If you are reading this, you are a rebel.
And if ever there was a time to be a rebel, it is now.
Find me one person who didn’t join the global development sector because they wanted the world to change. One person who wasn’t enraged or anguished by people’s suffering, including their own.
This is why I find it astounding as I check my Twitter feeds, and the same ol’ #globaldev speak is going on. Talk of “accountability frameworks” and the “future of public sector innovation” and “how data can improve education outcomes” and “business support of the #SDGs.” It’s as if our sector has continued on, business as usual, despite the year that was 2016.
The world is changing – far beyond and in spite of our good efforts. History tells us that shifts in political power, societal mores, and rights achieved for marginalized people are attained through movements – through people coming together to make demands. In other words, movements are how ordinary people make history.
And the stakes are that high, all around the world.
Thus the only question for us in global development right now is this: Are we supporting the making of history, or inhibiting it? Do our organizations and funding mechanisms help unleash people power, or get in the way?
And here’s the thing. We know the answer. Yet here we are decades(!) after participatory approaches were popularized, and have yet to overcome the power dynamics that control strategy and resources and mirror a worldview that no longer exists for most of us below the age of, well, let’s just say us Generation X’ers and younger.
People in the Global North are being re-awakedened to their rebel selves as their own countries face major economic and political and social challenges. Let’s take that new self- and collective knowledge and apply it to our work within and with donors agencies, NGOs, foundations, social enterprises, etc.
What if we redefined our roles not as project managers or technical experts, but refocused our efforts on getting more support into the ecosystems, and the phenomena that are social movements?
We are being asked in this moment, to no longer stay solely in our heads. We are being asked to rethink all of our conventional wisdom and “good practice” around going to scale and impact evaluation. We are being asked to get behind existing efforts where people are coming together. We are being asked to forge new alliances and partnerships that will challenge us. We are being asked, deeply, to no longer pretend that apolitical or ahistorical approaches to fighting poverty will solve the injustices that cause it. All around the world, we are being asked to resist the actions of government and corporations (and thus our own institutions and organizations) that consolidate political power and wealth.
We are being asked to rebel.
(I see your beating heart.)