The Morgridge Family Foundation, a private foundation with a mission to invest in organizations that are reimagining solutions to today's biggest challenges, says they are forging a partnership with the Bank of Kigali (BK) Foundation. The move will allow them to enter the Rwandan market, and beyond. The development was disclosed during the foundation’s visit to Rwanda, of which was described as “making site visits and building new connections.” While in Rwanda, the family foundation also met President Paul Kagame in a meeting that, according to Village Urugwiro, attracted discussions centered on philanthropic partnerships. Before they wrapped up their visit, The New Times Edwin Ashimwe caught up with the family foundation led by Carrie and John Morgridge, in what turned out to be an insightful discussion on the foundation’s dedication, visit to Rwanda and plans to partner with BK Foundation. Excerpts, For the past 20 years, you have been involved in philanthropic activities in an effort that triggers positive change in the communities. Briefly tell us about the journey. The Morgridge Family Foundation was made possible by John and Tashia Morgridge. My father took Cisco Systems public. Cisco is known for its networking, routers and switches and other networking equipment that enables communication between devices and networks. Because of my father’s great business success, my parents started a philanthropic foundation. In time, we started our own foundation that is primarily funded through them. Over the past 20 years, the Morgridge Family Foundation has philanthropically invested over $150 million dollars. We continue to invest and grow worldwide. You have been in Kigali for the past week, how did we get here? (Laughs) We are in Kigali as friends of Marc Holtzman, the chairman of the Rwanda Capital Markets Authority and former chairman of BK Group. We also had the privilege of meeting President Kagame over a decade ago while he was visiting Aspen, Colorado, as a guest of Marc. Since then, Marc has been asking us to visit this beautiful country. It took us 10 years to get here and Rwanda has won our hearts. It's definitely a country that we want to be part of via philanthropic partnership. Do you think the 10 years was worth it? We have a saying that God puts us in the right place at the right time. If we had come 10 years ago, we are not sure we would have been ready to invest. The stable government, the construction that is occurring—including the soccer stadium being built—that all plays into our confidence that Rwanda is the place to be. With a stable and fast pace towards economic development, it is time for us to say, ‘Rwandan development is leading all of the African continent and we’re here to support.’ We believe in supporting people to lift themselves up out of poverty and there are so many programs that are a ‘hand up’ not a ‘hand out.’ What sort of investments are you looking at even at this early stage with the BK foundation? We want to work closely with the BK Foundation, as they make it easy to have a single point of contact in the country. We are currently building our relationship with the foundation and with many people at the Bank of Kigali. From there, we will listen to the needs and then make decisions with the BK Foundation. The BK Foundation is very aligned with MFF’s values. We've truly fallen in love with their mission of education and environment and empowering startups. That's what MFF invests in. In the future, we will consider funding projects that the BK Foundation recommends and collectively we'll decide as a group. The BK Foundation is going to help us through the processes of finding great opportunities and then leveraging great work already being done by so many others. We look forward to becoming a co-funder in many projects in Rwanda. We're leaving here with a great understanding of what Rwanda is and who the people are at all levels of the economic spectrum. We will continue to learn as we navigate through our diligence period and hopefully make great funding decisions. The BK Foundation is introducing us to many different kinds of opportunities in Rwanda. They introduced us to the Imbuto Foundation and their priorities and mission. This helped to give us a very clear understanding of where we should consider putting our efforts. A strong pillar of the Morgridge Family Foundation is partnering with government agencies. We believe that we are stronger together and that government can play a great role in the sustainability of a program. What makes the venture or the partnership with BK Foundation a priority? We believe strongly in relationships. Our partnership will be a long-term goal and the BK Foundation will play a key role in the success of the investments we make in Rwanda. The BK Foundation understands the issues in Rwanda, because it is run by the community. What a great partner to have, a partner who is on the ground building relationships every day and understanding where the needs and the gaps are. They will help us leverage our money, do more and serve more people. While we have limited funds at MFF, we have a great track record of partnering with other organizations to expand our impact and make positive change. Have you learned about any issues affecting the local communities so far? What we understand as donors is that every community has its own challenges. No community is the same because no individual is the same. It will be really important as the BK Foundation grows to make sure that they remain hyper-localized. We feel strongly that communities should solve their own problems so empowering communities is key. We understand that by being hyper-localized, the foundation has their finger on the pulse and their boots on the ground in the community. They understand its needs much better than we do. What American philanthropists often do wrong is they come into a community and want to solve everybody's problems. At the Morgridge Family Foundation, we flipped that model upside down and said, ‘How can we support you to reach your full potential?’ What is the way forward to see that this partnership materializes? We will start by following up on all the meetings we had on this trip. We will begin with small investments, as we are in the relationship-building phase, and we will grow into learning about more projects and the people behind the projects. From there, we will need to learn more about the country and the people. We hope that we will have successes and we are committed to be transparent with our giving—hopefully inspiring other philanthropic giving. We will talk with our trusted partners in the United States and see what they are doing in Rwanda and see if there is an opportunity to fund or co-fund a project to scale. And then, when all of this comes together, we will commit funding to the projects we’ve prioritized. Our hope is that the more successful our partnership is with the BK Foundation, the greater the opportunity for others to follow our lead and join in our efforts to help this great country. We believe that the BK Foundation has the opportunity to make a huge difference in millions of lives. And that is something worth investing in. Can we expect you back? Absolutely. We'll be back next May.