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Power and privilege- taking a look at ourselves

28/07/16

Two years ago we worked with others on a report that argued the development sector, through its focus on aid, was obscuring the facts about how poverty is created. It was also reinforcing dubious power imbalances between people and nations that ultimately undermine the ends we seek as a sector.

infographic

An infographic from the Honest Accounts report highlighting the uneven flow of funds in and out of Africa. This is just one manifestation of unequal power relations worldwide.

It’s no secret that these power imbalances are replicated across the Northern INGO sector itself. Sometimes this is reflected in our relationships with Southern partners, sometimes in lack of employee diversity, sometimes in appalling representations of the South in charity communications – and no doubt sometimes in others things too.

One of the key reasons I’m proud to work for Health Poverty Action is our awareness of power.  All our work is focussed on challenging the power imbalances that undermine health, whether that is working with communities who are denied their right to health due to ethnicity, or campaigning to address the global structural causes of poverty.

We see power as central to all our work. Yet, like most Northern INGOS, when it comes to addressing power and privilege in our own organisational structure, we have got serious work to do. Are we communicating accurately about the causes of poverty? Are we advocating effectively alongside others? And are we helping to dismantle some of the barriers to employment in the sector and encouraging diversity in our staff?

 

Quote-TejuCole2

 

It’s about time we found out. As Teju Cole says “If we are going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement.”

So, we are embarking on some active self-reflection. This will cover the way we communicate, staff diversity and how we advocate alongside Southern partners.  First up – our communications. Are we effectively telling the story about people and how poverty is made, or are we inadvertently reinforcing some of the power imbalances we seek to destroy?

We’ve decided to blog about different aspects of this work as we go along, in the hope that this will expose ourselves to critical feedback, help us to get a range of external perspectives, and learn from others.

We’d really welcome your honest feedback and ideas for blogs, or areas of discussion. Just post them below, Tweet us @HealthPoverty or Facebook message us. Or you can send us an email to media@healthpovertyaction.org

Wish us luck.

Martin Drewry

Director

 


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