Almost a year of ‘following the money’ and engaging in conversations with

The above video provides non-exhaustive observations of philanthropy from a grassroots perspective. Although somewhat simplified, it has helped create a better understanding with those civil society work and giving are intended for. It has allowed for a better overview of the dynamics and ecosystem that influence how grassroots work is achieved. Also providing insight into why participatory grant writing processes, established mandates and community aspirations are not always aligned to enabler’s theories of change, strategic frameworks or simply put – favour. Thus, leading to proposing what and how affirmative philanthropy should look like.

The above infographic further expands on the mirco-level nuances experienced where decisions and touch points between organisers and enablers are made. Enablers can be intermediaries, INGOs, implementing partners, technical assistance coordinators, networks, grant makers, philanthropic advisors, intergovernmental organisations, international development partners, governments, foundations, trusts, support mechanisms, movement gate keepers, consortium kingmakers, larger organisations in partnerships, their trustees, board members, employees and interns, including those who previously held those positions. The power lies in the institutional body, structural systems, policies, practices, working culture, organisational fit, controls and bias that founded/established/maintained/passively enabled the institutionalisation of that body and its influence on others.

The above image reflects critical questions our constituents started asking. Critical to unpacking why there are levers of power and what ultimate authority dictates, guides or prescribes whether or not a community can thrive. Although needs assessment initiatives occur, independent evaluations on impact and third-party outputs (i.e. change in a policy, reshaped narratives in public discourse) – power plays itself within the conversations, email exchange and interviews. Inherent bias, self-victimisation and relational psychological dynamics play themselves.

For example; if a person from outside the community comes to ‘see’ the community – no voices of dissent or possible compromise would be invited to meet with that person. That person’s colour/Westernisation/title/institutional affiliation/gender/age/differential of privilege/power subconsciously get’s masked or altered responses as a virtue of its whiteness in interpretation or as an audience. Where nuances of inferiority (having audience with someone respected/from outside) or superiority (expert coming in) are not managed – as opposed to established rapport or comfort in a data collection process that eliminates those dynamics because the process adopts itself to the participant and their surroundings – this is why community peer educators and support groups have been a success for hard to reach demographics in the HIV response.

More importantly, the questions initiate a conversation on how context, equity and trust are just as important as who decides on the acceptability, recognition and establishment of those. In other words, decolonising what power is in philanthropy, regardless of which end/part of the spectrum on is in or has access to. Practices of conflict of interest outplay merit and validity: where former employees/trustees/alumni simply benefit and thrive off of the proximity of language, ‘fit’, understanding, connections, tacit knowledge, education and relations. Similarly, where one enabler influences multiple funding sources for different or intersecting groups.


The essence of conflict of interest is the perception there of, not the actual presence of or action from it. That it dilutes objectivity and fuels politicising sub-group interests and competition within a movement. All this amidst increasing phobia, exclusion and regressive movements that are well resourced, more than ‘flexible’ in adapting to context and with no prescribed acceptability of what ‘capacity’ and capabilities are. They appeal to masses for their simplicity, their credibility does not lie in content or data – but in understanding that the enemy is structural, established and bureaucratic.

Clouded by troves of research, systemic rules and changing goal posts in operationalising their existence/mandate every three/five years in formal readily available documents. That their self-serving interests of saving the world, doing good and over-documenting everything that is done obliviates their bias, institutional supremacy and commodification of what social justice should look like. Limited to what is acceptable to them and not reversing the intergenerational, centuries long injustices that have mutated and play themselves out within systems and structures that they continue to benefit from.

Notable experiences:

Rustin times: Queering Philanthropy and a look into HIV responses

CIVICUS: Playbook

Alliance: Holding space within civil society

Accountable Now: Reflections on Power from the Bottom

Success Capital: Costs of LGBTIQ+ Youth Activism

Alliance: Being intentional in 2020

GFCF: Pathways to Power

Rustin times: Queering Philanthropy and Reflections on following the Money

Alliance: Pathways to power: is activism within philanthropy possible?

Success Capital: Dear Donor

Success Capital: Feedback Brief – 09.05.2019


More updates to be shared on this page.














Share This