#ShiftThePower and Me: A projector, a flip chart and how I am finding my way

24 Feb 2022

Catherine Gordo works with a consortium composed of GlobalGiving, Nonprofit Finance Fund, the GFCF and Center for Disaster Preparedness that is embarking on an action learning programme dedicated to advancing community philanthropy and locally-led solutions in the Philippines through the programme “Assets, Agency, and Trust”, funded by USAID

I always think of myself as a good story-teller. Maybe because I enjoy listening to people’s stories and I allow them to move and affect me. I find that each story is unique, each life is different.

I turned 40 earlier this year and half of that time has been spent working for the development and humanitarian sector. I knew nothing about the sector when I jumped right in after graduating from university. My salary was not enough to pay the bills, we did “fieldwork” on weekends, and it was a one-person show most of the time – by this I mean you had to facilitate while documenting and if you could, bring in snacks for the meetings – if my hands were not too full carrying the overhead projector or flipchart. But I was immediately hooked because of the richness of conversations, genuine relationships, and collective passion to make a difference.

One decade later, I had my first taste of working for an international non-profit and my first experience in doing emergency response. I am ashamed to admit it, but it was also my first recognition of how I was silently arrogant just because I understood the so-called “international humanitarian architecture.” I attended cluster meetings; I could apply globally-agreed minimum indicators (yes, and not just standards) to emergency response programming; and, most of all, because I was a “donor.

I have climbed the career ladder and have had less time to listen to people’s stories. I spent more time on logical frameworks, understanding donor and back donor compliance requirements, preparing and amending contracts, reviewing budgets, writing proposals and reports – thinking that these are the important and productive tasks.

I mimicked and parroted jargon that made me sound like a certified international development professional. Some I knew by heart, others were mantras – well-meaning but could be hollow sometimes.


This is an excerpt of a blog written by Catherine Gordo. To read the piece in its entirety, head to the #ShiftThePower Treehouse.

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