Spark MicroGrants provide funding for community-driven development. The Spark Approach is based on six key phases: community building, goal setting, proposal development, technical advisor review, implementation, and future envisioning.
Problems and Purpose
Spark Microgrants is a US-based organization founded to empower community-driven development in response to the marginalization of impoverished communities by foreign aid programs. Without proactive involvement and empowerment of local communities, projects led by external agencies have the potential to fail .
In response, Spark developed their six phase process for funding and maintaining development projects. The aims of this approach are to ensure that projects are driven by communities and their participation, and that projects are sustainable in the long-term, beyond Spark's involvement.
Origins and Development
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Participant Recruitment and Selection
Spark processes have taken place in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana. The projects take place at the village level.
How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making
The Spark process fits into the broader approach of community driven development. These approaches ensure that active collaboration with and participation of communities is at the core of proposed development projects. This is in contrast to traditional Western development approaches where outside organizations come into a community and implement a project without community involvement, resulting in ineffective interventions that do not empower or help affected communities 
The Spark Approach involves six phases taking place over two years:
- Community building: designed to identify expectations between Spark and the community, and begin developing a community vision
- Goal setting: identifying and prioritizing objectives and researching how to meet them
- Proposal development: developing a concrete proposal including operations and logistics
- Technical advisor: an external expert works with communities to review the proposal and support them to strengthen it
- Implementation: communities receive the Spark Microgrant and begin implementing their proposal
- Future envisioning: communities consider the future of the project beyond the grant and build local networks
Facilitation is a central feature of the Spark approach. A local (to the project) university graduate is employed as a facilitator to guide conversations with the community. This person is involved with facilitating and assisting the community to implement the process over the two years .
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Spark cites a range of impacts achieved from its initiatives:
- 50/50 gender balance in community participation
- 44% elected leaders are women
- 6/10 communities go on to launch a second project independent from the original Spark process
- 85% communities continue to meet independently after the Spark process ends
- 86% projects sustained independently after the two years 
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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 Spark Microgrants (2020). About Us. Available at: https://www.sparkmicrogrants.org/about-spark (Accessed 12 August 2020)
 McCordic, C., Pardello, R. Artibello, J. and LaLonde, J. (2020). Making Decisions, Not Bricks: Collaborative Decision Making in Community-Led Development Projects. Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies. 7(1), Article 6. https://doi.org/10.24926/ijps.v7i1.2966 (Accessed 12 August 2020).
 Spark Microgrants (2020). The Spark Process. Available at: https://www.sparkmicrogrants.org/the-spark-process#spark-process-the-phases (Accessed 12 August 2020).
 Spark Microgrants (2020). Our Impact. Available at: https://www.sparkmicrogrants.org/our-impact (Accessed 12 August 2020)
Lead image: UN Women Pacific/Facebook, http://bit.ly/2D6vMG2
The first submission of this Participedia entry was adapted from a research project by the Institute of Development Studies, 'Linking Participation and Economic Advancement’ licensed and reproduced under Creative Commons (CC BY 3.0).
Original source: https://www.eldis.org/keyissues/mapping-participation-economic-advancement