Shift the Power – Ghanaian NGOs at the crossroads of relinquishing power to local communities

Deciphering from all that has been said and written about development cooperation, the crux of the matter ties with the effectiveness of aid.  As resilient as the international aid system is, many actors within the industry are embracing these criticisms in good faith and have taken bold steps aimed at changing the status quo. Indeed, there have been a few staggering reforms within the sector, including the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and follow up Accra Agenda for Action, where harmonization and alignment of aid, ownership, accountability, and other lofty idealisms aimed at a sector wide reform took center stage.

In recent times, an approach that is receiving critical acclaim and gaining momentum is #ShiftThePower. Perceivably, proponents of this idea are calling for a balance in the power dynamics between donor and recipient, as the panacea for improving the effectiveness of aid and transferring agency to the ‘people’. As noted by Mawdsley et al. (2002), a recurring challenge that continues to be amplified over time is the asymmetry of power between donor, beneficiary communities and implementing civil society organizations. These issues have been a key reason for the failure of the effectiveness and efficiency of development interventions. Inadvertently, the frustrations have spurred debates, and ideas about innovative ways to shift power to communities.

This paper argues that for any meaningful change of power to happen, there is a need for a reordering of the relationship between local NGOs and communities. A deeper dive into how the NGO sector is organized and structured in Ghana, vis-à-vis the communities they “represent” and draw legitimacy is needed.

Author: Gervin Chanase, Programme Officer for Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI)

Published: October 2021

Published by: STAR Ghana Foundation and WACSI as part of the Giving for Change programme

Download: ‘Shift the Power – Ghanaian NGOs at the crossroads of relinquishing power to local communities

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