s reason for existence. It proved challenging as, unlike many established non-profits that jump to mind, our message is more nuanced and complex than that of single–issue non-profits. WaterAid, for instance, aims to provide clean water to those who can’t access it. (What many people don’t know, however, is their model of lobbying authorities and influencing high-level political bodies to change legal frameworks in order to achieve their goals).
ADC, too, strive to provide clean water through WASH projects. However, our aim reaches further than that: we seek to empower and educate affected communities, so they can make their own informed choices. We collaborate with the communities themselves, arming them with the tools of knowledge so they can make choices that benefit their daily lives. As a result, they can influence infrastructure expenditure at a local, regional and even national level.
As you can see, this message is far more complex than simply ‘provide clean water’.
We, as several teams of digital professionals, needed to weave this subtle narrative into ADC’s digital presence: its website, communications, social channels and fundraising initiatives. We established our key messaging of what ADC stands for (and what it doesn’t). We train all our volunteers on what these messages are.
The next challenge we faced was how to communicate this message. We are all careful to avoid the stigma that non-profits of the past have created through various ‘save the Africans’ campaigns. We see the continent of Africa as over 50 distinct countries, each comprising countless vibrant communities, cultures, and histories, rather than a single homogenous entity, bound by a colonial mindset. Furthermore, we take great steps to avoid giving weight to any perception of self-serving beneficence towards the communities we serve.
Our goal is to empower communities, not save them. This, we hope, is reflected in the content our digital teams have created over the past year.
Thirdly, COVID-19 has provided us with an immense challenge, due to its global effects, the consequences of which are still being felt worldwide. Our collection of different teams, all working together towards a common goal, see this as merely one more obstacle; something we’re more than willing to overcome.
Our journey so far
ADC is a social enterprise that brings together volunteers from around the globe. With much of the world in various states of lockdown throughout 2020, ADC has flourished. Our volunteers—separated by oceans, continents and time zones—connect and come together to create content that spreads our message and values. We strive to create and impress; our inspiring output is proof of that. We meet, with regularity, from all corners of the world, to discuss, create, encourage and inspire. We mentor and guide each other. We learn and we train new skills. We haven’t let COVID-19 impede our progress. Being remotely-based from the beginning, we’ve merely adapted to these challenging times.
The journey we’ve travelled, and the challenges we’ve faced, are testament to the very soul of African Development Choices’ mission. It’s one we fight for, each and every day.