Changing the Change Process

In the State of Civil Society Report 2015 Darren Walker (President, Ford Foundation) wrote about the need for a stronger civil society. He also stressed on the need for the civil society to redefine its way of working. What I liked most about the essay was his emphasis on the need to change donor behavior.

Bringing about social change can be anything but simple. But the basis of and belief in bringing about change has to simple. When I read about India’s freedom movement one thing that strikes out is Mahatma Gandhi’s simplicity.  It also shows that if people believe in change even ubiquitous items like a lathi (stick) and a charkha (spinning wheel) can do the job. Imagine if Gandhi had to focus his energies on showing his efficiency, developing monitoring and evaluation reports and ensuring budget utilization. People believed in the idea of change and trusted their leader that’s it.

“In order to better resource civil society - and in order to be better resources for civil society - we all need to change our behaviors. Large development agencies need to rethink how they invest, and in whom they invest,” he writes. For the civil society to be able to focus on large scale systemic change they need their donors to trust them. If change could be brought about simply by following an action plan and monitoring framework machines would be doing it for us. Supporters and support systems need to be agile and fairly flexible.

I somewhat agree with his point that philanthropists can learn from venture capitalists who invest in leaders and ideas. This however is not always true and entrepreneurs too face similar issues with their investors. When most donors start believing in an idea, the leader and helping the leaders realize their ideas by providing flexible resources change will come. I wonder if any logframe or M&E framework predict this change!