“Transition was the process of the INGO leaving our context”, a participant from Bosnia-Herzegovina explained at our closeout workshop in early March, “but transformation was the outcome.” She went on to explain how the exit of an INGO from their context resulted in a shift in their organizational model and priorities. This transformation process is what the Stopping As Success (SAS) consortium has been learning about for the last three years.
SAS was a learning project undertaken by CDA Collaborative Learning, Peace Direct, and Search for Common Ground. Our project centered listening to communities most affected by INGO transitions and understanding what ‘success’ looks like to people who have lived through these processes. Although we were interested in the technical aspects of transitions (legal, financial, human resources, governance, etc.), our work intentionally focused on legitimacy and power and partnerships; a recognition of how the aid system’s colonial history continues to uphold unequal power dynamics between (mostly Northern) INGOs, donors and organizations, communities from the Global South. By advocating for responsible transitions, SAS aims to contribute to the push for locally led and decolonized development, with a specific focus on shifting systems of power towards local leadership.
Aid isn’t the problem, but how the system maintains unequal power dynamics is
In 2017, SAS joined the Journey to Self-Reliance, #ShiftThePower, the Grand Bargain and other global calls for equity, inclusion, and justice. Over the last three years, I have been pleasantly surprised from the feedback that SAS has received through our consultation with partners around the world. Sitting in regional evidence review meetings centered on gathering feedback from diverse stakeholders with transition experience, I found myself bracing for anti-aid sentiments. Instead, our team heard the call for a transformation of the aid system and how international actors’ partner with communities most closely affected by aid. As one colleague reminded us: “There is always room for accompaniment, there are no boundaries… there are synergies.”
This blog is part of CDA’s From Where I Stand series, designed to listen to people most affected by aid as they explore and amplify their leadership experiences, stories, and lessons for the aid sector.