The Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (SEPARC) partnered with Clement Dlamini, a lecturer at the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) and contributing author, to launch a book on how small grants are helping to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

The book titled ‘Smart Risks’ shares stories from around the globe about community-based initiatives undertaken to address issues of poverty, inequality, and social justice. It features short stories that explore how personal, intentional philanthropy, and investment focused on local knowledge and close connections can make a true and lasting impact (Lentfer and Cothran, 2017).

SEPARC Executive Director Dr Thula Sizwe Dlamini said the Centre decided to partner with Dlamini as the book aligns with SEPARC’s mandate and commitment towards addressing the social ills plaguing the country.

“This book is a very useful resource for civil society organisations, development partners, and philanthropists, it gives us insight on the impact (or lack thereof) of interventions introduced in impoverished communities,” he said during the launch held on February 13 at Sibane Hotel.

Clement’s chapter, which is titled ‘Community Resilience: An Untapped Resource for Sustainable Development’, explores whether typical interventions are at odds with resilience, as well as how meaningful consultation with communities must become a ‘must-have’.

“Communities have in-built resilience mechanisms, established through shared values and humane systems of mutual support. However, international efforts miss this. For instance, child-headed households are usually viewed as vulnerable, and yet these households can also be seen as the most resilient,” said the author.

He said taking ‘smart risks’ with communities requires recognising that individuals have internal strengths and potential they draw upon, and therefore recognising that different approaches to interventions are needed to build upon the strengths of communities and the people.

Explaining what a ‘smart risk’ is, Clement said it entails investing relatively small amounts of money in effective, visionary grassroots leaders, organisations, and movements. He said grant-makers who take ‘smart risks’ find effective grassroots initiatives, build upon existing human and social capital and expertise, and make grants that are responsive to community leaders’ needs.

A note from the editors explains that “Smart Risks brings together the wisdom of experts with wide-ranging experience within the development sector. Their contributions focus on guiding questions, such as ‘who is a smart risk?’ and ‘what is your role in smart risks?’ They include case studies, personal stories of lessons learned over time, provocative insights on power and privilege, and practical frameworks for choosing, investing in, and measuring the impact of grassroots organisations and movements”.

The book is available on Amazon and other online stores.