Weaving liberatory actions: Reflections from the #ShiftThePower Global Summit

04 Jan 2024

This blog also appears on the Liberation Alliance Africa website.


Oluwatobiloba Ayodele, Co-dreamer, Liberation Alliance Africa

The #ShiftThePower Global Summit took place at the Agora Center in Bogota in December 2023. The Summit served as a platform for creating “good collisions” and establishing connections among individuals shaping people-centred practices. These practices are driven from the grassroots, and the Summit also brought together those leading experiments and efforts to #ShiftThePower within the existing system.

The Summit marked the culmination of various global activities. Conversations leading to the Summit explored questions about how power can and should be transferred to communities, the practical implications of this shift, and the role of current philanthropic practices. What was also useful to these conversations was the #ShiftThePower Manifesto for Change as a guide and declaration of what we mean when we imagine communities in charge of their own development and producing a flourishing and safe life.

For us at Liberation Alliance Africa, we focused our energies on exploring decolonial feminist philanthropy in West Africa. As part of the #ShiftThePower movement, we delved into the role of power in the institutionalization of philanthropic practices in West Africa, investigating those who benefit from the current structures and those who do not and proposing ways to reshape the philanthropic system to be more locally-owned and locally-led.

The Summit hosted 700+ participants from around the world and was organized with care. There were buckets (what would have been called sessions at a more traditional gathering), lightning talks, moments to rest and connect, and to find some joy in the sweetness of the locally produced chocolates and coffee – the experience was thoughtfully curated and is reflected upon in this piece.

Reimagining governance and structures: Where did you first learn about governance and structures? In a bucket session on reimagining systems, organizational structures, and governance using arts and storytelling as a way to learn about governance we reflected on our early encounters with governance. The session prompted a shift in thinking about governance practices, bringing to light negative practices internalized over time. I realized many of us learned about governance and structures from our private and family lives, sometimes resulting in disempowerment. This raised a crucial question: what governance practices might inadvertently make them feel powerless or angry when building power with communities?

Power to the ones with the stories. Stories are everywhere; sometimes, we are story-tellers or story-weavers. When we decide to share stories from our communities, we must examine that our process inspires courage and the power of togetherness. If your story-telling advocacy does not centre the story-tellers, step back or step down to reshape your organizing. When we share stories from our communities, how do we honour their voices, experiences, emotions and names.

Are philanthropic organizations dismantling power structures or are they sustaining the power imbalance with their current donor practices? During a lightning talks on day two, Ambika Satkunanathan’s (of the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust in Sri Lanka) bold question challenged the audience, including representatives from bilateral/multilateral donor organizations, foundations, corporations and private philanthropic individuals. I found the session interesting and audacious to discuss the negative impact of the current philanthropic practices in building and sustaining a funding system that is locally-owned and locally-led. We discussed power and privilege and who benefits the most from donor-grantee relationships. The session further validates the questions we asked ourselves at Liberation Alliance Africa when we spoke with feminist organizers in West Africa about the current philanthropic practices in the region. Our discussion with them produced the report we titled Reclaiming Agency: Dreaming of a Decolonial Feminist Philanthropy in West Africa. The lightning talk propelled us – and I hope especially those on the grantmaking side – to commit to reshaping current funding practices and to be consciously aware of the power imbalances and take actions which means listening to the communities their money is going to.

Hope is a strategy, and we must embrace Hope as much as we embrace power. When Marie-Rose Romain Murphy of the Haiti Community Foundation started talking about Hope, I was like, whatttt ma’am!!! I tell you, it was a sermon and a critical delivery to raise our consciousness and demand that we remember Hope as our ancestral identity. Her submission resounds our audacity to dream and reminds us that the process to #ShiftThePower starts from recognizing the power within us. In an impassioned closing, Marie-Rose called on us to lean into the warmth, strength and sustenance that Hope brings.

In conclusion, this reflection piece extends intellectual solidarity and love to friends I dined with, danced with, laughed with, and exchanged liberatory thoughts and dreams. As the movement progresses, the collective journey continues with audacity, Hope, and a commitment to reshaping power dynamics for a more just and equitable world. Onwards we go!


By: Oluwatobiloba Ayodele, Co-dreamer, Liberation Alliance Africa

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Elizaphan Ogechi

With great love and hope. The audacity to dream and change the systems lies with the power we have