Blog: “Make it Grow” Leverages Smartphone Video-Making to Support Community Food Start-ups

SCOPE, Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre, Kufunda Village, ZIDAWU Trust, Hand in Hand, PELUM and Make it Grow in person event in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Make it Grow is an initiative affiliated to the Institute for Sustainable Food and the Institute for Global Sustainable Development at the University of Sheffield. Led by Dr Pamela Richardson, Make it Grow supports community groups and NGOs to build capacity and create participatory video proposals, in order to attract funding and small grants for sustainable food initiatives.

Following the success of the pilot program in Zimbabwe, the project continues to advocate for community video proposals and to scale out the approach. Since winning the 2022 CRoSS Catalyst Venture Development Award, the project team have been busy spreading the word about Make it Grow through in-person and online events and have some exciting future plans in the pipeline. 

An inclusive funding landscape is important for community-based initiatives to achieve their goals. Currently, grant application processes and funding opportunities are often inaccessible for community-based organisations, most especially for marginalised communities in the Global South. 

By creating a more inclusive funding landscape - one where the hopes, dreams and voices of grassroots community organisations can be heard - valuable knowledge can be brought into the system, supporting the emergence and growth of more sustainable and ethical local food projects that serve their communities. 

Image of women using a solar dryer as part of a community food project in Chibuwe, Zimbabwe. The group bought the dryer using funds raised after creating and sharing their video proposal

Community video proposals are a powerful tool in creating a more inclusive funding landscape. They allow community groups to share their story, pitch their idea, and highlight the anticipated impacts of a project in a compelling way. For community groups who may not have the traditional literacies required to write grant applications, video proposals can help to level the playing field and increase their chances of getting funding. Video proposals allow funders to see and hear the people behind the projects, to better understand their knowledge, needs, context and goals. 

Between 2020 and 2022, Make it Grow piloted a capacity-building programme in Zimbabwe, supporting more than 70 people to develop smartphone video and project management skills. The online workshop programme resulted in 15 community groups creating video proposals. 

The success of this programme has convinced us of the potential of participatory video proposal-making and we would like to share our experiences, as well as the free community tool-kit (used by NGOs such as ORAP and Trust Africa) and a cartoon, now translated into ChiShona, with interested organisations.

A still image from Make it Grow translated cartoon in ChiShona, “What is a video proposal?” 

We are scaling out Make it Grow. We have been building momentum on our journey and are busy sharing the potential of participatory video proposal making with the world

The pilot programme proved the promise and potential of Make it Grow. We have been hosting webinar events, building connections and networking via conference events. In February, founder, Dr. Pamela Richardson visited Zimbabwe and met with some of the previous Make it Grow online workshop participants, gaining useful feedback and co-developing some future plans. As collaborators in the area of sustainable food, the meeting aimed to provide a forum to exchange ideas regarding video-based proposals as a tool for enhancing accessibility, inclusion and "voice" in community grant-making processes. Organisational partners shared ideas about how Make it Grow could be taken forward in the future and participants conveyed wishes and ideas of what they would like to do with the existing skills and resources, and what they would like to see emerge in future. 

SCOPE, Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre, Kufunda Village, ZIDAWU Trust, Hand in Hand, PELUM and Make it Grow in person event in Harare, Zimbabwe. 

Former Make it Grow trainees are applying their skills by making videos to assist organisations in their core business or promoting their vision, using videos for training purposes, video proposals, advocacy and project reporting and sharing. 

Pamela has also delivered recent talks at meetings of the Zimbabwe’s Food Security Cluster Group (FSC) and the United Nations Development Programme’s Global Environment Facility (UNDP, GEF, African region).

Taking Make it Grow beyond Zimbabwe 

Dr. Pamela Richardson at the GLF 6th Investment Case Symposium in Luxembourg, March 7th 2023. 

Make it Grow also attended the Global Landscape Forum 6th Investment Case Symposium in Luxembourg. This event was intended to explore ways of catalysing investment in community projects and to showcase examples of “green finance”. Many financiers, project developers, investors and change-makers came together to learn from one another about “the state of sustainable finance in 2023, including the latest innovations, success stories, investable projects and much more” (GLF). We were invited to host a table booth at the event, to share information and network with interested organisations and investors.

The team is currently scoping the potential to work with Food Trusts and funders in the UK to support innovative, community-driven food projects to attract start-up funding using video proposals. 

Over the past three months, several webinar events have been hosted to share information about our video workshop process, evidence of the impact so far and examples of completed video proposals. The last session in the current webinar series will run on Friday 21st April at 10:00 BST/ GMT +1. You can sign up via Eventbrite here.

If you are interested in learning more about the Make it Grow program or supporting our work, please visit our website or connect with us on social media. Follow our journey to see how we continue to promote video proposals as a tool to support community-based sustainable food initiatives.