Our plea is that you work with us not against us. We need to be supported, not competed with.
This letter is the product of a protracted, heated, angry and passionate discussion that took place on the #ShiftThePower WhatsApp group last week. Several people on the group had been approached separately by International NGOs who wanted to learn about their experiences in local fundraising and building community philanthropy, but in ways that all felt were ‘extractive.’ These interactions point to the growing trend for INGOs to look further afield for resources to fill the funding gap that many are experiencing.
March 5th 2020
Thank you for taking an interest in our countries. We represent a wide range of national and subnational organisations based in countries – mostly in the global south – where you often work. We have probably even been in meetings together or have been represented in the success stories you give to your supporters.
We appreciate that over the years, many of you have sought to help deliver much-needed services, and have helped to elevate some issues of concern, like debt relief, gender or climate change, to the world stage.
But times are changing. And you have (rightly) been facing a number of critiques in recent years – around your legitimacy, your ‘whiteness’ or the fact that far more aid money ultimately ends up in the pockets of northern organisations’ headquarters than it does in the Global South.
We see that you’re trying to respond to these critiques by ‘localising’, as we’ve been asked to meet with your highly paid consultants on numerous occasions. The strategy is pretty common: usually you start by creating a ‘local organisation’ with a local board. A next step that we’re seeing is that you enter the world of DRM – ‘Domestic Resource Mobilisation’ – to raise money from within our countries. This latter aspect is probably also down to the fact that your traditional incomes from the rich North/West are starting to diminish, so this has the added bonus of replenishing lost incomes.
In theory, this probably sounds great to your northern ears: local middle-income people should indeed ‘own’ their civil society, especially as a response to growing concerns around closing civic space and authoritarian governments. We couldn’t agree with you more on this principle.
But there are things we object to and some suggestions about how you can use your international muscle to help us more effectively than through this misguided localisation agenda.
What happens in practice is that these efforts only serve to reinforce the power dynamic at play, and ultimately to close the space for domestic civil society. This can be illustrated quite simply: a multi-million-dollar INGO, with an entire marketing, communications and fundraising team, whose project budget for this endeavour probably outstrips that of most of our national organisations for a year, then comes into the South to raise money ‘domestically’.
Perhaps the board has set a target of raising 30% of total income directly from the South. That’s not an additional million dollars, that’s a million or more dollars taken away from local civil society. And worse still, most of this money will be siphoned off to pay for their own inner workings, rather than be invested on the ground.
All of this serves to weaken us locally. It keeps us in a master/servant relationship continuously begging for grants from your institutions, while we remain bereft of core funding ourselves. This is not what we need or want.
Instead, here’s how you can be more helpful with your ‘DRM’ investment: if you are serious about ‘shifting power’ then reduce your footprint and brand and use your fundraising machinery to help grassroots organisations create the structures to fundraise for themselves and sustain their work.
We need the infrastructure for people to raise money domestically and from diaspora, not to be competing with big global INGOs. What is ultimately needed is to strengthen and scale up southern civil society, not to be pushed out of our own communities and markets.
Do you need to exist in every country with your brand? No. There are often local organisations, like ourselves, who work effectively on the ground, with better connections to the local community. And many of us also have the skills and capacity to represent our issues on the world stage.
We represent an eclectic mixture of organisations, but we are, increasingly, uniting under the banner or hashtag of #ShiftThePower and its “Manifesto for Change.
Our plea is that you work with us, not against us. We need to be supported, not competed with, and certainly not replaced.
African Philanthropy Network
Arusha Municipal Community Foundation, Tanzania
Caring Volunteers Network (CAVNET), Ghana
Community Self Reliance Centre, Nepal
Dalit Community Foundation, India
Development Expertise Center, Ethiopia
Development Research and Advocacy, Ghana
Emma Crewe, SOAS University of London, UK
Equality for Growth, Tanzania
Foundation for Civil Society in Tanzania, Tanzania
Foundation for Social Transformation, India
Fundaçâo Micaia, Mozambique
Ghana Philanthropy Forum, Ghana
Global Fund for Community Foundations, South Africa
Global Peace Association, Ghana
Gramin Evam Nagar Vikas Parishad (GENVP), India
Greenfield Africa Foundation, Ghana
International Foundation for Students and Youth Development (IFSYD), Ghana
Keepers Zambia Foundation, Zambia
Le Fond our les Femme Francophone, Togo
LIN Center for Community Development, Vietnam
Mauritius Council for Social Services, Mauritius
Multikids Africa, Ghana
NZP+ Mufumbwe, Zambia
Olive Luena Education Trust, Tanzania
Participatory Action for Community Empowerment Foundation (PEACE), Zambia
People’s Action Forum (PAF), Zambia
Romanian Foundation for Children, Community and Family (FRCCF), Romania
Ruth Foundation, Zambia
Sahakarmi Samaj, Nepal
Sahara Advocates for Change, Ghana
SEED Malaysia, Malaysia
Selma Foundation, Ghana
Tanzania Community Foundation Network, Tanzania
Thubutu Africa Initiatives, Uganda
UHAI EASHIRI, Kenya
West Africa Civil Society Institute, Ghana
Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) Mongu, Zambia
Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB), Zambia
Zambia Council for Social Development, Zambia (ZCSD)
Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC), Zambia
Zambian Governance Foundation for Civil Society (ZGF), Zambia
Kenya Community Development Foundation, Kenya
Greenline Africa, Zimbabwe
Masila Ghana Foundation, Ghana
Hard Rock Self-Sufficiency Foundation, Nigeria
Green String Network, Kenya
Coxs Bazaar CSO/NGO Forum, Bangladesh
Vision Changers Kenya
Help Foundation for Victims of Insurgency in Nigeria
Bangladesh NGO Network for Radio and Communication
Social Life and Agricultural Development Foundation, Somalia
East Africa Philanthropy Network
Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana
Women Aspire Network Ghana
Solidarity Foundation, India
Yayasan Usaha Mulia (Foundation for Noble Work), Indonesia
Assembly of Social Mobilization, Sri Lanka
Indonesia for Humanity (Indonesia untuk Kemanusiaan / IKa), Indonesia
Professor Emma Crewe, Director, on behalf of Global Research Network on Parliaments and People, UK
Dr Meheret Ayenew, Research Fellow FSS and Adjunct Faculty, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
Wajir South Development Association, Kenya and Somalia
Centre for Peace and Democracy (CPD), Somalia
Let Them Help Themselves (LTHT)
Reproductive Health and Rights Advocacy Initiative (REHEaRD), Nigeria
Zamzam foundation, Somalia
Bangladesh Internet Governance Forum
Women for India Foundation
Agency for Peace Initiatives and Inclusive Development-APID, Kenya
YouthNet Nagaland, India
Community World Service Asia
Development and Justice Initiative, India
AFroIDEA, Kenya, Uganda, Swaziland and Nigeria
CORAFID Centre for Innovation and Research
Jijenge youth organization, kisumu, Kenya
GISRF (Global Information and Social Resource Foundation)
Rawa Fund, Palestine
Activate Labs, Mexico/US
Lasphumakhona Community Development Projects (LCDP) South Africa
HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, New Delhi, INDIA
Free Expression Myanmar (FEM), Myanmar
Partos, Dutch Association of Development Organisations
Center for Development Support Initiatives
Sustainability Leadership Kosova – Kosovo
Ngetha Media Association for Peace (NMAP) , Uganda
Horn of Africa Voluntary Youth Committee (HAVOYOCO), Somaliland and Ethiopia
Gargaar Relief and Development Organisation, Somalia
Taakulo Somali Community, Somalia
SSWC (Save Somali Women and Children), Somalia
Children and youth Development society India
Golden Red Foundation, India
Reaching the Unreached Tanzania (RUT), Tanzania
African Diaspora Relocation Agency
Whole Planet Initiative, Nigeria
Personal Initiative for Positive Empowerment (PIPE) Kenya
Mars Football Foundation, India
Africa Health and Nutrition, Kenya
Taakulo Somali Community Somalia/Ethiopia
Mona Younis, Human Rights Advocate
Child Care Center, Bihar, India
Alliance for Holistic and Sustainable Development Communities (AHSDC), India
Community Care for Emergency Response and Rehabilitation, Myanmar
Fund for Congolese Women, Democratic Republic of Congo
STAR Ghana Foundation, Ghana
Pan African Positive Women’s Coalition, Zimbabwe
Les Jeunes Ambassadeurs de l’Environnement pour le Développement durable, Guinea
Advocacy Core Team, Zimbabwe
Dalia Association, Palestine
Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE) , Uganda
LifeLine ONG, Benin
Youth Development and Voice Initiative (YOVI), Ghana
Sera Thabiti, Kenya
Dalit Women Fight, New Delhi, India
Migrant Support Network, Guyana
Watershed Organisation Trust, India
If you wish to add your name or organization to this list, please insert the details in a comment below. Thank you.
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