A manifesto for challenging the power dynamics that dictate where money flows and how priorities are set in the peacebuilding & conflict transformation field.
Back in November 2022, Build Up invited a small group of peacebuilding & conflict transformation organizations to a conversation about power. Aside from working in the same field, what we all had in common was how we organized internally: these were all organizations that had budgeting, staffing and decision-making mechanisms that are uncommon among non-profits. We knew each other, we knew we were all a little punk, and we wondered what would happen if we sat around talking about power.
What did happen was a cathartic series of conversations that quickly led to agreeing we wanted to continue to collaborate, in the form of a loose, action-oriented coalition of peacebuilders, whose membership at present includes Women4PeaceTech, Adapt Peacebuilding, the Foundation for Integrated Rural Development (FIRD), Uganda Flying Labs/Ratidzo Spatial Tech Ltd, SOLE Colombia, Indigo Côte d’Ivoire, Yemenis In Exile, Resolve Network, datavaluepeople, Maskani Digital Peacebuilding, Innovateurs Sahel, and two individual members (Nikki de la Rosa and Waidehi Gokhale).
An evolving understanding of power
The glue that holds us together as a coaltion is an understanding of how power dynamics impact organizing in the peacebuilding & conflict transformation field, in four areas: funding and fundraising, decision making, programming, and people & teams. This is an evolving understanding — we don’t claim to have covered all that needs attention — which is why we have published it as a wiki.
This wiki offers our initial analysis of the key questions in each area, illustrated with examples from concrete challenges we face in our organizations. We intend to continue updating it as conversations among coalition members emerge new issues, and we invite your contributions and reflections (the document is open to comment).
A manifesto for walking the talk
The wiki is where we share our thinking, but it is anchored in a manifesto for action. There are a number of ongoing conversations between donors (foundations and government / institutional) and NGOs (mostly larger, international NGOs) about how international funding is allocated, with an explicit intent of localizing funding / shifting power to local organizations. Some of our members participate in these conversations, and we recognize their importance. Our aim is to provide a bridge from these conversations to practical actions that demonstrate how it is possible to set up structures that enable power to be distributed. The manifesto lays out three action areas in this respect:
- LEARN: convene discussions to share experiences of how power dynamics impact organizing in the peacebuilding & conflict transformation field.
- ACT: collaborate on actions to explore alternative organizing structures.
- MUTUAL AID: set up structures of reciprocity that allow us to have concrete solidarity among Coalition members.
Details of how these each work are laid out in the manifesto. We share a concrete vision for shifting power through alternative organizing structures, and a commitment to doing so collaboratively and through action. Together, we want to walk the talk of shifting power in our field.
Talk with us? Join us?
We’re at the start of this conversation, and are interested to hear reactions and challenges from others in our field. Does this resonate? We’re also in the process of reaching out and connecting to similar initiatives in this space — we know we’re not the only ones thinking through similar challenges of peace and power.
Membership to our Coalition is open to any local, national or international organization (or individual connected to such an organization) that meets the following criteria: (i) is actively working to distribute power within their structures; (ii) identifies their work as pertaining to peacebuilding and conflict transformation. Interested individuals and organizations can apply by filling out this form.