In 2021 I recall embarking on a project on community foundations in Zimbabwe under SIVIO Institute. The project was one of the most exciting works I have done at the institute as it opened my mind to appreciate the work grassroot organisations do.
I had to be acquainted to the work of Global Fund for Community Foundations (GCFC) which shaped my understanding. I started following the discussions around #ShiftThePower movement and Jenny Hodgson and Berry Knight’s work inspired me a lot over the years. It was such an exciting honour to became one of the 2023 ShiftThePower fellows. I anticipated the “RoadtoBogota”, I looked forward to the rich discussions, and I was appeased.
On the first day Jenny delivered a captivating speech which brought to light the journey of the ShiftThePower movement. As a person interested in statistics and evidence-based arguments, she provided the compelling need for shifting power. She stated that in 2016 there was a realisation by international humanitarian donors that 97% of aid was channelled towards international organisations while only 3% went to local organisations yet they are at the forefront of mitigating challenges that confront humanity. A commitment was then made to increase humanitarian funding to local organisations to 25% but since covid, the funding has in fact decreased from the deliberated 3%. Numbers do tell a story… She emphasised on the need for collective power to tilt the needle in the funding systems. She highlighted the need to confront traditional funding systems in place. There is need for building networks and working together to exercise movement generosity and build the movement needed that can confront the imbalances that exist in aid.
One of the breakaway sessions I joined on Building collective dreams and strategies for safe communities, had many nuggets. It is imperative for communities to define what safe communities are to them and that donors should cocreate programs/projects with communities. Another interesting point was on mindset shift, how to get rid of the “donor dependency syndrome” which hampers efforts for confronting power and leads to mission drift of some local organisations. It is evident that grassroots organisations already know what to do and the covid pandemic among other incidences showed who rapidly responds to societal challenges. There is need for the realisation of the essence of the power of trust, relationship building, dignity and recognising the different resources that communities have in changing the narrative of aid and development.
On the last day, Berry Knight spoke about the importance of data in the #ShiftThePower movement sighting instances where data has driven significant change. He highlighted that in 2009, GCFC adopted twenty community philanthropy indicators which look systematically at what community philanthropy is and these were derived from the work of local organisations. Thirteen of the indicators were corelated with the shift the power movement. In conclusion Berry emphasised the need to change measurement approaches to community philanthropy. The lightning talk showed the essence of data driven decisions the shift the power movement has shown leadership in and calls for the adoption of the same.
The summit proceedings introduced me to an invigorating way of convening which stirs great energies in the room. Wellness was one of the things that was also emphasised, with Kelly Bates bringing participants to the appreciation of love for one another and promotion of wellness. The organisers did a splendid job in ensuring a balance between engagement and wellness throughout the conference.
Shelly Satuku is a Program Coordinator at the SIVIO Institute.