4 Practical Ways to shift power and resources to Grassroots Movements

November 8, 2019

     By Duncan Green     

Civicus, the international network of civil society organizations, has some really interesting work on how donors and INGOs can get their act together in supporting the grassroots. Take your pick from the short summary, the full report (by Jennie Richmond, Matt Jackson & Bethany Eckley of impact works) or a short op-ed. Or just read these excerpts:

The problem:

  • A prevalence of short-term, project-based funding
  • Application processes that are inaccessible, complicated and lengthy
  • Burdensome reporting, compliance and risk management requirements
  • A long-term decline in international funds available, particularly for middle-income countries
  • Southern governments placing more restrictions on civil society
  • Power dynamics that allow funders to set the agenda and define ‘success’ and leave little room for southern CSOs to design their own interventions or respond to their changing contexts

Sound familiar?

Civicus agreed four criteria for developing fixes.They need to:

  • Offer long-term, core or flexible funding with accessible application processes and light-touch reporting requirements
  • Offer funding for more informal, potentially unregistered grassroots movements, particularly those operating in restrictive contexts
  • Build relationships between and among activists, funders and experts (local and international) that enable the reciprocal sharing of non-financial resources
  • Unlock other sources of resource that would reduce reliance on international funding

They then came up with four big ideas (arrived at through an exhaustively described process of consultation and participation):

Civicus' four big ideas

Finally, they reckon these fit the criteria to varying degrees as shown below.

Civicus' criteria

If you’re interested in this issue, do please read the full paper, which includes lots of examples of where these kinds of initiatives are already happening. What this paper adds is a really smart overall framework for thinking about the issue, born of a genuine discussion with grassroots movements themselves. Kudos.

If I could add one thing, it would be to focus more discussion overtly on how to help CSOs exit from dependence on fickle aid donors, for example by raising more of their funding domestically. That’s implicit in the online resourcing platform, but I think it needs to be more prominent.

November 8, 2019
Duncan Green