LINC was honored to be a part of the NEAR (Network for Empowered Aid Response) Leadership Forum in Nairobi in April 2018. NEAR is a coalition of local organizations working together to promote a locally-centered model of development based on equitable, dignified partnerships that minimize the gap between traditional aid and its beneficiaries. LINC has been a fan of the network since before it was launched in 2016. As proponents of locally-led development, we are very enthusiastic about the idea of local and national NGOs from developing countries coming together to learn from one another, provide support, conduct research, and advocate for practical changes to the way international aid is funded and implemented. You can read more about NEAR on their website at www.near.ngo.
The Leadership Forum was a great event that brought together approximately 50 organizations from 7 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. In addition to LINC’s presentation on Factors for Financial Sustainability of CSOs, drawing on our research for USAID’s Facilitating Financial Sustainability project, there were many valuable presentations and discussions. The conference covered a range of critical topics including organizational governance, leadership for the sector, financing, advocacy, sustainability, and strategic planning.
Here are thoughts on three of the many take-aways from the forum:
- Bigger is not necessarily better. Some great discussion coalesced around the widely-held belief that growth is necessary for success, and the reality that many times growth has the opposite effect. The misperceptions that bigger budgets are better and that international work and experience is more important than local knowledge still persist in many circles and must be corrected. Often this type of growth actually pulls organizations away from their constituents, asking practitioners to respond more to international donor interests than to the interests of the communities they serve. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
- The structure of aid is slowing localization. Donors, national NGOs, and others at the forum discussed the factors that are preventing localization of aid, and, no surprise to us, it’s about the system. Yes, capacity of local and national CSOs is a factor, but only one of many. Many donors are interested in changing their own way of working with local and national CSOs but face regulatory and budgetary barriers. International NGOs are also interested, but the incentives inherent in the system tend toward maintaining the status quo (or often even expanding their work rather than transitioning to local partners – see previous bullet point!). xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Local and National CSOs can (and must) advocate for change. CSO leaders brought great ideas and energy for advocacy and recognized the need for patience, communication, adaptability and a sense of humor. They agreed that even with other actors talking about localization, it is dependent on local and national CSOs to take a seat at the table and speak up – even when they aren’t invited.