Pledge for Change’s Virtual Retreat: a Timely Catalyst for Recommitting to Global Systems Change
By Kate Moger
Pledge for Change was born in reaction to events in the world, including the so-called “racial reckoning” in 2020, which catalyzed overdue change in the ways in which we work as international, national, and local actors in the global system, with a commitment to decolonial and anti-racist practice.
A full year has now passed since the Pledge for Change was launched. The Pledge for Change re-imagines the role of INGOs in the global humanitarian and development aid system. We pledge to build a stronger aid ecosystem based on the principles of solidarity, humility, self-determination, and equality by focusing on three core changes.
In late November, over 80 leaders from Pledge signatory and supporter organisations, came together in a zoom room, with the shared objectives of building community and advancing the implementation of the pledges. We received requests to ‘move from talking to action’, to ‘centre country level leaders and change’, to ‘celebrate successes and learning’ and to ‘inspire ambition and reflection’.
We were so grateful to have active participation that spanned 16 time zones, and which modelled and practiced the distributed leadership which characterizes how the Pledge for Change will make progress across the aid ecosystem.
Pledge for Change Leadership and Governance
The opening session, with CEOs and leaders from across civil society, was intended to focus on Pledge leadership and governance. In the weeks before the retreat, we realised that it was neither possible nor desirable to talk about these themes in the abstract, and that rather we needed to acknowledge that today, as we near the end of 2023, the international system and institutions to which we belong – the very foundations of aid architecture – are shaking as we are faced with the possibility that the “moral architecture of western liberalism will cease to exist” (Arundhati Roy).
With acknowledgement of the atrocities happening around the world, we began with Sofia Sprechmann, Secretary General, CARE International, noting that local responders remain at the forefront of these crises, and are taking extraordinary and unacceptable risks to respond, particularly in Gaza during these last weeks.
As the leadership of the Pledge for Change, the zoom room held great diversity of views and experience, representing INGOs, CSOs and eco-system leaders; bridging ‘new’ members and those who have been with the Pledge since the start; with perspectives from the global south, the global north, and from working locally, nationally, regionally and globally.
Power in Community
The power in this community including through our collective connections to systems change initiatives (including RINGO, Shift The Power, and others) was palpable, and inspiring to hear so many seeking to join others in developing pathways to a different future, while also confronting the reality of a broken “now”. decolonisingphilanthropy
The conversation which followed confirmed a shared conviction that the pledges for equitable partnerships, authentic storytelling & nuanced narratives, and advocacy across the aid ecosystem remain relevant and essential.
And reiterated that we must continue to view them, and our decision making, through the ethical and moral lenses of current global and contextual realities, to inspire real change to make true the values of solidarity, humility, self-determination, and equality.
Valuable Insights to New Pathways
The sessions which followed brought perspectives from across the ecosystem.
“The highlight was Julian Corner, CEO of the Lankelly Chase Foundation, sharing his organisation’s radical decision to dissolve and redistribute its substantial endowment. Lankelly Chase’s decision highlights a commitment to truly decolonising aid, acknowledging that incremental change is insufficient to address the systemic issues inherent in traditional philanthropic models. Oren Harari’s quote, “The electric light did not come from the continuous improvement of candles,” was a fitting analogy to underscore the need for revolutionary, rather than evolutionary, change in our approach to aid.” – Quote from Adama Coulibaly – Oxfam International‘s Global Program Director.
Breakout sessions then hosted discussions on Accountability and Learning; Decolonising Aid; Country Level Change; Collaborative Design and Authentic Storytelling.
We are grateful to all the leaders in this space who are moving the pledges from promises to practice.
Pledge for Change: was launched in October of 2022, where bold INGOs and their leaders made public commitments to shift the power more directly to local organizations in the Global South. They have pledged to reimagine their roles in three main areas: Equitable Partnerships, Authentic Storytelling and Influencing Wider Change. In April 2023, we had an in-person CEO retreat in Nairobi with signatories and supporters of the pledge coming together to set-up an accountability mechanism that will be used as a strong foundation towards tangible change for years to come.
Pledge for Change signatories include 11 INGOs: CARE International, Christian Aid, Cordaid, FHI 360, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children International, SOS Children’s Villages Norway, The International Rescue Committee, and Women for Women International.
To find out more, go to the website: Pledge for Change.