Pathways to Power – Strengthening Relationships in the #ShiftThePower Movement

Alex WagnerDevelopment Revolution, Rebooting Systems

Earlier this year, the Global Fund for Community Foundations and Root Change co-hosted a virtual global meeting to reflect on the #ShiftThePower movement, the efforts that have been made to weave together the movement since the Pathways to Power Symposium, and surface insights from the Pathways to Power relationship map on the Pando platform. You can watch the global meeting recording here.

The #ShiftThePower Movement

The #ShiftThePower movement was born in 2016 at the Global Summit on Community Philanthropy in Johannesburg. The movement aims to bring together a vibrant and diverse group of community-driven organizations from the periphery of formal development practice to the center to disrupt, democratize, and reimagine the development system. #ShiftThePower is “a call for new behaviours, mindsets and ways of working and a reminder both that few interactions are ever power neutral and that often, those we seek to ‘help’ have much more power – knowledge, skills, networks – than they are given credit for.”

The 2019 Pathways to Power Symposium in London continued this effort by launching a new manifesto for shifting power closer to the ground. As part of the event, Root Change launched the Pathways to Power relationship map to understand how local and international organizations are mobilizing and collaborating around topics such as Community Philanthropy, Funding Practices to Shift Power, Reimaging the INGO, Reimaging Southern Civil Society, and more. To date, the map includes more than 300 organizations and more than 600 relationships. 

In the March virtual meeting, several symposium participants reflected on what they learned and how it relates to their work. Shubha Chacko of the Solidarity Foundation offered that “we started to look at this issue of connections. Who are we connected to and how do we gain strength like them? We should see ourselves as actors shaping this course.”

“Looking at the map that was created on Pando, what struck me were the clusters of people there that weren’t connected,” said Jenny Oppenheimer from the UK-based Lankelly Chase Foundation. “It’s about moving from a hub and spoke model to a webbing, a net.”

Insights from the Pathways to Power Relationship Map

Evan Bloom used Pando data to evaluate our progress in creating a movement that is “negotiated, participatory, and widely-owned”. He highlighted the following points from the #STP manifesto:

1. The first point was to embrace a vision of “good society” built around the core values of equality, democracy, and sustainability and a set of organizing principles based on global solidarity and distributed leadership. From the map, we were excited to see participation in the #STP movement from all over the globe. But the fact that 10 of the 15 most-connected organizations are international tells us that we have more work to do in ensuring that this movement is composed of and led by local organizations.

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This image shows us the organizations that were most frequently nominated by their peers as “Resource Hubs” within the map.

2. Second, we examined how well the movement has cast off the restrictive framework of “international development,” which is defined by money and power and creates artificial barriers between communities and movements in the Global North and South. Positively, the map notes significant joint ventures in the area of “funding to shift the power.” Nearly all of that work, however, has been led by international organizations. We also noted that there is more collaborative work to be done in “Reimagining the INGO.” As we can see in the image below, our work in that area is very segmented and disconnected. We could do more to bridge those gaps and learn from one another’s ideas related to this topic.

We can see that our work “Reimagining the INGO” is very disconnected. We could do more to bridge those gaps and learn from one another’s ideas related to this topic.

3. The final manifesto point discussed was moving away from a development system fixated on “quick solutions” and transfers of funds to one that is founded on new ideas on how to approach and measure success. While there are some exciting examples of organizations represented in the map working to shift to a more positive narrative in the development sector, the map reveals that there are few “resource hubs”–actors that have been nominated by others as a source of information–related to this topic. Finally, we see that while there is a lot of collaboration taking place around alternative evidence for change within the movement, these efforts are almost completely disconnected from one another. We can see seven distinct “islands” of activity among clusters of organizations in the evidence for change sub-network, pictured below. To strengthen our movement, we will want to form connections among groups to facilitate learning and sharing. 

We can see seven distinct “islands” of activity among clusters of organizations in the evidence for change sub-network.

Ideas for Strengthening the Movement

We asked breakout groups to discuss current observations about the movement, hopes for the next few years, and strategies to work together more effectively. Participants shared: 

  • An appreciation for their conversations at the Symposium and in this meeting broke down barriers by highlighting the goals shared by international and local actors around reimagining the development priorities;
  • An eagerness for more online gatherings to encourage group reflection and fight the social isolation and information silos created by geographic and sectoral boundaries;
  • A desire to form working groups for more in-depth discussions around specific issues related to #STP.

Next Steps

We concluded the virtual meeting by identifying the following possible next steps:

  1. Movement members are encouraged to continue mapping relationships using Pando. To get connected to the Pathways to Power map, email
  2. Provide ongoing updates on the Pando map and the changes that it reveals within the movement over time. 
  3. Conduct more regional and thematic online gatherings to continue pushing conversation forward. Root Change is excited to be working with the Zambian Governance Foundation and the Global Fund for Community Foundations to host the first of these regional conversations on June 10.