Impact of new approaches needs to be demonstrated

Anna Wansbrough-Jones

The December issue of Alliance focused on the topic of community philanthropy and the concept of ‘durable development’ – shifting power closer to the ground and giving agency to local people and their organizations. Here, Anna Wansbrough-Jones responds to Sean Lowrie’s article ‘Never mind control, think about impact’.

In the last issue of Alliance Sean Lowrie of the Start Network highlighted how international aid should re-focus its work around impact, eg re-prioritizing ‘lives saved and suffering spared’. At the World Humanitarian Summit and since, aid recipients and humanitarians alike have pushed for changes in international aid systems and structures, and for a realignment of power, to ensure a focus on impact.

To me, the points relating to donors remain the core challenge: how will donors be convinced to give up power, and change compliance standards, in a context where expectations and scrutiny of them has increased, and where citizens in many donor countries are demanding increased evidence of accountability, impact and value for money?

Identifying non-traditional donors and building funding from within communities themselves (with the community philanthropists) are valid options. Yet I question if they alone will be enough.

A third approach, aiming to reduce donors’ nervousness (and therefore their tendency towards maintaining control and power), is to focus on demonstrating the impact of new approaches – providing donors with the evidence they need to remain accountable to their citizens and taxpayers.

Community philanthropists, the Start Network and others striving towards this change will need to test, fail at times, learn and then prove that different approaches work, are more efficient and can save more lives and spare more suffering. Donors need to be shown that it is in their interests to work differently (and to give up the power).

Anna Wansbrough-Jones
Consultant and director, Stratagem International

On the same topic of community philanthropy: ‘How to be effective and responsive to communities?’ by Chandrika Sahai, Strengthening the bonds of civil society’ by Aimi Zhou and Ine Van Severen, USAID must reform to truly support a community philanthropy model’ by Aisha Mansour, Measuring small-scale contributions to the SDGs’ by Dana Doan, SDGs must be part of community philanthropy agenda’ by Carola Carazzone

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