The powershift is becoming a more familiar term across the civil society sector as individuals and organisations embrace changes in the way that power and resources are distributed. For so long, the understanding of what power is, has been defined and led by western organisations and institutions. Yet there are far more types of power and resources that can be recognised. Our duty as civil society organisations is not only to be aware of these different powers and resources but understand the spaces in which they can be put into practice. This is where systemic change can take place.
At Accountable Now, we have witnessed, been a part of and lead numerous webinars, workshops, meetings, calls and events that question how this can be achieved. This complex issue does not have a simple answer, but we believe there is a vision and a means to rebalance the imbalance and push civil society sector actors and organisations to move away from systems which maintain the status quo.
Most of our members are large international NGOs, operating for many years around the world with influence, power and access to resources. Change does not begin and end with large INGOs but it certainly is accelerated with acceptance and support by them. The powershift and decolonisation looks different for each one: the countries in which they work and are based, the scope of their work and missions and the way in which they are structured will affect how they embed these principles into their organisation. But the goals should be the same: the people that our members work for and with need to have power and control restored, so that they can be the drivers of the change the sector is trying to achieve.
For Accountable Now, it has been a priority to understand the role dynamic accountability can and should play to address the powershift and decolonisation within our membership. We think its role is fundamental and instrumental in helping CSOs realise the powershift and ensure our members respond, adapt and change so as to prioritise horizontal partnerships, locally-led agendas, meaningful engagement and co-creation.
Many of our members are already working on understanding their role and critically assessing and in turn adapting their policies, strategies and processes to shift power to the people and communities they work for and with. Some are already setting fantastic examples of what it means to be a power shifting organisation that moves away from colonial structures. We hear this in our conversations with members and we see this in their accountability reports. For many of our members, this is only the beginning and each organisation is at a different point in their powershift journey.
In turn, there remains a lot of work for us to do at Accountable Now. Our accountability reporting framework can nudge our members in the right direction. We need to assess and understand how it can reflect these processes in a clearer and better way, so that it becomes a useful powershifting tool for our members. We need to identify where we can take action and support member’s powershift efforts. We also need to take a critical approach to accountability reporting and understand how it should strike a balance between identifying formal and informal processes of powershift and decolonisation.
We have come a long way over the past two years and there is a long way to go. Our past Annual Workshops and AGMs have provided a strong basis from which to take actions on accountability, the powershift and decolonisation forward. So watch this space as we continue our work to understand how accountability can be a lever for change within our membership.