An open letter to International NGOs who are looking to ‘localise’ their operations

17 Mar 2020

Languages available:   English Español Français Português

Our plea is that you work with us, not against us. We need to be supported, not competed with.



This letter, which originally appeared on Open Democracy and has since also been translated into French, Portuguese and Spanish (see above for links), is the product of a protracted, heated, angry and passionate discussion that took place on the #ShiftThePower WhatsApp group in early March. Several people on the group had been approached separately by International NGOs who wanted to learn about their experiences in local fundraising and building community philanthropy, but in ways that all felt were ‘extractive.’ These interactions point to the growing trend for INGOs to look further afield for resources to fill the funding gap that many are experiencing.


March 5th 2020

Dear INGOs:

Thank you for taking an interest in our countries. We represent a wide range of national and subnational organisations based in countries – mostly in the global south – where you often work. We have probably even been in meetings together or have been represented in the success stories you give to your supporters.

We appreciate that over the years, many of you have sought to help deliver much-needed services, and have helped to elevate some issues of concern, like debt relief, gender or climate change, to the world stage.

But times are changing. And you have (rightly) been facing a number of critiques in recent years – around your legitimacy, your ‘whiteness’ or the fact that far more aid money ultimately ends up in the pockets of northern organisations’ headquarters than it does in the Global South.

We see that you’re trying to respond to these critiques by ‘localising’, as we’ve been asked to meet with your highly paid consultants on numerous occasions. The strategy is pretty common: usually you start by creating a ‘local organisation’ with a local board. A next step that we’re seeing is that you enter the world of DRM – ‘Domestic Resource Mobilisation’ – to raise money from within our countries. This latter aspect is probably also down to the fact that your traditional incomes from the rich North/West are starting to diminish, so this has the added bonus of replenishing lost incomes.

In theory, this probably sounds great to your northern ears: local middle-income people should indeed ‘own’ their civil society, especially as a response to growing concerns around closing civic space and authoritarian governments. We couldn’t agree with you more on this principle.

But there are things we object to and some suggestions about how you can use your international muscle to help us more effectively than through this misguided localisation agenda.

What happens in practice is that these efforts only serve to reinforce the power dynamic at play, and ultimately to close the space for domestic civil society. This can be illustrated quite simply: a multi-million-dollar INGO, with an entire marketing, communications and fundraising team, whose project budget for this endeavour probably outstrips that of most of our national organisations for a year, then comes into the South to raise money ‘domestically’.

Perhaps the board has set a target of raising 30% of total income directly from the South. That’s not an additional million dollars, that’s a million or more dollars taken away from local civil society. And worse still, most of this money will be siphoned off to pay for their own inner workings, rather than be invested on the ground.

All of this serves to weaken us locally. It keeps us in a master/servant relationship continuously begging for grants from your institutions, while we remain bereft of core funding ourselves. This is not what we need or want.

Instead, here’s how you can be more helpful with your ‘DRM’ investment: if you are serious about ‘shifting power’ then reduce your footprint and brand and use your fundraising machinery to help grassroots organisations create the structures to fundraise for themselves and sustain their work.

We need the infrastructure for people to raise money domestically and from diaspora, not to be competing with big global INGOs. What is ultimately needed is to strengthen and scale up southern civil society, not to be pushed out of our own communities and markets.

Do you need to exist in every country with your brand? No. There are often local organisations, like ourselves, who work effectively on the ground, with better connections to the local community. And many of us also have the skills and capacity to represent our issues on the world stage.

We represent an eclectic mixture of organisations, but we are, increasingly, uniting under the banner or hashtag of #ShiftThePower and its “Manifesto for Change.”

Our plea is that you work with us, not against us. We need to be supported, not competed with, and certainly not replaced.


  1. A Mile Away (AMA), Zambia
  2. Abibiman Foundation, Ghana
  3. ACPDH/FS-DDH, Burundi
  4. Activate Labs, Mexico/US
  5. ADESO, Kenya
  6. Advocacy Core Team, Zimbabwe
  7. Africa Health and Nutrition, Kenya
  8. African Diaspora Relocation Agency
  9. African Network of Youth Policy Experts, Botswana
  10. African Philanthropy Network
  11. AFroIDEA, Kenya, Uganda, Swaziland and Nigeria
  12. Agency for Peace and Development, Kenya
  13. Airavati Organisation (Hlaing Tsp), Myanmar
  14. AJSA, India
  15. Albanian Society for All Ages, Albania
  16. Alliance for Holistic and Sustainable Development Communities (AHSDC), India
  17. Ammbr Communities, South Africa
  18. AMO Programme, Ghana
  19. Approche Participative, Développement et Santé de Proximité (APDSP), Cameroon
  20. Arusha Municipal Community Foundation, Tanzania
  21. ASDA, Chad
  22. Ashake Foundation, Nigeria
  23. Assembly of Social Mobilization, Sri Lanka
  24. Association Cri de Cœur pour l’Equité et le Développement (ACCED), Burkina Faso
  25. Balance Promoción para el Desarrollo y Juventud AC, Mexico
  26. Bala Vikasa Social Service Society, India
  27. Banadir Development Foundation, Somalia
  28. Bangladesh Internet Governance Forum, Bangladesh
  29. Bangladesh NGO Network for Radio and Communication, Bangladesh
  30. Burundi Child Rights Coalition, Burundi
  31. Butterflies, India
  32. Care for Nature Zambia, Zambia
  33. Caring Volunteers Network (CAVNET), Ghana
  34. Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), Philippines
  35. Center for Development Support Initiatives, Nigeria
  36. Center for Economic Development – Cameroon
  37. Centre for Peace and Democracy (CPD), Somalia
  38. Centre for Trade Policy and Development, Zambia
  39. Centre Résolution Conflits (CRC), Democratic Republic of the Congo
  40. Child Care Center, India
  41. Children and Youth Development Society, India
  42. Civil Society Empowerment Network, Afghanistan
  43. COAST, Bangladesh
  44. Comite Regional de Solidarite des Femmes pour la Paix en Casamance, Senegal
  45. Community Care for Emergency Response and Rehabilitation, Myanmar
  46. Community Foundation for the Western Region of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
  47. Community Self Reliance Centre, Nepal
  48. Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE) , Uganda
  49. Community World Service Asia, Pakistan
  50. CORAFID Centre for Innovation and Research, Nigeria
  51. Councillors for Development & Trainings, Pakistan
  52. Coxs Bazaar CSO/NGO Forum, Bangladesh
  53. Dakar Community Outreach, Senegal
  54. Dalia Association, Palestine
  55. Dalit Community Foundation, India
  56. Dalit Women Fight, India
  57. Development and Justice Initiative, India
  58. Development Expertise Center, Ethiopia
  59. Development Research and Advocacy, Ghana
  60. Dr Meheret Ayenew, Research Fellow FSS and Adjunct Faculty, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
  61. East Africa Philanthropy Network
  62. Ecumenical Commission for Human Development, Pakistan
  63. Emma Crewe, SOAS University of London, UK
  64. Equality for Growth, Tanzania
  65. Equilibrium Centre, South Africa
  66. Family for Every Child
  67. FemPlatz, Serbia
  68. Firelight Foundation
  69. Foundation for Civil Society in Tanzania, Tanzania
  70. Foundation for Social Transformation, India
  71. Free Expression Myanmar (FEM), Myanmar
  72. Friends, Bangladesh
  73. Fundaçâo Micaia, Mozambique
  74. Fund for Congolese Women, Democratic Republic of Congo
  75. Gargaar Relief and Development Organisation, Somalia
  76. Ghana Philanthropy Forum, Ghana
  77. Global Fund for Community Foundations, South Africa
  78. Global Information and Social Resource Foundation – GISRF
  79. Global Peace Association, Ghana
  80. Golden Red Foundation, India
  81. Graca Foundation, South Africa
  82. Gramin Evam Nagar Vikas Parishad (GENVP), India
  83. Greenline Africa, Zimbabwe
  84. Greenfield Africa Foundation, Ghana
  85. Green String Network, Kenya
  86. HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, India
  87. Hard Rock Self-Sufficiency Foundation, Nigeria
  88. HEAPIDER-Concern, Inc., Liberia
  89. Help Foundation for Victims of Insurgency in Nigeria, Nigeria
  90. Helpers Social Development Foundation, Nigeria
  91. Hope for Young Girls and Boys, Zambia
  92. Hope Village Society, Egypt
  93. Horn of Africa Voluntary Youth Committee (HAVOYOCO), Somaliland and Ethiopia
  94. House of Consciousness (HoC), Zambia
  95. Inclusive Climate Change Adaptation for a Sustainable Africa
  96. Indonesia for Humanity (Indonesia untuk Kemanusiaan / IKA), Indonesia
  97. Initiative Pananetugri pour le Bien-etre de la Femme, Burkina Faso
  98. Instituto de Comunicación y Desarrollo (ICD), Uruguay
  99. International Foundation for Students and Youth Development (IFSYD), Ghana
  100. Jijenge Youth Organization, Kenya
  101. Joint – Liga de ONGs em Mocambique, Mozambique
  102. Kaalo, Somalia
  103. Keepers Zambia Foundation, Zambia
  104. Kenya Community Development Foundation, Kenya
  105. Kenya Pastoralist Journalist Alliance Trust, Kenya
  106. K & R Welfare and Placement Services, Papua New Guinea
  107. Lasphumakhona Community Development Projects (LCDP), South Africa
  108. L’Association CEDRE 17 pour Un Développement Inclusif et Durable (AC17), Morocco
  109. Les Jeunes Ambassadeurs de l’Environnement pour le Développement durable, Guinea
  110. Let Them Help Themselves (LTHT), Uganda
  111. LetsStopAIDS, Canada
  112. LifeLine ONG, Benin
  113. LIN Center for Community Development, Vietnam
  114. Majal, Bahrain
  115. Makutano ya Wajasiriamali (MAWA), Tanzania
  116. Mars Football Foundation, India
  117. Masila Ghana Foundation, Ghana
  118. Maurisante, Mauritius
  119. Mauritius Council for Social Services, Mauritius
  120. Mbao Ngula, Zambia
  121. Migrant Support Network, Guyana
  122. MILAP, Nepal
  123. Mizu Eco-Care, Zambia
  124. Mona Younis, Human Rights Advocate
  125. Multikids Africa, Ghana
  126. Nabadion Youth Alliance Southwest State, Somalia
  127. Ngetha Media Association for Peace (NMAP), Uganda
  128. Nigerian Women Agro Allied Farmers Association, Nigeria
  129. Norsaac, Ghana
  130. N’weti, Mozambique
  131. NZP+ Mufumbwe, Zambia
  132. Okereke Ukeje Foundation, Nigeria
  133. Olive Luena Education Trust, Tanzania
  134. Orbeliani, Georgia
  135. PACT Foundation, Romania
  136. Pallisa Civil Society Organisations’ Network, Uganda
  137. Pan African Positive Women’s Coalition, Zimbabwe
  138. Passion to Serve, South Africa
  139. Participatory Action for Community Empowerment Foundation (PEACE), Zambia
  140. Participatory Development Associates, Ghana
  141. People’s Action Forum (PAF), Zambia
  142. People’s Process on Housing and Poverty, Zambia
  143. Personal Initiative for Positive Empowerment (PIPE), Kenya
  144. Positive-Generation, Cameroon
  145. Professor Emma Crewe, Director, on behalf of Global Research Network on Parliaments and People, UK
  146. Rawa Creative Palestinian Communities Fund, Palestine
  147. Reaching the Unreached Tanzania (RUT), Tanzania
  148. Reality of Aid Africa Network, Kenya
  149. Reformed Open Community Schools, Zambia
  150. Reproductive Health and Rights Advocacy Initiative (REHEaRD), Nigeria
  151. Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile pour le Développement (RESOCIDE), Burkina Faso
  152. Resilliance, Morocco
  153. Rita Thapa, Founder of Tewa – the Nepal Women’s Fund and Nagarik Aawaz, Nepal
  154. Romanian Foundation for Children, Community and Family (FRCCF), Romania
  155. Ruth Foundation, Zambia
  156. Sahakarmi Samaj, Nepal
  157. Sahara Advocates for Change, Ghana
  158. Salamander Trust, UK
  159. Sangama, India
  160. Save Somali Women and Children (SSWC), Somalia
  161. SEED Malaysia, Malaysia
  162. Selma Foundation, Ghana
  163. Sense, India
  164. Sera Thabiti, Kenya
  165. Social Empowerment for Economic Development, South Africa
  166. Social Life and Agricultural Development Foundation, Somalia
  167. Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Developpement Integral “SOFEPADI”, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  168. Solidarity Foundation, India
  169. Somalia Humanity Support, Somalia
  170. Somalia Women and Youth Empowerment Initiative, Somalia
  171. STAR Ghana Foundation, Ghana
  172. Success Capital Organisation, Botswana
  173. Surman Sansthan, India
  174. Sustainability Leadership Kosova, Kosovo
  175. Sustainable Impact for Development in Africa (SIDAF), Cameroon
  176. Taakulo Somali Community, Somalia and Ethiopia
  177. Tanzania Community Foundation Network, Tanzania
  178. The People’s Matrix Association, Lesotho
  179. Thubutu Africa Initiatives, Tanzania
  180. Twerwaneho Listeners’ Club, Uganda
  181. UDYAMA, India
  182. Uganda National NGO Forum, Uganda
  183. UHAI-EASHIRI, Kenya
  184. United Social Welfare Society, Pakistan
  185. Usikimye, Kenya
  186. Vision Changers Kenya, Kenya
  187. Watershed Organisation Trust, India
  188. WASDA, Kenya
  189. Wajir South Development Association, Kenya and Somalia
  190. West Africa Civil Society Institute, Ghana
  191. Whole Planet Initiative, Nigeria
  192. Women Aspire Network, Ghana
  193. Women for India Foundation, India
  194. XOESE – Le Fond pour les Femmes Francophones, Togo
  195. Yayasan Usaha Mulia (Foundation for Noble Work), Indonesia
  196. You-Nik Children’s Initiative, Zambia
  197. Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) Mongu, Zambia
  198. Youth Development and Voice Initiative (YOVI), Ghana
  199. Youth Gate Zimbabwe Trust, Zimbabwe
  200. Youth Harvest Foundation, Ghana
  201. YouthNet Nagaland, India
  202. Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB), Zambia
  203. Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD), Zambia
  204. Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC), Zambia
  205. Zambian Governance Foundation for Civil Society (ZGF), Zambia
  206. Zamzam Foundation, Somalia

If you wish to add your name or organization to this list, please insert the details in a comment below, or email Wendy Richardson at the GFCF ( A version of the letter can also be downloaded in French, Portuguese and Spanish.

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Norsaac, GhanaFiona ManonnDerick SmithBanadir Development Foundation (BADEF) SomaliaLuckson J. Otabor Recent comment authors
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Hamusunga George
Hamusunga George

Actually what is amazing is that some cooperating partners feel that local organizations lack capacity and therefore they can only perform if they partner with INGOs who can build their capacity. This is surprising because most of the staff working for INGOs actually come from local NGOs and vice-versa.

Barbara Nost
Barbara Nost

I cannot agree more, George.

Aboubakar Akilimali
Aboubakar Akilimali

Add my organization : Burundi Child Rights Coalition

Roselle Rasay
Roselle Rasay

Please add our organization – Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), Philippines

Amanda Griffith, CEO of Family for Every Child
Amanda Griffith, CEO of Family for Every Child

Family for Every Child, a global alliance of local civil society organisations, is in complete solidarity with these statements. We were formed in 2014 to address exactly these dynamics in international collaboration and to demonstrate that local practitioners have a crucial role to play, an important contribution to make and a unique expertise to share not just nationally but internationally too.

Samson Lukwanda
Samson Lukwanda

Add our organisation Younik Children’s Initiative

Sophie Kange
Sophie Kange

I stand in solidarity to condemn that act of INGOs and onbehalf of my Organisation Uganda National NGO Forum we join the world to apend our signature on the statement. Please add my Organisations name- Uganda National NGO Forum.

Okereke Ukeje Foundation
Okereke Ukeje Foundation

We as well support those idea’s.