By Masarat Daud, Senior Communications and Advocacy Lead at Adeso

Decolonization can be a challenging topic to engage with, particularly in the aid sector. One of the questions we often find organizations asking us is: “how do we view ourselves through the lens of decolonization?” For those who want to self-reflect, how does one begin this process?

When Common Thread approached us with their idea of a self-assessment, we got excited this could be the answer we were looking for! We spent many sessions discussing, ideating, and collaborating to develop  a quiz that could  analyze how to help someone assess how colonial their development mindsets are. The quiz draws from various academic sources, and also includes lived experiences and guidance from our Executive Director, Degan Ali and others.

Ipsitaa Khullar, Behavioural Scientist at Common Thread said, “Through our work, we realized the importance of letting local communities set their own agenda. We saw how transformation it could be to have trust between donors and partners.  It has opened our eyes to thinking ‘wouldn’t this be great’ as the status quo?

After working on a quiz that addressed decolonization at  an individual level, the Common Thread team wanted to also understand how individual action is shaped by the systems and organizations that set global norms. They wanted to understand colonization at an institutional level, and set out to expand their efforts to an organizational-level quiz.

One of Common Thread’s co-founders, Sherine Guirguis, adds: “Individual behavior is influenced by so many different factors. And we know that the way development professionals behave isn’t always a direct reflection of what they think and feel. There are other forces at play, and we wanted to understand the biggest drivers to how our sector operates today, and what levers might be most impactful to affect change.” 

The project began in September 2023 and by December 2023, the first prototype was ready. With a topic so fraught, the process of creating this quiz was not straightforward.

“We had multiple sessions discussing semantics. We wanted to be careful not to be polarizing, and also to tap into the right metrics because there is always a subjective component to qualitative research, and we wanted to be careful with our own biases that could be a play. There’s no  hard and fast rule for the themes and parameters to check colonialism. We had to make a call based on the literature, and on what we felt was most critical to understand. We are continuing to learn as we see the results come in, and receive valuable feedback from people”, says Ipsitaa. 

Elena Gillis, Director of Advocacy and Learning at Adeso said, “The quizzes are meant to start a conversation. They aren’t meant to offer a value judgment, or to punish  an individual or organization, but rather to get people to think more deeply. At the end of the quiz, it gives you a spectrum of where you are at in your journey in changing mindsets and practices. We have donor and INGO-specific angles to the questions so it can apply to as many as possible. We’ve used the ECFG Framework that Adeso has developed as a resource and our years of experience working in aid. 

At Adeso, we have already begun to incorporate this in our e-learning work as a tool for people to reflect on. It is a work in progress, and the Common Thread team will continue tracking and learning what various organizations are saying about decolonization. As people ask us to help them with their decolonization journey, we highly recommend taking this quiz as an excellent starting point. There are many ways to use this and we encourage people and organizations to use it creatively. We’d love to hear any feedback and stories of what has worked, or what you would like to see in future versions.“ 

“Our vision for the quiz is to be a conversation starter. The more uncomfortable people are, the better it is for the world. It’s hard to find a way to start this dialogue. We’re hoping this could be a useful nudge,” says Common Thread’s other co-founder, Michael Coleman. 

The Common Thread team is gathering insights and has released both quizzes publicly. You can take the quiz here; for any feedback, you can write to <hello@gocommonthread.com>.