The international development landscape is shifting rapidly. In many ways, we’re witnessing the end of the ‘development-industrial complex’ that has dominated the sector for the last two decades. The days of rich northern countries delivering large amounts of official development assistance (ODA) to poor countries in the global south, often via massive northern-based international NGOs, are numbered. A variety of complex and connected factors are driving this shift: radical global socio-economic changes and the emergence of a new, universal, sustainable development agenda, to name but two. The question now is what kind of new development model are we constructing in its place?
Resources trickle down, power does not
For me, a fundamental transfer of power will be the defining feature that distinguishes our new development landscape from the old. In recent years, only about 1 per cent of all official aid, and an even smaller portion of humanitarian assistance, has gone directly to the global south. Research into private foundations suggests that they too channel a large portion of their giving through ‘fundermediaries’ in the global north. The crux of the problem with this approach to development is that resources may trickle down, but power does not. Instead, it remains concentrated in the hands of a relatively small number of big players, predominantly based in the global north.
I often talk, and write, about the science of delivery versus the art of social transformation. But, for me, community philanthropy and local resourcing has the potential to tick both boxes. It has been argued – and demonstrated – again and again that local actors offer more efficient, sustainable development solutions.