As Myanmar surfaces from decades of isolation and military rule its civil society is at a turning point: there is a massive demand for local leaders who can confidently address the needs and rights of their communities. Local leaders and communities are in need of knowledge, skills, confidence and networks to steer governance toward inclusion, human rights and justice for all.
Thanks to a generous contribution from members of The Philanthropic Workshop West, Partners Asia launched a pilot Leadership Fund last year. Fifteen grants were given to leaders and local organizations within Myanmar and along the Thai/Burma border. More than 420 people have been trained in areas of advocacy, campaigning, social media messaging, communication and organizational management. The pilot program was so successful, we created a Leadership Fund, to support a new generation of confident and skilled community leaders.
While Myanmar has opened its doors, assistance has been unequal in its distribution – primarily benefiting the former capital Yangon and other urban areas. Additionally, development assistance has focused on large-scale, top-down projects working through the government and international organizations, which face limitations, including an inability to directly communicate with or access remote areas. National reform continues to be wielded by an elite few leaving ethnic minorities and rural dwellers few opportunities to participate in building a new country.
To address these challenges, Partners Asia has created a Leadership Fund to support a new generation of confident and skilled community leaders. Grants will be distributed using the following mechanisms: Action Grants – immediate and flexible funding for opportunities to participate and engage in emerging opportunities; Individual Leadership Grants – to emerging leaders to develop specific skills that are critical to the leader’s interests and effectiveness; Implementation Grants – given to local organizations to strengthen community-based organizations and to provide the learning and training to others in their communities and beyond.
The program is designed to achieve the following outcomes:
- A cohort of well-trained, confident and skilled community leaders, including returned exiles and non-Burmese minority leaders.
- A Myanmar-led initiative for leadership and capacity building that promotes community organizing and internal organizational management.
- Raised awareness of and capacity for conflict resolution, ethnic and religious tolerance, and general openness to inclusion among civil society groups