“Imagine if the Haitian revolutionaries had to write a proposal?”: Reflections from the Shift the Power Summit

By Taís Siqueira, Local Leadership lab Coordinator

This quote represents what Shift the Power Summit was to me, a space to hear uncomfortable truths and to collectively reimagine solutions. When Marie-Rose Romain Murphy of the Haiti Community Foundation said that “we can’t shift power without breaking some rules” it got me thinking… Why do we need these rules in the first place? Why can’t we simply co-create guidelines and principles to follow together with the communities we serve?

The #ShiftThePower Global Summit took place from 5-7 December 2023 in Bogotá, Colombia. With over 700 participants hailing from across the globe the summit aimed to unite changemakers and catalysts from international development, philanthropy, and civil society.

The Summit showed me that there is appetite to co-create, however we are lacking safe spaces, resources, relationships, and the trust to do so in an honest, meaningful, and transformative way. At CIVICUS we launched a pilot initiative, Local Leadership Labs (LLL), that aims at co-creating solutions to some of the barriers (political, technical, behavioural) preventing governments, donors and other stakeholders from adopting and delivering on commitments that recognize, enable and resource diverse local civil society groups as key development actors in their own right. The initiative will support radically inclusive spaces where local civil society groups can drive, alongside other key actors and decision-makers, the development of context-appropriate policies and solutions.

In Bogotá, the LLL team, in partnership with Movement for Community-led Development (MCLD), co-organised a session where we had the perfect opportunity to start co-defining gaps, priorities and characteristics that would allow possible catalysing spaces to be relevant and useful for the ecosystem.

We learned that “catalyst” has multiple meanings beyond the dictionary definition and it is through learning, reflection, and intentional connections that we accelerate meaningful change, but how can we build such disruptive and transformative spaces to ignite dissent and curiosity as driving forces to learning and reflection? The answer that resonated with most participants was 1) co-creation to include diverse perspectives, 2) peer-learning to build intentional connections and 3) flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.

The Summit was also a good reminder that liberation happens on the ground and and the possible contribution from global alliances and INGOs, is to mobilise networks of support and solidarity to allow movements, organisations and activists to flourish. Dismantling power imbalances in the funding ecosystem starts with acknowledging that power structures exist, and we need to advocate for more participatory, innovative and courageous approaches to decision-making in the funding ecosystem.

In conclusion, the Shift the Power Summit was a testament to the power of collective action. It proved that meaningful change arises from questioning existing rules, co-creating solutions, and fostering intentional connections. The journey towards shifting power is ongoing, and as

we continue to challenge the status quo, the summit serves as a guiding light, reminding us that togetherness is a powerful force in the pursuit of transformed ecosystem.



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