Return to site

Shifting from donations to investments

· Social Impact Invest

I've started writing these articles to take you with me while I do my thinking. I wrote this article about six months ago, but have continued to develop my ideas since then. A lot of this happened during lockdown, when I really had time to think about what I want to build with Sonvela for Cape Verde in the long-term. That's why I've created the page Social Impact Investing.

I've written this from my own perspective as it follows my yourney throughout the years. A yourney that has brought me to my homeland Cape Verde, in pursuit of my dream & passion. Since I started the Sonvela Foundation something inside me changed, and I realized I needed to be in Cape Verde to have the impact I wanted and believed the country needed.

It almost comes down to good marketing. That's why we see big, popular organizations getting the support they might not even deserve, and smaller organizations who deserve our support keep struggling to stay alive and pursue their mission.

The Sonvela Arte project started in November 2014 in the Ribeira Bote neighborhood in Mindelo. I created Sonvela Arte to 'use the power of art to bring social change'. The team and I wanted to bring color to the neighborhood by painting the houses and creating murals with graffiti and portraits.

At the start of the project, we had a budget of € 180 (!). This starting budget was a donation by my company Mindelo Apartments. In the months leading up to the project I had spoken to City Hall, a cement company and a paint company, among others. Responses were positive, which made me feel more confident. But none of the companies or institutions stepped in to support Sonvela Arte at that time.

Here's the thing. I came to a very important conclusion. In doing things the way we were doing it, in the classic way, we were doing it wrong. By depending fully on donations from third parties, I was actually creating what I was aiming to end: Dependency. Yes, when we received donations the team would get to work. As little as may be, they would have a pay day, and we would be investing in our neighborhood. But, to get there we were always depending on others to help us.

That needed to change. Things first started to change when we created a partnership with the Community Tourism Project of Ribeira Bote. Through this partnership we were able to take Sonvela Arte to a third street in Ilha d'Madeira. Another fantastic development in this fase was that the residents helped financing it as well. The partnersip with the neighborhood's tourism project was one of the most important components of the project from the start.

Having lunch with German guests in Ilha d'Madeira

Sonvela Arte would receive a percentage of the fee visitors pay for their tour of the neighborhood. The tours that I would carry out, usually also saw us receiving a donation for the project. This way we created the self-sustainability we were looking for. Unfortunately, this partnership did not last, leaving us with the challenge to look for other ways to create a self-sustainable project.

In October 2017 we had an amazing experience. Thanks to the Kizomba Festival, we were able to receive 33 (!) visitors form the UK. We split the group up into smaller groups of 11, and organized 3 days of food, drinks, music and more in the neighborhood. The entire street was cleaned and prepared. There were tables, chairs and sunscreens outside. It looked very professional.

By this time, I already knew what our team was capable of. But now, the group of women in the street also got the opportunity to show what they could do when given the chance. Together, they organized an unforgettable experience for our visitors, while creating an income for themselves. The interesting part is that this was money that would have never been spend in a neighborhood such as Ilha d'Madeira/Ribeira Bote. By far the biggest part of tourism income is earned in and Morada, Mindelo's city center.

From now on Sonvela Arte's focus will be on investments rather than donations. We will be looking to create our own small businesses, or support existing businesses in the neighborhood by partnering up with them. Another interesting aspect of this approach will be the fundraising. People are going to be able to invest with us in certain projects and businesses. This does not mean that we expect people to participate will much larger amounts than they would if they were donating.

Guests from the UK enjoying their visit with Sonvela Arte in Ilha 'd Madeira

The idea is that having a large group of people investing with us at € 50 each (for example), the total amount collected can still be a few thousand euros. Small local business owners will then be able to get funding for the next fase in their business, and pay back the investment when they start to profit. When paid back, the investor has the chance to collect their initial investment, or decide to make it available for another business owner.

A completely different and innovative approach to charity. One where people working hard for a better life can get the support they need to take things to the next level. Something that can be achieved with small amounts here in Cape Verde, but the simple lack of these opportunities make it impossible to move forward.

With this approach we also wish to create more involvement from the diaspora when it comes to Community Development in Cape Verde, knowing how important Cape Verdean communities abroad have been for the growth of the country post independence.