Resources on Decolonisation

Deaconess Foundation’s and Filantropia’s project Partnering for Change (PARC) has curated a list of online resources that offer valuable insights, research and perspectives on decolonising development. These resources encompass academic articles, reports, websites and organisations dedicated to reimagining a more equitable and inclusive approach in our work. Whether you’re an activist, scholar or practitioner, these resources can provide a starting point for increasing individual and organisational understanding of the complexities of development as seen through the lens of unequal power relations.

Black binders stocked on shelves.

Funding, Donors and Grants:

Participatory grant-making (PGM) by Norsaac in Ghana and Transform Trade in Kenya is a dynamic approach to grant-making that seeks to empower local communities, promote collaboration between Global North and South partners and prioritise community interests.

Language, Communication and Fundraising:

How to Write about Africa in Steps – An Ethical Storytelling Handbook by Africa No Filter

Oxfam’s Inclusive Language Guide is a resource to support people in the community, development and humanitarian sectors who have to communicate in English to think about how the way they write affects the forms of inequality that they work to end.

Partos is a Dutch membership body for organisations working in international development. It has a collection of resources on inclusive communication in development cooperation.

Partnerships and Localisation:

The Global Protection Cluster has published an Inter-Agency Toolkit on Localisation in Humanitarian Coordination which can be found here:

Partos has developed a Power Awareness Tool for analysing power in partnerships for development. It is based on the assumption that if partners have a better understanding of power in development partnerships, they will be in a better position to work towards shifting power.

Projects and Processes Contributing to the Decolonization of Aid:

The Centre for Humanitarian Leadership is focused on humanitarian leadership and influencing how humanitarian organisations respond to the humanitarian environment. They offer training, academic research and policies and organise events. The Centre lists publications such as:

  • A concept note challenging the terms “decolonisation”, “localisation” and “shifting the power”. The paper takes a radical view first, by turning the focus on countries themselves rather than on specific centres of financial and political power as the key drivers of development and change, and second, by asserting that it is not a “reimagining” of aid that is necessary, but rather the end of the “traditional” aid system.

  • Transformation in the aid and development sector. Decolonising Aid.

Charter for Change is an initiative led by both national and international NGOs to implement practical changes to the way the humanitarian system operates to enable more locally-led responses. INGOs and other entities are invited to sign or to endorse the charter and commit to implementing the eight commitments listed within it.

Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures (GTDF) is an arts/research collective offering artistic, pedagogical, cartographic and relational experiments and materials aiming to identify and de-activate colonial habits and to gesture towards decolonial futures. GTDF offers a list of academic publications on the issue on its “Publications” page.

The International Civil Society Centre (ICSC) has launched a #ShiftThePower process and organised multiple events and written several articles on the topic. Recordings of its events are available at their website. The ICSC lists the five most important lessons they’ve learned in the process so far:

  1. Linking governance as much as possible to the intent and mandate of the organisation
  2. Placing transparency, diversity and inclusivity at the core
  3. Engaging in dialogue between groups that have different expectations of each other
  4. Engaging in an open exchange and have the willingness to learn from each other
  5. Not overlooking discriminatory practices

Jaded Aid has produced (a free) card game Cards Against Humanitarians to acknowledge some of the crucial issues in the sector through humour.

The Pledge for Change 2030 re-imagines the role of INGOs in the global humanitarian and development aid system. The initiative has produced three pledges: 1. Equitable Partnerships 2. Authentic Storytelling and 3. Influencing Wider Change. International NGOs are welcome to sign the pledges (and thus commit to implement the Pledge for Change) and other actors can join as supporters.

Partos  has worked on the topic of shifting the power for years. It has published tools and guidebooks on different related areas. Its Future Brief series includes:

  • A brief history on the colonial roots of development cooperation (part 1),
  • colonial remnants in contemporary development cooperation (part 2) and
  • actionable pathways towards a decolonised development sector (part 3)

The Ringo Project is a systems change initiative that seeks to transform global civil society to respond to today’s challenges. In partnership with systems change experts, the project has convened a unique ‘Social Lab’ of innovators who represent ‘the system’ of INGOs (including southern partners, funders and INGO leaders). The Ringo Project has launched 8 prototypes that can transform INGO institutions and the systems in which they function. These prototypes will affect how INGOs are structured, their funding and accountability models, the implications for organisations locally, and for defining the meaning of solidarity. RINGO is the first globally-coordinated cross-sectoral effort to revolutionise the sector by interrogating the purpose, structures, power and positioning of INGOs.

The Ringo Project also has a newsletter open for subscriptions:

#ShiftThePower Treehouse is a community-led and resourced platform to promote community philanthropy as a strategy for achieving community-led development by increasing local ownership, buy-in and claiming of rights, and by challenging the notion that development is something that is “done to” communities by external actors. The platform is offering i.e. events, resources and blogs on decolonisation.

Self-reflection for the Northern NGOs

Understanding the Pathology of Large INGOs is a study aiming to understand some of the key factors that are contributing to the internal challenges faced by INGOs. These wide challenges are ranging from sexual and racial abuse to boardroom tensions. It also contains recommendations about what steps might be taken to help mitigate some of the contributing factors identified.

Videos and Podcasts:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted talk about The danger of a single story

Devex and Conrad N. Hilton Foundation have produced together a series of conversations on the future of humanitarian action. This episode tackles the issue of “Decolonising humanitarian aid”.

Edgar Villanueva, an expert in social justice philanthropy and author of Decolonising Wealth, encourages those working in philanthropy to lean into the uncomfortable history of how wealth was accumulated and to “give money away in a way that respects history.” He believes that the same wealth that inflicted trauma can also be used to facilitate healing and connection.

Living Decoloniality podcast series by Carla Vitantonio offers episodes based on practical experiences of decolonial re-existence through the aid sector.

The New Humanitarian’s Rethinking Humanitarianism podcast season 3 is focused on reimagining the global governance system. The episodes include themes such as colonialism, racism and power structures.

Partnering for Change project homepage

Partnering for Change is implemented by the Deaconess Foundation and Filantropia ry.

Also these might interest you: