Trust is the key to shifting the power

09 Feb 2024

This blog originally appeared in Alliance magazine’s special feature on the #ShiftThePower Global Summit.


I got an opportunity to attend the #ShiftThePower Global Summit held in Bogotá, Colombia in December 2023. This blog highlights the most interesting experiences during and beyond the Summit that helped me gain diverse perspectives, especially on how trust can shift power.

Soni Khanal, Learning Manager at Accountability Lab Nepal & a #ShiftThePower Fellow

I reached Bogotá 42 hours after leaving Kathmandu (Nepal) via Doha and New York with my colleague from Nepal. We were exhausted and hungry when we reached our hotel. We immediately entered a nearby restaurant and ordered our first Colombian food – Arepa and Platano Maduro. We enjoyed every bite. After we were finished and relieved of our hunger, my colleague tried to pay the bill with his debit card. Unfortunately, the card did not work. We only had USD as cash and had not had time to exchange Colombian Pesos until then. The manager told us not to worry and come back later for the payment. That was my first experience of trust in Colombia. I immediately fell in love with the Colombian people and food.

Despite the exhaustion, with our hunger cured and our hearts full of Colombian kindness, we were ready to attend the Summit. The Summit was very different from the other conferences I have attended until now. The Summit made sure to give the local (Colombian) touch, which is often absent in international conferences. We had stalls to try Colombian fruits, juices, and coffee, and even learn basic Spanish words. To add to the flavor, there were more open and insightful conversations on the role of communities in forming more equitable and dignified development. The majority of the discussions led to one primary conclusion i.e., it is important to build trust between diverse actors that play a role in finding solutions to global challenges. It included trust between government and citizens, trust between different activists and their organizations, between aid providers and civil society organization (CSO) leaders, CSO leaders and communities, and more. In the paragraphs below, I highlight some cases where trust was noted as an important factor for inclusive and fair development.

  1. Development during crisis and war: One of the most thought-provoking remarks that I heard during the Summit was from Soheir Assad of Rawa Creative Palestinian Communities Fund, who said: “Instead of an immediate ceasefire, the government is focused on humanitarian aid in Palestine.” She mentioned that the citizens are losing their trust in both the government and humanitarian aid system as they are not focusing on ending the root cause of the problem and are focused on addressing the damage the problem has created. The need for food and shelter in Gaza is obvious but that would not be the case if there were no war or if the war came to a halt in the first place. If there is no war, the communities will find a way to survive. Addressing the root causes of the problem is important to meet real-development needs and win the trust of communities.
  1. Safe space over isolation: Atzimba Baltazar Macias, founder of two consulting firms Porbatio and Cometa in Mexico, shared that she is prioritizing staff well-being in her organization. She started a four-day work week for her staff which led to a two-fold increase in income in just a year. It also ended team exhaustion. During the session, most of us were putting ourselves in vulnerable positions as the Summit gave us a “safe space” with colleagues from other organizations to share our day-to-day struggles. But, there also came many solutions like that shared by Atzimba. This made me realize that it is important to create “safe spaces” to trust our team in the first place, as well as other organizations working in the same sphere, to discuss our struggles and find collective solutions.
  1. Measuring transformation: Meiska Irena Pramudhita from Indonesia for Humanity – a local grantmaking organization – shared about Pemakna a model established by the organization that provides an alternative to current monitoring and evaluation methods. Coined in Indonesian grammar, Pemakna – a person who carries out the meaning of giving – emphasizes qualitative impact, allocating funds for intermediary steps toward genuine transformative change. Recognizing transformation may take up to 25 years, the model trusts communities’ narratives to define what change means to them, contrasting with prevalent models focusing on numerical metrics.
  1. Acknowledging privilege and shifting power: During the Summit, we engaged in roleplay, assuming different roles as development actors. A key takeaway for me was the significance of shifting power not only within communities but also from our positions. Reflecting on how frequently we recognize and are willing to share our privilege is crucial. The allure of power and privilege, especially when tied to financial resources, often leads us to act in ways that maintain the status quo. Therefore, a vital question emerged: “Do we trust ourselves to act differently from current ways when we are in positions of power and privilege?”

Trust, for me, is the key to shifting the power. What do you think?


By: Soni Khanal, Learning Manager at Accountability Lab Nepal and a #ShiftThePower Fellow

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments