I keep hearing, both internally and externally, that people nod to the idea of playbooks, to alliances, to sharing openly on public fora, to systemic changes needed for sustained improvement and to other things merely because of funding power dynamics.
I personally have had many interesting debates around nuances with many of our partners who disagree with various bits and pieces, challenge our assumptions and thus help extend our thinking. Needless to say, some of these are our closest partners and allies since there’s most respect for their work, views and logic and data backed arguments.
If what I hear about people doing some of these things (which we have come off discussions with and work done on the ground by many partners, and been super careful about socializing extensively, iterating based on inputs and debates, and also present carefully as work in progress that needs further inputs and evidence) is true, does it mean that a lot of civil society isn’t interested in solving issues with community participation and from their or the place’s point of view? Does it mean that funding decisions cloud their thinking and judgement to an extent that they do not care for true, deep and persistent change, or for the communities they work with? Or does it mean that the people who assume these things have become too cynical based on a few experiences and through this cynicism, we end up reiterating and reinforcing this assumption, almost as a self fulfilling prophecy?
I personally don’t have that view and work with the assumption that despite the practical constraints, people truly do care about the problems, communities and hopefully the places they work with and for. I believe that, funding or not, they’d choose to do the right thing, decide with and from the community’s pov to the best extent possible, and want to bring in the best (if/where available) help for the problems they find there.
Perhaps I’m being too optimistic and naive, but I cannot believe that the reality is at the opposite, cynical end of the spectrum either. If it is, we’re kinda doomed and all this effort might come to naught.