The forthcoming #ShiftThePower Global Summit, scheduled to convene in the vibrant city of Bogota from the 5th to the 7th of December 2024, offers a glimmer of hope in the realm of international development. This summit seeks to bring together a diverse array of global changemakers and pioneers from different parts of the world, representing various facets of international development, philanthropy, and civil society.
At its core, this gathering embarks on a courageous mission to redefine the contours of international development. This endeavour bears the banner of “Shift the Power” or #ShiftThePower, a passionate call to transform established behaviours, reshape our perspectives, and revolutionise the work methodologies ingrained in international development. It champions the redistribution of power and resources, advocating fervently for a more equitable and people-centric approach to development. This movement traces its origins to the 2016 Global Summit on Community Philanthropy and has since galvanised a collective of funders, researchers, and activists who unite under its banner to drive transformative change.
Yet, seven years have elapsed since the birth of this movement, and four years since the Pathways to Power Symposium in London. In this present day, our world grapples with a complex and interwoven web of crises. However, the path forward is fraught with challenges.
Nonetheless, the evolution of this movement into a formidable force for change is marked by the cohesive vision shared among its members. It has succeeded in uniting individuals and organisations under the common objective of rectifying the imbalance in power and resource distribution within the realm of philanthropy. The central premise is to empower communities, granting them a pivotal role in determining their own destinies. This mission takes on greater urgency considering the numerous global crises that presently demand urgent and comprehensive action.
In this contemporary and challenging landscape, the #ShiftThePower movement stands as a beacon of hope, advocating for a fundamental shift in our approach to societal issues. Its members remain unwavering in their commitment to empower local communities and facilitate a fairer allocation of resources. They recognise the complexity and interconnection of the issues we confront today, acknowledging that concerted, collective efforts are essential to address these multifaceted challenges.
Within the intricate fabric of societal influence, power naturally gravitates towards those with the means to set priorities, define relevance, and articulate communal needs. The exercise of power is intrinsically tied to equity and resources. However, it is a flawed assumption to believe that individuals can wield power independently of resources, particularly financial ones. Alternatively, a lack of resources can catalyse widespread civic action, leading to transformative change.
Incremental Progress vs. Bold Endeavours: The pivotal question confronting us is whether gradual changes, however commendable, can effectively challenge deeply entrenched systems. The movement must deliberate on fostering a culture of audacious action that does not shy away from confronting established power structures. This approach could set a compelling precedent for genuine transformation.
Social Media Activism vs. Substantive Transformation: The movement needs to transcend the confines of social media activism, ensuring that hashtags and slogans translate into tangible real-world impact. It is imperative to construct concrete pathways bridging the gap between virtual activism and the tangible outcomes we fervently pursue.
Inclusivity vs. Exclusivity: Balancing unity with inclusivity presents a formidable challenge. The movement must reconcile these often-conflicting imperatives, weaving a network that accommodates a multitude of perspectives, including those that may question its fundamental tenets.
Emergent System vs. Dominant System: The envisioned “emergent system” should not remain an abstract concept but should provide practical, real-world solutions as a stark contrast to the failing “dominant system.” The movement needs to consider pragmatic strategies and interventions to shape this transformative alternative.
Navigating Change Amidst Change
Given the formidable challenges ahead, a pressing question arises: How can the #ShiftThePower movement navigate these turbulent waters while embodying the transformation it seeks to ignite?
Balancing Gradual and Audacious Change: The movement must find a delicate balance between incremental progress, which can serve as a steppingstone, and audacious actions that challenge established norms. It should recognise and celebrate minor victories without losing sight of its overarching transformative objectives.
Moving Beyond Hashtags to Concrete Action Plans: The crux of the matter lies in transitioning from impressive online campaigns to actionable plans. The movement must initiate practical initiatives and projects dedicated to manifesting its commitment to change, while diligently documenting and effectively communicating these efforts to a broader audience.
Embracing Diverse Perspectives: The success of the movement hinges on creating an environment that welcomes dissenting voices and constructive criticism. The challenge is in harnessing these varied opinions to enrich the movement rather than undermining its unity.
Developing Practical and Sustainable Alternatives: It is imperative to formulate pragmatic and enduring alternatives to existing systems. The movement should contemplate how it can act as a catalyst for these alternatives, empowering local communities through community philanthropy, proximity funds, and participatory decision-making, thereby relinquishing control over development projects to those directly affected.
In a world beset by a multitude of crises, the #ShiftThePower movement emerges as a beacon of hope and a vanguard poised to facilitate transformative change within the realm of international development. As it deftly navigates the intricate web of incremental progress, harnessing the power of hashtag activism, addressing issues of exclusivity, and responding to the pressing need for a practical alternative to the prevailing system, it carries with it the promise of a profound reconfiguration of international development.
The movement possesses the inherent potential to empower individuals and communities, positioning them at the forefront as the true protagonists, decision-makers, and stakeholders in their own development journey. It is not a mere coincidence that the #ShiftThePower Global Summit, to be held in Bogota, transcends the status of a simple event, it serves as a resounding call to action, an earnest invitation for all relevant stakeholders to unite and collectively sculpt the future of international development, orienting it towards a more equitable and people-centric vision.
This summit imposes upon us a challenge that cannot be ignored; it compels us to engage in profound introspection regarding our roles, responsibilities, and actions in the grand narrative of international development transformation. It is a pivotal moment that urges us to examine how we can contribute to a more just and inclusive global development paradigm and underscores the fact that our collective actions are instrumental in shaping this transformative process.
Charles Kojo Vandyck is a dynamic development practitioner and thought leader who is who is driving transformative change within civil society. He is a founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon). He is the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and hold several positions such as Trustee of INTRAC and an Advisory Board Member of Disrupt Development among others.