Africa Dialogue Platform 2022. ©Start Network

Holding Powerful Organisations Accountable

As Western donors and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), we most often have disproportionate power in relation to local and national organisations.

Mwikali Mutune


Time to read: 4 minutes

As Western donors and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), we most often have disproportionate power in relation to local and national organisations. Hence the important advocacy around locally led/driven solutions, diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI), shifting the power, and decolonising aid and development. These efforts, however, may veer off into inauthenticity if they don’t also reduce the power footprints of international organisations.

We’re therefore calling on YOU to join this aspirational force to ensure all these efforts take our power footprints into account! 

By power, we mean authority, control, and influence. The Power Footprint of an organisation thus represents the amount of authority, control, and influence an organisation has within a given system. Western organisations and donors in the social good space are unlikely to become more effective, relevant, or transparent until we correct the fundamental power asymmetries within our ecosystems. Measuring and reducing our power footprints is essential to remedying these asymmetries. 

The Power Footprint Project will co-create practical metrics to propel any organisation’s effectiveness, relevance, and accountability by measuring its power footprint. Once this organisation has achieved this awareness, it will then be able to set a course for redress. This is not an academic exercise. Neither is it an add-on standard to pre-existing methods. The Power Footprint Project is about building the new. It is about co-creating and connecting practical coalitions to grow the social movement for transformative systems change in the social good sector. The Proof of Concept Phase of this journey will bring together 3 Coalitions with five members each, to begin with. The first Coalition will include 5 INGOs, the second 5 Donors, and the third 5 Global South Organisations

The overall objectives of the INGO and Donor Coalitions are already well defined. A key objective will be to co-create practical metrics that these organisations will use to start measuring their power footprints. The Global South Coalition’s first five members will define the objectives of the Global South Coalition. These objectives could include solidarity and/or peer-review role, like reviewing the metrics proposed by the INGO and Donor Coalitions, for example. 

Once the first set of power footprint metrics is developed, donors and INGOs participating in the Proof of Concept Phase will measure their power footprint baseline, implement actions to reduce it, and measure their footprint again after a predetermined period to learn if their actions had a measurable impact. They will also share their insights with each other and the Global South Coalition, learning from each other about what efforts enable them to reduce their footprints. Transparency is key. 

Following this phase, new organisations will be invited to join each of the three Coalitions. These new donors and INGOs will then measure, share and implement actions to reduce their power footprints. After that, more organisations will be invited to join the process to continue building and connecting coalitions, thereby growing the social movement.

One of our main aspirations is for donors to begin including formal power footprint requirements in every new grant they issue. That is, as Western INGOs, we should be required to actively reduce our power footprints with every new grant we implement, regardless of the context or grant. Powerful Global South Organisations may also consider doing the same to account for power asymmetries in regional and subnational contexts. However, this will be left for them to decide together with local organisations in the Coalition. Reducing our power footprints will enable all of us, INGOs, donors, and Global South Organisations, to become more effective and accountable to the communities we serve. 

Continuing to ignore our power footprints will result in an even more dysfunctional social good sector when we face multiple planetary-wide emergencies.

This explains why the Power Footprint Project feels the urgency to complement and support the many other existing initiatives. We are one of many. 

The purpose of this Call for Interest is to invite leaders from Global South Organisations to get in touch should they be interested in joining the Global South Coalition of the Power Footprint Project. This is a leadership development opportunity, and new voices are especially encouraged to join. Note that members of the Global South Coalition will be fully compensated for their time. You will participate in 4 virtual co-creation sessions and one in-person meeting. The latter will bring all three coalitions together.

To register your interest, kindly complete this short form by 1 November 2022. For any questions, please feel free to email us.

Note: Start Network collaborated with numerous organisations and networks to develop the Power Footprint Project, as it complements our locally led and decolonisation advocacy. The primary convener for this project is WeRobotics