We are living in difficult times, but we are also living in times of transformation.
The Covid-19 pandemic’s disruption of our way of life has made us realise that our current system is fragile, unsustainable and highly unequal. We’ve also realised that we need to change it to have a future that works for us all, especially the most vulnerable.
For international development organisations in the UK, the pandemic has threatened support to the world’s poorest when they most need it.
We should be focused on addressing the pandemic’s devastation and the related economic collapse, but we are faced with concerning changes to the machinery of governments with the merger of DFID and the FCO, the success of which will be defined by the political will to sustain a focus on poverty alleviation and sustainable development first for the aid budget.
But is this just the start of wider disruption? Before the pandemic, we had already started to ask that question. We heard from over 150 Bond members that the international development system was experiencing a maelstrom of change. Now that maelstrom is intensifying. It is time to adapt and transform. INGOs need to harness their experience and position to become even more effective players as we pursue better development outcomes.
To kick start this conversation, we drew on knowledge of how socio-economic changes happen. We explored how big trends are interacting with innovations to create the conditions for transformation. We conducted interviews and surveys involving over 100 organisations of various sizes and in varying locations, including in the global south.
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That exploration resulted in four transitions that will likely reshape international development in the next 10 years:
- Climate change and environmental degradation.
- New routes to development.
- Redistribution of power.
- Reinvented charity models.
We have pulled this together into an infographic report that shows the trends, the innovations, and the resulting risks and opportunities for the sector. From there we have highlighted 10 shifts that the UK sector will need to deal with if we want to remain relevant and tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.
These issues range from tackling colonialism and being actively anti-racist, to harnessing technology for good, to the need to proactively respond to climate change and environmental degradation and what to do about changing geopolitical power dynamics. Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring each of these transitions in turn.
The infographics are an offering to begin this conversation, looking for ways to respond to these shifts collectively. They are a chance to proactively reshape the sector so that it is fit for the future we want to see.
That may seem idealistic, or even distracting, at this time of crisis, but for me, leadership is always about addressing today’s challenges and looking forward at the same time. If we don’t look hard at the changes ahead, then we will constantly be buffeted by decisions made elsewhere.
Exploring these transitions is a way to take back agency and push for the best development outcomes for people and planet. We need to be acting on multiple fronts – through policy and advocacy, through our own operations, through new partnerships and innovation. None of us can do that alone, so I hope that you will join us to ask the questions that need to be addressed and find some practical solutions over coming months.
Check out our infographic report into the four transitions reshaping international development.