CDP always dreams of contributing to system change. With decolonising aid and power shift becoming by-word and agenda of Southern NGOs globally, CDP decided to exercise its role. As a true-blue organisation, it took actions to make this call real in its context. It knows that such actions contribute to system change for a good society in favor of the marginalized peoples.
CDP is conscious that persuading and encouraging those in the status quo will always be difficult as they wittingly or unwittingly contribute to perpetuating the system to be transformed. CDP believes that only in planting a new system through prototyping new ways of doing things in grantmaking, in transforming revolutionary concepts into practice, that new praxis and models gradually and ultimately make the existing system obsolete thereby giving birth to a new system.
Definitely a lonely battle, but it’s worth the investment. CDP counts on the many kindred spirits that just need tagging along and connecting to push the change momentum forward.
A Re-envisioned Aid
What’s good about localisation agenda is the fact that, in a certain way, the pace and commitment for change has been accelerated. The impetus for shifting the leadership of humanitarian action to national and local actors and putting the affected people at the center of it has never been in the past much highlighted like now. Decolonising aid became an important concern for humanitarian actors to ensure that the sovereign will and leadership of country and local actors are taken into consideration and given paramount significance. Aid and support had been defined to be as directly as possible and not need any intermediaries such as INGOs as an example.
Heeding the call for current intermediaries would be very difficult as it will affect them. This would eventually result in losing their reason for being and very existence in this humanitarian and development field. Ultimately, the old system is to vanish.
CDP’s opened opportunity in grantmaking is a step forward in this direction. Time to make it real. By radically shifting the mindset and practice including the values and language, a new and emergent system is being co-created by actors and stakeholders involved. The Abot-Kamay Community Solidarity Fund (ACSF) is a promising and emboldening effort to advance community-led actions for community resilience, empowerment, and development.
The key ingredients had been well-thought out to pave the way for a new practice and model towards a new system.
The first and most important thing is the intentional and purposive prioritization and targeting of partners from among communities and people’s organizations. These are the ones working at the grassroots level and building the agency of community people. In so doing, the natural default is changed including the trend in the aid system. These are organizations who really work hard in normal and difficult times, with or without money on the agenda that matter most to the communities. As such, access to fund support in simple and appropriate ways within the means of people’s organizations being not in the radar of big and medium-sized donors becomes a measure in flattening the level playing field.
The second is recognizing the agency and strength of community organizations and their constituency to choose and drive their own community-led actions that bring about change for their communities and contribute to society. As organizations grew in the work they do, continuing capacity needs have to be understood for continued collaboration and support to one another for modeling partnership and collaboration. Partnership models bloom in the context of community partners between and among them and also, between community partners and their host partners or anchor institutions. Both the horizontal and vertical accountability are well-established, contributing to a more equitable relationship and partnership.
The third is the process of community engagement for a partnership in community-led actions. Due diligence process can be simplified without scaring and intimidating the target partners. The whole idea is to get to know the would-be partner for a collaborative engagement, it could be done in a non-threatening type of inquiry and approach. When successful, this is the start of closer and personal relationship on top of the needed professional relationship. The reporting was also made simple defining the importance of capturing learning from their own perspective and the partnership perspective.
In all these community engagements and community-led actions, many wonderful truths and stories are woven together. Sharing and disseminating these become a source of inspiration and worth replicating in similar situations at country level or in other countries. Harvested learnings especially those that made an impact to individuals, families and communities are worth replicating and probing.
A strong interconnection of decolonising aid and shifting the power is evident. The efforts to decolonise aid strengthens shifting the power. The efforts to shift the power, address directly or indirectly decolonising aid.
One important starting point is recognizing that all communities have assets. These are in various types of capital such as human, social, intellectual, physical, etc. that when consolidated and harnessed by the communities provide agency and strength for them to pursue their goals and aspirations. Making these visible and brought to the table, make the communities become co-investors. It is having a mindset, that you have something to bring to the table and those are assets for building relationships and partnerships. And when community people collectively give for shared community goals, trust is strengthened and becomes social capital for the community and society.
Shifting the power creates new ways of engaging in philanthropy and aid development. The shift the power movement in different parts of the globe has the potential to create a global community that supports and learns from one another. It also provides the strength that you are not alone in this cause. The community assets become a leverage and bargaining power of the communities in seeking matching grants for the communities’ common and collective aspirations that are community-driven.
Time for new and emergent practice to influence the way aid is transformed. At the same time, it makes possible the shift in power for the marginalized and vulnerable sections of the population in their efforts for resilience, empowerment, and development. Little by little, from small to big, all efforts of civil society organizations and people’s organizations will bring about the change in the system. The emergent practice is critical and shows the way on how a new system can be brought to light. The strength built in the course of the battle between the old and new whether in values and in practice is paved by both human and social capital of the communities and people’s organizations on the ground.
It is worth celebrating whatever small victories and gains at this point in time. The pockets of people and organizations connecting and kindling the spirit of change is mushrooming in every community fertile for change.
What matter most in this journey for decolonising aid and shifting the power is the human and social capital that made all these happen slowly but surely, in intentional and purposive manner and with collective strength and wisdom from the people, for the people.