Local Leaders Left Out of Decisions on Equitable Development
Humentum, a global nonprofit helping social good organizations strengthen their operations, released findings from its first national non-government organization (NNGO) report. NNGO Voices: Leader Perspectives on Locally-Led Development is the third in the Collective Journey to Equitable Development series.
The report collected and summarized findings from interviews with 50 senior NNGO leaders in six African countries, as well as conversations from Humentum’s webinar series Operationalizing Locally-Led Development, which included more than 2,000 participants. It also reflects project engagement done in partnership with the Open Society Foundation in Africa and the Ford Foundation in Southern Africa.
“The data point we heard repeatedly was that local leaders are not involved in shifting development from being led by international organizations to local organizations,” said Ennie Chipembere, Director of Locally-Led Development at Humentum. “Despite all the talk about the need to shift power, the power imbalance remains firmly in place. While the change isn’t simple, from this report it is clear that a first step must include those leading local work in their own countries.”
The Power Imbalance Prevents Progress
The common thread throughout the dialogue was power and how it operates. Other findings fit into the categories Humentum has defined as core to the shift to equitable development.
- Institutional architecture: the relationship between governance and leadership matters in exercising autonomy
- People and culture: limited funding adversely affects the human resource capacity of NNGOs
- Funding and financial systems: NNGO autonomy and capability hinges on financial sustainability
- Risk and Compliance: Restrictive operational context negatively affects NNGO operations
The report shares details of each of those findings as well as recommendations. “Our overarching recommendation is that NNGO leaders need to be at the table for these decisions around equitable development. Funders, INGOS, and NNGOs are like a three-legged stool. When only two of them are involved, the structure lacks strength,” said Chipembere.