Shift-the-Power Lab

Working on a practical tool to shift the power balance

Anne-Marie Heemskerk
Anne-Marie Heemskerk

amh@partos.nl
Posted in: New Ways of Working Together
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About

There is widespread consensus that in partnerships for development, donors, and international NGOs have too much power, and NGOs in the South too little. Despite this consensus, the power imbalances persist. Apparently, it is hard to put the principles into practice. Why is this the case, and what can be done about it? These are the core questions addressed in the Shift-the-Power Lab

Shifting power to Southern-based civil society is important in order to realise lasting and locally-led social change, and to build partnerships that are effective and based on trust.

Shift-the-Power Lab

The idea of establishing the Shift-the-Power Lab and to develop a tool for analysing power in partnerships for development emerged from a series of workshops organised by Partos, Wilde Ganzen, CIVICUS, and facilitated by The Spindle. The initiative is considered timely against the backdrop of new partnerships being formed in the framework of the Power of Voices Program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Power relations in partnerships
Power is the ability to influence decision making, to mobilise resources and to implement decisions. Power is an indispensable asset for getting things done, also in development cooperation. However, the distribution of power in current partnerships is often very uneven. Those with the most power, usually the donors, and to a lesser extent the INGOs, are not always the most knowledgeable about the local situation or about the change needed and how. Shifting power to Southern-based civil society is important in order to realise lasting and locally-led social change, and to build partnerships that are effective and based on trust. While there is broad consensus on this, power imbalances persist. Apparently, it is difficult to put the principles into practice.

We believe this is partly because power is in many ways elusive. Therefore, The Spindle decided to develop a tool to make power more visible, enabling partners to analyse and reflect on their power relations. The idea is that if partners have a better understanding of the way power works in the partnership, they will be in a position to shift the power in accordance with their shared principles.

A tool for analysing power in partnership
A group of organisations decided to join forces to find a suitable tool. After having reviewed existing tools (see review) it was concluded that none of these tools met a set of predefined requirements at an acceptable level. Therefore, the group started developing a new tool. A prototype was developed and tested by six organisations including Amref, Cordaid, ICCO, the Kenya Community Development Foundation, Mercy Corps and Oxfam Novib. Their findings were very positive. The tool helps to make power visible, and using the tool does trigger discussion among partners what needs to be changed in power relations. Go to the developed The Power Awareness Tool and start shifting the power!

Update June 2020
Because of COVID-19, it is difficult to facilitate face2face workshops on shifting the power and the use of the tool. Therefore we developed an excel version of the Power Awareness Tool. This tool can be used to facilitate a power awareness exercise with partners online, using ZOOM, Microsoft Teams, Skype or other platforms. You can find it here.

Soon, The Spindle, as the innovation platform of Partos, will start a Community of Practice (CoP) for facilitators of the Power Awareness Tool. The CoP will focus on sharing and developing knowledge about shifting the power, and on sharing experiences with using the Power Awareness Tool.

Please contact Anne Marie Heemskerk (amh@partos.nl) or Heinz Greijn (heinz@partos.nl) if you would like to participate in the CoP.

 

Team members

Anne-Marie Heemskerk
Anne-Marie Heemskerk
The Spindle
Heinz Greijn
Heinz Greijn

heinz@partos.nl

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