Unveiling the philanthropic landscape: A reflective journey
12 Jul 2023
The GFCF #ShiftThePower peer-learning event held at the Tewa Center in Kathmandu in May 2023 was a diverse assembly of philanthropic actors hailing from various corners of the world. Unbeknownst to me, as I stepped into this dynamic space, it ignited a profound odyssey of introspection and rigorous scrutiny of power dynamics within the realm of philanthropy. The event’s discussion and insights proved to be a thought-provoking experience, stimulating me to re-evaluate my preconceived notions regarding the significance of an organization such as mine – Indonesia untuk Kemanusiaan (IKa for short, and in English Indonesia for Humanity) – in our capacity as a civil society resource organization.
The event served as a revelation, shedding light on the frequently disregarded power dynamics that are deeply ingrained in intermediary organizations. It implored us to meticulously unravel the intricacies and conscientiously evaluate our influence on the communities we cater to. We found ourselves compelled to ponder whether our well-meaning endeavours inadvertently uphold a narrative that deprives local communities of their autonomy and resources. It became clear to me that we must relinquish this stigmatization and cultivate a milieu where communities are acknowledged as proactive agents of change and decision-makers in their own regard.
“We found ourselves compelled to ponder whether our well-meaning endeavours inadvertently uphold a narrative that deprives local communities of their autonomy and resources.”
The discussions too underscored the pressing imperative to transcend conventional donor-recipient dynamics and to re-conceptualize partnerships as equitable collaborations. We have to cast off the lens of external presumptions and embrace a more nuanced approach. We ought not to impose prescriptive solutions, but rather be committed to active listening, adaptation, and support. The conversations underscored the significance of acknowledging that communities inherently possess their own knowledge, resources and capabilities. All too frequently, these invaluable assets go untapped, hindered by external perceptions that portray communities as being devoid of agency or resources. It is by deconstructing biases and power structures that we can pave a fresh path toward the genuine empowerment of communities.
Nurturing localization and ownership poses its fair share of challenges. It necessitates humility and a steadfast dedication to sustained involvement. However, the rewards are profound: a philanthropic landscape that is both equitable and sustainable, empowering communities to become the architects of their own development.
As participants from diverse backgrounds and philanthropic fields shared their experiences and insights, a shared comprehension materialized – that Southern civil society possesses the tremendous capacity to defy, shape and forge a fresh framework of authority and unity. However, in order to grasp this notion, we must transcend the limitations of conventional gathering spaces and authentically embody the ideals we strive to uphold. Merely engaging in discussions and formulating strategies falls short; we must behave like a movement in action.
To embody the essence of a movement, we must go beyond mere passive participation. In order to truly make a difference, we must exhibit a willingness to step outside our comfort zones, challenge the status quo, and rally others to join us in our pursuit of justice and equity.
As a citizen of the Global South, I believe that we bear a distinctive obligation to propel this movement onward. It is imperative that we tap into our collective power, utilizing the richness of our varied expertise and experiences to push for meaningful transformation. The change we strive for cannot be entrusted solely to external actors or institutions. Instead, we have to take responsibility for our destinies and emerge as agents of transformation in our own regard. It entails harnessing our networks, both online and offline, forging connections, exchanging resources and cultivating cooperation. It is important that we do not shy away from confronting deeply ingrained systems and structures that perpetuate both inequality and exploitation.
“None of us simply exists as passive participants in the grand scheme of things; for we are the catalysts of change and the architects of our own progress.”
We shall draw inspiration from the historical currents that have shaped our world, from the battles for civil rights to the relentless struggles against colonialism and systemic oppression. These movements were propelled by everyday individuals who rejected the prevailing order and dared to imagine an alternative future.
Ultimately, the focus extends beyond IKa or any solitary institution. It encompasses a collaborative endeavour that surpasses geographical boundaries and empowers the communities we are dedicated to supporting.
None of us simply exists as passive participants in the grand scheme of things; for we are the catalysts of change and the architects of our own progress.
By: Meiska Irena Pramudhita, Resource Mobilization Assistant at Indonesia untuk Kemanusiaan
This blog was written following a meeting of GFCF partners and #ShiftThePower allies held at the Tewa Center in Kathmandu in May 2023. The convening was a deliberate effort to bring together people from different parts of the civil society ecosystem, whether they were working on community philanthropy, gender, climate, community development, indigenous rights, disaster preparedness and relief, localization or peacebuilding (or a mixture of several of these) to explore the idea of the “system we want.”