Throughout 2023, Bond’s working groups have come together to strategise and take action around numerous advocacy opportunities, deliver learning workshops, influence policymakers and produce informative outputs to support the sector.
We have seen continued efforts to decolonise and embed locally led practices and anti-racism with the prioritisation of inclusive and ethical practices across the sector, as well as coordinated advocacy in the wake of global conflicts and natural disasters.
Despite ongoing political upheaval and global challenges, Bond’s working groups have continued to convene and deliver learning and impact under the guidance of group chairs and steering committees.
Comprising a diverse community of over 2,800 individuals from more than 320 member organisations working in the international development and humanitarian sphere, Bond’s working groups are spearheading the sector to evolve for the better and help harness the collective power needed to make real change.
We have warmly welcomed new members with fresh perspectives and experiences, and have been delighted that working groups have been able to meet in person for lively networking sessions after a face-to-face hiatus due to Covid.
We asked our working group chairs to reflect on the work they did in 2023 and look forward to 2024. Here’s what they had to say:
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) group
2023 was a busy year for the Sustainable Development Goals, especially with the UN SDG Summit in September. The SDG group reacted to the Zero Draft Political Declaration and put together recommendations for UK commitments at the Summit. In the summer we coordinated a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to attend the Summit and to not block the Political Declaration.
We mobilised the sector around a social media campaign, while also contributing a paragraph to the White Paper submission. We worked with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on SDGs to hold an event in Parliament ahead of the Summit, where we also launched research from Newcastle University supported by the SDG group.
Once the Summit was over, we did not stop there, attending a panel on the SDGs at the Lib Dem Conference, putting together a briefing for a Westminster Hall Debate on the SDGs and responding to the White Paper in a joint Bond working group blog.
We will begin next year more internally focused as we are looking for new steering committee members and co-chairs.
However, it is yet another year full of opportunities, from the Summit of the Future, general elections and holding the government to account after the renewed commitment to the SDGs set out in the White Paper.
Funding working group
The Funding working group held four group meetings this year. In March, we met with over 70 members to explore the question: ‘How can NGOs build successful new relationships with trust & foundation funders of the future? Key lessons from those on the journey’, joined by Oak Foundation, Ariadne Network, Bill Bruty and Transparency International.
In May, we held our third session on decolonising funding: ‘How to make sharing ICR with partners a reality’. In this session, we were joined by Development Initiatives, who shared their report with UNICEF which maps donor policies and perspectives on partner overheads, Oxfam in Myanmar, who discussed mediating blockages to make ICR sharing a reality, and donors UNHCR and SIDA, who shared their experiences negotiating for ICR sharing.
In October, we held an ‘EU Funding Deep Dive’ session with experts from Bond’s EU Funding and Policy group. Finally in November we held a ‘Demystifying FCDO Commercial Contracting’ session in collaboration with the Commercial Contracts group, with expertise from Mercy Corps, IRC, Sightsavers, and an independent consultant.
We engaged with the FCDO several times – during a feedback session in January from the Centre for Delivery to follow up from their earlier roundtable on reducing bureaucracy, supporting funding inputs to the White Paper, and attending FCDO’s localisation roundtable, as well as a Bond session on central civil society funding.
On the admin side, we shared our annual plan with FWG members and updated our Terms of Reference.
In early 2024, keep an eye out for an in-person FWG meeting in London, with at least two more meetings throughout the year. We will continue our ‘deep dives’ into key funders and identifying themes based on demand. We are also planning to look at local leadership in funding processes through collaboration with Bond’s Practice for Locally Led Development group, and how UK civil society organisations can develop fundraising strategies that don’t compete with local organisations while highlight INGO value-add.
We will also be joined by 2-4 new Steering Committee members. An exciting year ahead.
The Communications group kicked off the year with a short member survey to help shape the group’s direction, an invitation to join our Steering Committee. We have now welcomed on board Jessica Nazzari (Operation Smile), Sarah Swaroop (SCIAF) and most recently, Laura Rodwell (Afghanaid).
Our first workshop of 2023 explored the topic of ‘Neoliberal Narratives: Social Justice Alternatives for Communications’ in collaboration with Dr Noske-Turner of Loughborough University London, who shared valuable insights from her research into social change comms. Group members drew on real-world experience to inform the research and prompted thinking on our role as communications professionals in perpetuating and challenging neoliberal narratives in development. Afterwards, we shared a blog that summarised the key points from the research and webinar.
Communications colleagues from across the sector joined our summer meet up in London, with CAFOD kindly donating their space. During the event, CAFOD’s Head of Communications shared their new anti-racist guide, which generated a lively debate and demonstrated the necessity for practical guidance on implementing an anti-racism approach. We also had an open session on ‘crisis-comms’, current achievements and challenges, before meeting with members of Bond’s Media group to discuss future collaborations.
We are now planning our next workshop for January 2024, which will follow-up to the conversations around anti-racist communications, with practical guidance to apply in our day-to-day roles.
Disability and Development Group
The Disability and Development Group kicked off the year by reviewing the actions and holding a meeting to look at progress and challenges during the previous year. There was marked and excellent progress, with regular communication and feedback from the DDG membership.
Importantly, we made great strides working with the Disability Inclusion Team at the FCDO, as well as the leadership of Bond. We welcomed a new co-chair (George Sempangi), who replaced Jazz Shaban.
Group members actively participated in providing feedback on the White Paper, contributed to the IDC inquiry and providing oral evidence to the committee. Above all, the involvement of lived experience of persons with disabilities was a great learning opportunity for all. Two papers have been finalised – a paper on meaningful engagement of OPDs and an intersectionality paper which is awaiting sign off. Look out for them next year.
The year climaxed with an in-person celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 4 December 2023, attended by Ministers, Members of Parliament, FCDO team, DDG members and persons with lived experience of Disability. The celebration involved speaker after speaker committed to strengthening UK government engagement for people with disabilities and their representative organisations to make the UK government more accountable, more responsive and more effective.
Looking forward, the DDG will continue to engage with all the relevant stakeholders to ensure Disability Inclusion in all spheres of the development and humanitarian sector, increasing funding and adopting flexible participatory grant making to OPDs.
Humanitarian working group
Over the course of the year, the Humanitarian Working Group delved into priority topics, collaborated on advocacy actions and fostered learning and the sharing of experiences. We came together as a group to discuss humanitarian reform, locally led humanitarian action, and climate adaptation funding, providing a space to share insights and experiences, and bringing together members and partners from within and outside the sector, including the FCDO.
One of the key achievements this year was the amazing efforts of our sub-working groups dedicated to the situations in Ukraine, Syria and Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. These groups came together to coordinate advocacy activities and facilitate meaningful discussions with the FCDO.
In 2024, we’ll convene as a group to determine our priorities for the year, and we expect to see more collaboration around localisation and climate finance, as well as exploring new topics such as the risks and opportunities associated with incorporating AI into humanitarian response.
People in the pictures
The People in the Pictures working group met three times in 2023, each time tackling themes suggested by group members. We kicked off with a lively session on the ethical implications of AI image-generation. Hamish Crooks, Chair of the Association of Photographers, talked us through the risks and the opportunities that AI represents for INGO communications. We followed up the session with this blog, which has been widely shared. AI is a theme we hope to pick up in 2024, reflecting the pace of change.
In June, the group met in person for the first time since before the pandemic. Around 30 members came together for a content workshop. Attendees brought along examples of stories or campaigns they had helped create, and we discussed ethical issues related to both process and final product. This workshop format is one we will use again as it is an opportunity for members to network, but also provides some structure.
In September, we explored participatory and inclusive practices that can facilitate authentic and dignified storytelling. We were joined by three speakers, all members of the group, who walked us through initiatives they had been involved in. They were Jazz Shaban, founding director of the Small Voice Projects, participatory communications consultant Gareth Benest, and Ingrid Guyon, founding director of Fotosynthesis. We find members are always keen to see concrete examples from organisations doing things differently.
2024 is shaping up to be a year of evolution and expansion for People in the Pictures, with a new group name to better reflect our remit, planned sessions addressing decolonisation and ethical approaches to content storage and archiving, a spotlight on some of the bold steps members are taking to produce more people-centred, participatory content, and another face-to-face meet-up. We are also hoping to update the guidelines we developed in 2019 to reflect current thinking, and working out how to create a resource hub giving members easy access to examples of best practice.
We are always happy to welcome new people to the group – from communications, fundraising, MEL and beyond – and we love hearing from members about the themes they’d like us to address. When it comes to ethical storytelling, there is so much exciting change happening within the sector. We want to ensure this group is a space that supports and challenges us all to be constantly improving.
Join us in 2024
Join our 2,800 working group members and become part of a community this year.
You’ll get the opportunity to engage with colleagues to help transform the sector for the better, learn from experts in your field, advocate for change through influencing policymaking and broaden your contacts through networking with fellow Bond members.