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Beyond professional begging

 

Being at the crossroads of different progressive movements has made us realize that we cannot just do more of the same. The fact that each year, the global system exploits more resources contributing to the quality of living than it (re)generates, will impact you whatever you are doing and whether you are interested or not.

So, where are donors?
“So much of our funding still doesn’t build for the future, but buys for the present” – was said at the #ShiftThePower Pathways to Power Symposium this week.

“We do a lot of developing capacities to strive within the system, but not necessarily to shift the power.” So, what do we need? Moving outside of bubbles and silos, but not being forced to cooperate with corrupt governments, businesses attacking labour and environmental rights and extractive “donors”, under their conditions. Ordinary people should have the power, but they should also develop mechanisms to overcome their biases and (self) harming practices. In times where donors withdrawing from certain regions, pushing for “community-led development” means leaving behind areas from which resources were extracted through developmental agendas and saying to communities that they should think small, only locally, not societal, not to mention on a systemic level. Communities are necessary, but not enough, there has to be a transformation on individual, institutional and systemic levels also. Many local initiatives can be catalysers for a change on a bigger scale, but it’s not going to be done through one more project. “I’m tired of being a professional beggar”, said Degan Ali, referring to prevailing practices in what was identified as a broken sector. Innovation vs continuity also need to be revised. The urge to innovate can break the continuity on a grassroots level. It cannot be reduced to a method. Activism is, in the first place, about politics and values behind the method. When new hot topics and burning areas emerge, it’s crucial to continue providing stable support to those who are leading same old struggles for years or decades, and at the same time finding means to support those new areas. Otherwise, we are just running in circles. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean recycling something that makes no sense anymore. Sometimes it’s only your guts and human wisdom telling you where to continue and when to turn to something different. Both ways are uncertain.

Where we’ll be in five years after the Symposium?
Will we still hear “we don’t support that topic” when you suggest to big donors to support people with disabilities? It’s not a topic! Those are the people doing better work to improve this world than most of us do! Are we sensitive to see that differently oppressed groups require different types of support in order to take the space they deserve in society? Do we hire responsible economical actors when organizing events instead of traditional businesses? Do we provide social benefits for people working for us? Do we pay attention to our ecological footprint, choose local, and manage our waste? Do we speak for those who are not in the room and building bigger rooms? Do we share instead of compete? Do we step back and allow others to be heard? Do we provide flexible core support for timely interventions, unpredictable struggles and pay attention not to overburden people with bureaucracy?

The way to survive is not to compete for scarce resources but to make our world livable
It’s a turbulent journey moving from recognizing, being able to talk about it, unlearning and acting responsibly. “Talking about power is not the same as shifting the power.” Make safety nets and recognize that we need each other, because everyone has something to contribute to the world.

Our positions and structures will inevitably change. The question is will we coordinate it and make space for each other or become fragmented and miss the last train for saving our planet and improve our society. You don’t want to be the last person on Earth.

“You don’t need everybody”, said someone referring to those who refuse to share the power. Are you ready to be the ones shaping the change or will you risk drowning in a fast-changing environment?

By: Marija Jakovljevic, Program Development Coordinator and Galina Maksimovic, Community Coordinator at the Reconstruction Women’s Fund

This blog also appears on the Alliance magazine website. It was part of a special feature on the Pathways to Power Symposium.

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