© PeopleImages / iStock
© PeopleImages / iStock

The one thing that we have seen in the era of Covid is just how important it is to both collaborate over distance and trust your colleagues in different parts of the world it is. 

This comes at the same time as a growing unease (again) about how and why development assistance is given from the Global North, to the Global South. More than one network I operate in has recently had debates about the ‘white saviour’ complex. Personally I’m delighted that more people are coming round to accepting that development aid is all about power, influence and control and not at all about solving problems, or nation building. I’m still waiting for the same penny to drop in the humanitarian sector, but we might wait a lifetime for change there. 

With this growing realisation that we’ve been doing aid wrong and the confidence that organisations have regarding remote working, I was wondering whether maybe, just maybe, the sector was ready to go all the way to creating equitable and meaningful partnerships between local NGOs and international NGOs that see funding awarded to local NGOs to deliver work and funding awarded to international NGOs to capacity build local NGOs. Without the need for more expensive ex-pat postings in recipient communities.

We talk so much about participation, collaboration and voice, but when it comes to it we keep the money and the power in a bilateral, top-down relationship. As if we don’t want to trust that the people on the ground can make decisions that are right and appropriate for their own communities. 

Just as employers have had to learn to let go and trust their employees to work remotely, now it is time for us to trust the communities we are trying to help to be at the very least equal partners and most of the time leading partners in their own futures. 

We wouldn’t like it if some treated us like this, so why do we treat local southern NGOs and communities in the same way?


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