Going beyond Western models of value to shift the power

Going beyond Western models of value to shift the power

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In the development sector, supported by the international aid architecture, the power scale is tipped in favour of organisations that have the right connections with aid bilaterals and multilaterals, and foundations that can absorb millions of dollars.

The system favours those who write dazzling proposals with the right terminology, present excellent narrative and financial reports from their sophisticated monitoring and evaluation systems, in accordance with the log-frame and theory of change presented to donors. Those who have high visibility and have an impressive website, who demonstrate an imposing presence within their context and their scope of operations. Those that function as a business.

Money is power
This is the celebrated anatomy of the successful NGO or INGO. They survive and thrive within the development sector. They get the money.

There is a saying in twi, one of the languages in Ghana: sika ye mogya, meaning “money is blood”. This saying depicts the power of money as a life source. For many organisations in the development sector, it is.

But it also means that it is a “dog eat dog” environment for organisations in the global south as well as the global north. It is the survival of the fittest where you have to play up to the hand that feeds you and dim the light of your competitors. As Barry Knight puts it, it’s all about egos, logos and silos.

To be able to make it, one has to learn the game and be good at it. One must fit into the square box of the international donor by cutting off or squeezing in your rounded edges, even if your mission is circular. NGOs in the global south are predominantly dependent on foreign donor funding and many would not exist without it.

They are mainly accountable to the hand that feeds them for the delivery of their mission. They are forced to dance to the tune that foreign donors play. They are bereft of power in many ways.

Taking a hard look
But… should that be the motivation for an organisation’s existence or the determinant of that existence? Should it not be for the constituency whose problems the organisation exists to help solve? How much of a say does that community have in the solution to their problems and the organisation’s relevance in solving them? What ownership do they have in the ways devised to solve those problems? How do they identify with the organisation? Wherein lies their agency and their participation in solving their problems? Do they see the organisation’s agenda as one that is of mutual benefit? Who plays the tune and who dances to it?

We need to answer these questions if we truly want to shift power within the development space. The answers will determine the form organisations take and their support base. It will determine their relevance and legitimacy. It will determine their resource base, what resources and whose. It will determine their sustainability and effectiveness. It will determine what is true and sustainable development.

Success beyond Western models
The Western organisational model may no longer be the benchmark for successful organisations. We need to look at models from the global south of indigenous community groups that have been effective and learn how they have done it.

We will have to reconsider what we value and place a lesser premium on money. Instead we should value other critical resources, like local/indigenous knowledge, time, human and material resources. The organisation with funding will no longer be the player with all the power.

Funding is still important, after all sika ye mogya, but the donor could be different because communities that own their development invest in it. The piper would take a very different shape and form, where communities lead their own development.

The direction of accountability will change. This would mean that the matrix for measuring success would not be a Western log-frame model or an imported European model, but one that suits the context. It would surely mean shared power.

What we’re doing about it
Groups, individuals and development actors from different continents that are deeply concerned about the statusquo have been working to shift the power within their spaces and contexts. In March 2019, a Shift the Power manifesto was released, based on this philosophy.

Under the auspices of the Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF) several kindred spirits within this movement met for two days in November 2019 in London, and proposed to move beyond the rhetoric and bring about that needed shift. Key principles agreed included the following:

ensure that it remains a “shift the power movement and not a shift the power industry”
remain inclusive and foster growth
focus on the relational instead of the transactional
build solidarity across continents, interests and organisations by overcoming the ego, logo and silo mentality
hold each other accountable.
It demanded boldness. It called for introspection and a look within self, organization and mission-getting out of one’s comfort zone to probe vested interests. Specific actions to be undertaken were to re-examine capacity-building within the development space, value local assets and the power of communities, mobilize local resources, re-configure measuring indices for success, re-imagine the INGO, address racism and neo-colonialism head on, hold donors accountable, and continue to create and encourage such rare spaces for honest reflection and action planning for the needed change.

Back to the measuring scale, if we want to remain true to the mission of sustainable development, we all have a responsibility to push that marker in whatever ways we can to balance the power.

Published on bond.org.uk


1 Comment

  1. André Delorme DANSOU

    Says October 29, 2020 at 3:10 pm

    J’apprécie l’article

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Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.


Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.


Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.


Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.


Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.


George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.


Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.


Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.


Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.


Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.


Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.


Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.


Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.


Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.


Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.


Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.


Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.


Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.


Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.


Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.