What is World Connect?

World Connect is a nonprofit that identifies local leaders all over the world and invests in their initiatives to drive transformative change in their communities. World Connect recognizes that the capacity and ingenuity necessary to solve development challenges lies in the knowledge, talent, connections, and sustained commitment of local leaders. We build dynamic relationships and partnerships at the local level, investing in local knowledge and initiative and supporting women and communities to prioritize and tackle their own development challenges in their own unique ways. Each year World Connect invests in 100+ projects, pitched to us by local leaders and often in collaboration with supportive Peace Corps Volunteers. Projects are carefully vetted by World Connect staff, and those selected for funding receive extensive guidance and technical support to ensure success.

At World Connect we do not prescribe or import solutions, rather, we listen to local priorities and work to identify and reinforce strong local institutions, initiatives, and individuals across a wide range of sectors. World Connect also introduces students in the United States to international project work to promote global citizenship, cross-cultural exchange, and activism.

World Connect is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in New York City (EIN/tax ID number: 56-2525151). All donations are tax-deductible.

Questions? Fill out the Contact Us submission form at the bottom of the page.

What percent of the money we raise will go directly to the project?
On average, 90% of money raised by World Connect goes directly to projects in the field. 100% of money raised by students, or other groups partnering with World Connect goes directly to projects in the field.

What types of projects do you invest in?
We invest primarily in women and children in the Global South in a diverse set of sectors: health, education, economic opportunity, and the environment, empowering local leaders to target local priorities.

What does World Connect do?
World Connect invests in hidden potential; Leaders in the Global South have transformative ideas but lack the funding to drive their own self-sustaining development. We invest in grassroots development locally designed and led.

How is World Connect different from any other nonprofit?
Trust. World Connect believes in the talent, existing capacity, and social capital that already exists in communities around the world. We don’t build capacity, we identify it and then support it with direct investment.

What is World Connect’s program model?
World Connect embraces a participatory, grassroots approach to development in which communities assess their own needs and priorities, establish their own project goals, and define success on their own terms. Communities are the leading actors guiding their own development. To achieve this, World Connect relies on a wide network of field partners, listed below. World Connect and its Established Field Partners intentionally take supportive and secondary roles, leading from behind, to ensure that community members and local leaders are the primary owners and drivers of development in their communities. We believe this promotes sustainability and that trust reduces fraud. World Connect receives all proposals through its online grant application tool and reviews applications as a group. All funded projects must provide progress and final reports. World Connect maintains 400+ project indicators in a bespoke project management database.

Why does World Connect ask under-resourced communities to contribute their own cash to projects?
World Connect requires communities to co-invest in projects, with a community cash contribution requirement of at least 10% of the requested grant value. This ensures that communities have ample buy-in to our projects and that they see themselves as owners rather than recipients. We’ve documented over the years how project success and sustainability correlates to higher levels of community cash co-investment. Very few grantmakers active in the Global South have this requirement.

Who are World Connect’s partners?
World Connect sources locally-led development projects almost exclusively via its vetted, established Field Partners (EFPs). In general, we look for EFPs that meet the following criteria:

  • They share our philosophical commitment to facilitating women’s leadership, grassroots decision making, and participatory development
  • They work with us to align programming and communication to mobilize local social capital and momentum for projects
  • They bring to the table a network of trained social change agents with deep connections to and embeddedness within marginalized communities
  • They are willing to collaborate with World Connect and affiliated organizations to advocate for systemic change in favor of locally-led development

Our current list of EFPs includes: Returned and Active Peace Corps, alumni of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), CorpsAfrica, Global Health Corps, LEAP Africa (Nigeria), Help Haiti, Village X (Malawi), and the Segal Family Foundation (Malawi).

Why grants instead of loans?
Many communities we work with are cash-poor but resource and capacity-rich. While lending can be an effective approach in scaling small businesses, and lending in extreme poverty contexts has shown some impact in supporting individuals to smooth consumption across economic and environmental shocks, the evidence for the transformative impact of micro-lending around the world is underwhelming. World Connect prefers to validate the ideas and the energy of our community partners with a different type of investment, grants, with communities co-investing their time, talent, and treasure. We believe giving small grants to advance locally-led development priorities is a more cost-effective approach to delivering development, which catalyzes local momentum, collective action, and cohesiveness. In short, grants convey our trust.

How does World Connect ensure the money gets into the right hands?
World Connect’s model is based on embedded vetting of Established Field Partners and local leaders. World Connect conducts thorough due diligence on Field Partners, in some cases signs MOUs with them, and carefully vets all project leaders and proposed projects. With 1,600+ projects completed, World Connect has a ready set of criteria to judge integrity, capacity, and planning. Less than 1% of World Connect’s funding is reported lost or misused by grantees. In addition, by requiring community participation in project planning, communities are often aware of the opportunity and the project leaders thus have a reputational stake in ensuring projects are successful. If we sense a higher than usual risk profile on a particular project, (e.g. in a conflict zone), we work closely with our established field partners to ensure secure transactions and accountability processes and in some cases give a small grant first to test feasibility.

How does World Connect know its projects are effective and sustainable?
We monitor 400+ data points that analyze project management and implementation success, impact and outcomes, and replication and scale. We mobilize staff through site visits and a cadre of Field Agents around the world to visit communities to speak with participants and local implementers to better understand how projects have impacted community life and local realities, document knock-on effects and sustainability, and identify challenges or barriers to success and sustainability. We also carry out regular impact analyses to dive deeper into our data and make conclusions about the aggregate impact of our work across the world.

Where does World Connect work?
World Connect works in the Global South, to date we’ve launched projects in 42 countries around the world. We look closely at global data, particularly as it relates to the role of women in society and community, the opportunity context for women as leaders, and the climate for civil society actors to affect change. We work closely with our Established Field Partners to identify key countries where there are opportunities for grassroots actors to lead on development. World Connect also works in the United States by engaging students in our global projects through school-based outreach, and by making small grants to returned Peace Corps Volunteers to educate, inspire, and empower young Americans, drawing upon their experiences abroad.

Do you do domestic work?
Yes! We work with American Peace Corps Volunteers, students, schools, and programs in the United States. Additionally, we partner with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to engage their communities in global connection, education, and citizenship.

How can you get involved?
Please visit our Get Involved web pages for more information.

Can we go visit a project?
World Connect does not lead trips into the field. It is very important to us that we keep the communities' needs and wishes at the center of everything we do without intruding on them. However, if you have specifically fundraised for a particular project and would like to go visit the project you have supported, and the community is willing and able to host you, we will help facilitate the connection!

Contact Us

Interested in connecting with World Connect? Fill out this form and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.

If you are looking to apply for your first grant from us click here.