*New*: #PowerShifts Resources

Remember a month ago we told you about an exciting new project we’ve launched and asked all of you to suggest names for it? After many debates, confusion, over-thinking, we have it.

Because this exercise that FP2P is embarking on implies shifting the power of who’s talking, what we’re talking about, how we’re talking about it, and acknowledging all of this is in fact plural…we’re calling this new project Power Shifts. What do you think? 

Here’s Duncan and I talking a bit more about what we’ve started doing, and what we’re aiming towards: 

And as part of this Power Shifting, we think it deserves some more space on here too.

We know how much you enjoy Duncan’s weekly Links I Liked. It’s a place to find information that you might’ve missed in your Twitter scrolls and hours of surfing down the rabbit holes of the dev web. And it occasionally features pretty crazy stuff that’s happening in the world (like the latest pictures of superheroes in the Indonesian elections).

This is going to keep happening, don’t worry. But in addition, I (Maria) will be compiling content that you most probably won’t have stumbled upon – not because you don’t care about what real people have to say about the real issues they’re coping with, but because our crafted virtual echo chambers sometimes make it really hard to access circles of information we’re not part of.

This bi-weekly stream will offer a list of resources on a range of topics from voices around the world, interesting stories about how change (really) happens, initiatives worth checking out, and reflections for all of us to engage in. 

Sound good? If you stumble on something interesting that talks about shifting power and challenges assumptions about how change happens, let me know! You can tag me on twitter (maria_fm) or write me through our *new* contact form.

For this week, here are the top 6 #PowerShifts resources that I learned a lot from:

1. I found this read on decolonizing economics in Africa very compelling. “Rethinking economics for Africa is a duty”.

“There is no discussion about the role of the values, culture, history or psychology that shapes the decisions of individuals. Does this rational agent live in places where the group comes before the individual and where the principle of ubuntu, that you are through others, is valued? Without context, the teaching and production of knowledge is not rooted in the conditions we face, and there is a real risk of developing professional expertise that is inappropriate and potentially damaging.”

2.  “We must reimagine our cities by rejecting inequalities, unjust designs, and unsustainable growth, and redefine the urban agenda from the lens of the working poor, with participative planning at its heart”. Read this  interesting piece on a citizens’ charter of demands for inclusive and just urban development in India. You can find more information about their demands here.

3. Zimbabwean psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda trained grandmothers to support people with mental health conditions and talk about how to find solutions to their problems in a Friendship Bench. Dr Chibanda has plans for the bench to go global and stand as an example of South-to-North learning.

4. Check out the new LICCI initiative aiming to bring indigenous & local knowledge perspectives to climate change research and policy.

5. The Good, The Bad and The Jargon: A great piece on development jargon, and why we shouldn’t use it. Also on how language shapes policy.

6. Lastly, here are 12 development journalists to follow on social media, because it really matters who is telling the stories. “That’s why we challenge ourselves to think critically not only about what we cover but also whom we commission” – applies to Power Shifts too.

See you in a couple of weeks, and do please keep sending top links to share.

Top image photo: John McCann

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10 Responses to “*New*: #PowerShifts Resources”
  1. Robert Smith

    Sounds good! This is a really great initiative, and I look forward to reading on. And, thanks for the past and future efforts, they are a valuable resource.

    • Maria Faciolince

      Thanks for your comment, Robert! We hope we can keep expanding these resources based on our collective findings and knowledge.
      Do send on any links/ideas/interesting voices you might know of.

  2. Hello Maria, Are you aware that there is a global #ShiftThePower movement that has emerged in the last few years, largely from the global south? It has come from what has typically been the dynamic, emergent, locally-owned and driven part of the system which consistently gets overlooked / sidelined by the big machinery of international development and has been shaped and characterised by the kinds of new thinking and practices that both challenge the current system and offer important insights into what a truly “power-shifted” development system might look like in the future. I hope that this is just an oversight on the part of Oxfam, rather than an attempt to appropriate? Surely it makes sense for those serious about the transformation of development aid to work collectively towards this rather than create new spaces with similar kinds of names? Indeed, meaningfully engaging INGOs on this topic (as described in this blog https://www.rethinkingpoverty.org.uk/cross-posts/shiftthepower-two-years/) has been a consistent challenge….

    • Maria Faciolince

      Hi Jenny, thanks for your comment and for raising this point. We are taking on this exercise not as one of replacing or appropriating conversations, but rather opening up a new space for them in this ‘dev bubble’, precisely as a way to meaningfully engage with them. For example, this resources page aims to compile already-existing content that often gets overlooked by readers in the dev sector. We need to be hearing these voices in places where typically they have not been heard or listened to.

      On the name issue, we took a few things into consideration when deciding on Power Shift, which might be good to share with you and anyone else interested:
1) This is not a branding exercise – we are merely adding a stream of new content to the FP2P platform. It is not a standalone project and will exist within the usual FP2P content (precisely, again, to not create another tokenised and cordoned-off “southern voices” corner). Hence, it won’t have its own Twitter channel – the hashtag will only be used to track this content stream.
      2) This framing stems from the original “From Poverty to Power” messaging, and we chose words that would not lead to confusion with other hashtags (e.g. this is #PowerShift as opposed to #ShiftThePower)

      3) These words have been used by many others because of the powerful message they represent (e.g. Global Power Shift, Power Shift Network, etc.). This shows the range of overlapping work which is being done across different spaces of action to rebalance asymmetries in power, representation and visibility. I see this is an opportunity for collaboration.

      We’d love to be in touch – do write me a message to continue this conversation.

  3. Edicio dela Torre

    Thank you for this timely project. A small suggestion: Why not add an “s” (as in PowerShifts), to recognize that there is more than one shift – from North to South, to shifts within the North and within the South.

  4. Jon Edwards

    I have problems with this.

    I apologise at the start about the length of this response but the issues are too important to gloss over. For the record, I work as a philanthropy advisor.

    This highlights for me all that is wrong with the international (and for that matter national) “development” industry. Shifting the power initiatives are already out there – and require a detailed examination of practice by agencies such as Oxfam rather than launching something “new” – though actually additional as others have pointed out. Organisations such as Oxfam need to be subservient to existing work on this, not trying to lead the field and claim ownership.

    I recently reviewed Oxfam’s 2018/19 annual report (https://www.oxfam.org.uk/what-we-do/about-us/plans-reports-and-policies/annual-report-and-accounts-2018?cid=rdt_oldannualreview). A few thoughts:

    Throughout, the report reads “we did this”, “we did that”.

    Firstly, no “you” didn’t. You had a role to play but other organisations, institutions, communities and people achieved things.

    Secondly, if it were really true that Oxfam did this or that, isn’t that the kind of unsustainable, arrogant, top-down, donor-driven attitude and practice that any movement to shift power needs to change?

    People need to lead their own change, using and building on the resources they have. The international development community and others have a role to play in that – but to claim achievements as your own work is both untrue and counter-productive.

    Here’s an example from page 20. “We also achieved notable policy successes, including influencing local governments in Tacloban and Salcedo in the Philippines.” Why? Why does Oxfam GB need to influence the policies of local government in the Philippines? Or is it disingenuous? Did others, perhaps even Filipino citizen groups, actually do this? I don’t think it is Oxfam GB’s role to do that influencing directly.

    Where do Oxfam’s partners appear in the report? Where is their commitment, their passion, their work, their successes, their failures? Where is such dignity provided to them – even a decent acknowledgement of the apparently minor role they play?

    Well, on page 21 there is reference to a coalition – of other donors. On page 22 reference to a consortium but no other organisations are mentioned. Organisations which do get an acknowledgement – corporate and other partners (great work Burberry, M&S, Sainsbury’s by the way). Lots of acknowledgement of other donors – indeed the “Thank you” at the end is all about them, listed in all their glory.

    This makes clear, to me, who Oxfam believes it to be primarily accountable to.

    To be fair, page 64 does list the top 50 grants made as part of the detailed accounts – nothing on the work and impact of these illustrious 50 though. On examination, however, of the top 10, it looks like 6 of them are other international NGOs.

    At least there’s a mention though.

    By way of contrast, incidentally, I looked at the annual report of Global Fund for Community Foundations since they responded to this blog earlier (http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/698758/28056631/1547195997110/GFCF_AnnualReport_2017-18.pdf?token=Q3CgP%2FN3S5XsH9Jvwh8VF67Jzic%3D). What a difference – all the achievements demonstrated through work with local partners – you can’t move for reading about their stories; funders noted on the penultimate page.

    In the current Oxfam GB Strategic Plan, you note that “Oxfam’s role is to enable transformational change, as convenor and catalyst”. The first Operational Goal is to create a “Worldwide Influencing Network”. The Annual Report makes clear that this is really to strengthen Oxfam globally as an institution – and perhaps there is a need for that – but it doesn’t go further – it doesn’t Shift the Power. To use your own words, it is not a Power Shift.

    There is a need for a greater network of influencers globally. There are many fantastic things happening all over – citizens and communities all over the world, marginalised from mainstream “development” practice – are doing things for themselves, at the “grassroots”, using their own resources, defining and implementing solutions themselves for the challenges they face.

    Oxfam – and countless others – need to be subservient to that work, collaborate with it, come alongside it, seek to support these pockets of change, help them to connect locally, nationally, globally; build visibility of this work, highlight it, profile your real partners, showcase them; join – don’t lead them, don’t tell them, don’t undermine their power.

    • Duncan Green

      thanks Jon, not sure how to break this to you, but we agree! That last para pretty neatly sums up what Maria, I and others in Oxfam are trying to do with this initiative

  5. I am perplexed by this thread. On the one hand, Jenny Hodgson has raised serious difficulties with the label #PowerShift Resources because it appears to borrow from the #ShiftThePower movement without acknowledgement. Jon Edwards agrees, and follows up with a detailed critique of Oxfam suggesting that it may be showing an ‘…unsustainable, arrogant, top-down, donor-driven attitude and practice that any movement to shift power needs to change.’

    On the other hand, Duncan Green agrees with Jon that Oxfam needs to ‘…to be subservient to that work, collaborate with it, come alongside it, seek to support these pockets of change,’ yet says that this is the reason Oxfam is embarking on #PowerShift Resources.

    Is this cognitive dissonance? Or is it a split between the Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea?

    I think that this is serious and fundamental. Tectonic plates are shifting in the development space. The Global Summit on Community Philanthropy held in Johannesburg in December 2016 gave birth to a southern based global movement using the hashtag #ShiftThePower. The initial idea stemmed from an article published in Alliance. Since then, the movement has gained traction as southern based actors seek to decolonise the top-down development industry and shift power from the centre to the edges where it belongs.

    Increasingly, many in the movement see INGOs as barriers to progress. Your initiative to use the hashtag #PowerShift Resources is apt to reinforce that view.

    To resolve this, it would be helpful if Oxfam could set out how it aims to work with southern based movements to shift the power.

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