There is widespread consensus that in partnerships for development, too much power is in the hands of donors and international NGOs, while partners in the South lack agency. Despite consensus, power imbalances persist. Apparently, translating theory into practice remains difficult. Why is there a counterproductiver discrepancy and what is needed to change? The Community of Practice on Shifting Power addresses these core questions.
This partnership is financially supported by the Civil Society Strengthening Program of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the strengthening of southern ownership is a shared ambition.
What is power
Power is the ability to influence decision making, mobilise resources and implement policies. Power more than often results in achievement, also in development cooperation.
However, the distribution of power in current partnerships is often very uneven. Those with the most power, usually the donors, and to a lesser extent the INGOs, are not always the most knowledgeable about the local situation or about the change needed and how to achieve this. Shifting power to Southern-based civil society is important in order to realise lasting and locally-led social change, and to build partnerships that are effective and based on trust.
The Power Awareness Tool
In 2019 and 2020 the Partos Shift-the-Power innovation lab developed the Power Awareness Tool. This tool brings to light power in decision-making in partnership relations, enabling partners to analyse and reflect on power relations. The Power Awareness Tool is currently in use by some of the Strategic Partnerships, and by Dutch and Southern-based organisations. It is being shared and promoted by INGO platforms, like BOND, Interaction and the Berlin Civil Society Centre.