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A Unique Approach to Granting - The Devolved Microgrant Program and its Impact on Local Communities




In 2021, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) collaborated with OMDTZ on the "Devolved Microgrants" program, aiming to invest in communities in a new way. Unlike previous approaches, where HOT directly distributed grants, OMDTZ took on the role of a trusted partner, designing and implementing a national-level granting program. Throughout the process, HOT provided funding, staff time, and mentorship support. In total, OMDTZ funded seven communities over a span of 12 months.

In early 2021, the OpenMap Developed Tanzania (OMDTZ) and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) evolved the “Devolved Microgrants’’, a program that aimed to invest in communities in a slightly different way than HOT had tried in the past.

Historically, (2017-2021) HOT had been the central distributor of grants, but in the “Devolved Microgrant’’ instance, the budget for multiple grants was passed to a trusted partner (in this case, OMDTZ) to design and implement a granting programme at a national level. With a few caveats (around principles, objectives, diligence, and reporting requirements), we wanted OMDTZ to be free in designing a programme of community support and investment that works for Tanzanian contributors, communities, and organizations (ref. Devolved community investment pilot in Tanzania (OSM diary written by Pete Masters).

OMDTZ decided that their granting program would specifically support and finance microgrant projects and/or open mapping communities in Tanzania, bringing the needed flexibility for the local context and the energy of a new, locally rooted organization - this meant using local language to promote the opportunity, assigning a project manager who could visit the projects in person and offer bespoke support, and being flexible in how funds were spent. Because OMDTZ is so connected to the realities of open mapping communities on the ground, they had more insight into the local ecosystem and could find and reach projects, communities, and individuals who would not be visible from HOT’s perspective. HOT’s role in this process was to provide funds for OMDTZ to apply for the microgrants, dedicate some staff time and mentorship support throughout the process.

OMDTZ funded 7 communities across 12 months.

Agri Thamani Foundation

“Improving nutritional status in Bukoba urban district using open mapped data”. This project aimed to collect data related to malnutrition in Bukoba, Kagera. Through conducting household surveys and mapping school data points (meal provision and financing, number of latrines in correlation with number of students, mapping of health facilities, etc), the data will be used by Agri Thamani to monitor, evaluate, and advocate for better nutritional status in the region.

Hope for Girls and Women Tanzania

“Social facilities mapping in Mnadani ward, Dodoma; Mugumu Serengeti”. This project, aimed to map all health centers around 30 villages in Mugumu serengeti, recruiting 25 new mappers to involve in the project, mapping other features such as Schools and other related features they will find on those 30 villages by using the OsmAnd application and ODK.


“Generating data for gender-based violence”. In Magu, Mwanza, this project intended to generate data for gender-based violence by mapping areas with a high prevalence of GBV to improve service provisions, such as community campaigns and security. IRDP Youthmappers: “Social facilities mapping in Mnadani ward, Dodoma.” This project, based in Dodoma Urban, was requested by local authorities to map points of interest - such as schools and hospitals - to support evidence-based decision-making related to infrastructure.

SMCoSE YouthMappers

“Solid wastes mapping for flood resilience”. This project, based in Morogoro Urban, was focused on addressing the challenge of local plastic waste, which is a contributing cause of flooding. The project created plastic waste open datasets in Ifakara, with the purpose of supporting informed decision-making in disaster management.

SUZA YouthMappers

“Mapping schools to improve the education system in Zanzibar”. Based in Unguja Zanzibar, this project mapped schools in Zanzibar to help improve data on the education system in the region. The data collected was a request from the local ministry of education, to help add GIS data in their e-system with all school locations.


“Community mapping for public health and epidemics control”. Based in Katavi, which submitted the idea to map all roads and ways that are used for illegal or unofficial entry to Tanzania in the region of Katavi, with the purpose to make available tracking people’s entry and contacts for public health and disease control.

What was the approach?

The OMDTZ team prepared the grant calls in both English and Swahili, to make sure it would be as inclusive as possible. They also provided prospective applicants with an information pack, so they could be fully prepared and supported for the application, which was open and announced on social media in April 2021. The application process was open for 8 weeks, so the interested candidates had time to identify possibilities within their communities and prepare with the available material. OMDTZ and HOT also offered mentorship for the applicants, so they could get assistance in writing a strong project proposal. Once the seven organizations with their projects were selected, OMDTZ provided four training sessions on 1) OpenStreetMap and Open Data, 2) JOSM, 3) mobile data collection tools such as OpenDataKit, organic Maps, and and 4) Data quality monitoring and management. OMDTZ also provided the grantees with support on the writing of the reports.

What we learned:

The Devolved Microgrant program was very valuable, because:

  • It had better access to groups that are not usually considered for international funding.
  • It provided training and learning opportunities for the communities.
  • It was an international funding program with minimal language barriers in Tanzania.
  • The program provided the chance for mappers to get in touch with new technologies.

There were lots of learnings from the Devolved Microgrant program, some of them include:

  • Improved communications to reach communities in the application process, as social media might not have been enough - other sources such as radio could be an option.
  • Increased support and training in the process for the communities in different thematic areas - mapping and report writing and documentation process, for example.
  • Phase grant disbursements so that more attention can be given to fewer communities at a time, giving room to provide the extra support needed, even for lesser experienced groups.
  • Provide the opportunity to document the project process in different models, such as report videos.
  • Dedicate more staff time to the program, directing specific positions to work with it on a full-time basis.
  • Increased mentorship and training for the grant holder from the application process to report writing and documentation.