Last year, as part of Pact’s ongoing effort to maximize its impact, put communities at the center of all it does and end power imbalances in international development, the organization’s Board of Directors took an unprecedented step: It voted to establish a Shareholder Council made up of people from communities Pact serves. (Pact describes the people it serves as its shareholders to reinforce the principle that they are who the organization is ultimately accountable to and Pact’s true owners.) Soon to be formed, the Shareholder Council will play a key role in deciding priorities, approaches and accountability for results at Pact.
As a more immediate step toward ending paternalism in international development, this summer Pact added four new shareholder representatives to its Board of Directors. All of them also hold roles in organizations with which Pact has partnered in local communities. They are Andrew Kashangaki, a corporate social responsibility manager for the leading natural gas company PanAfrican Energy Tanzania; Musa Mwenye, founder and senior partner at Messrs Mwenye & Mwitwa – Advocates, in Zambia, and the country’s former attorney general; Jeremy Ngunze, CEO of the Commercial Bank of Africa in Kenya; and Oksana Ruda, executive director of ASK Reform, a civil society organization dedicated to government reform in Ukraine.
All In asked Pact’s newest leaders about their critical role, change they’re hoping to make and the future of international development.
All In: Why did you decide to join Pact’s Board of Directors?
Kashangaki: I decided to join the board to meaningfully contribute to serving Pact and its mission. I will bring my local knowledge, energy and expertise to the table. By serving on the board, I have the honor, challenge and responsibility of understanding how everything needs to work together for an organization to accomplish its goals. It’s invigorating.
Mwenye: Having been involved with Pact Zambia initially as legal counsel and also as a director, I am aware just how impactful Pact’s work is. It is a privilege to be given an opportunity to contribute in a small way.
Ruda: I have known Pact since 2012, when Pact supported the First Civil Society Capacity Development Forum. Since then it has become an annual event that brings together civil society, the Ukrainian government, international organizations and donors, and serves as a platform for networking, exchange and learning. This is just one example of Pact’s thought leadership and real trust in local solutions. I believe in Pact as a catalyst for transformation and am certain Pact can offer a lot to countries like Ukraine, which is going through a major transformation from its communist past to the democratic future.
Why is it important that local communities and partners are represented in the leadership of international development organizations?
Mwenye: Representation of local communities in the leadership of international development organizations goes a long way in ensuring that local communities have a voice in the way aid is delivered to them at the highest level. Pact is pioneering this local community-centered approach and I am proud to be associated with the organization.
Ngunze: Ultimately the impact we seek is in the communities we service, and their involvement in identifying key needs is critical.
What are the biggest challenges facing your community or country?
Kashangaki: Governance, health and poverty. I think more intense community involvement is needed in developing programs to alleviate poverty.
Mwenye: Poverty and disease. International development organizations are doing what they can to help in eradicating poverty in local communities, but there is always room for improvement.
Ngunze: The key themes revolve around livelihoods, health, education and governance. To a certain extent, development organizations are doing their best based on what they see as key priorities for communities. There is a realization that these priorities may not necessarily align with communities’ priorities.
Ruda: The biggest challenge Ukraine is facing today is making a leap from its Soviet past to democracy and freedom. The country is making progress, but the pace is too slow. INGOs are implementing a lot of good programs, but they mostly work with well-established “big players” while the real need sits at the grassroots level. Sometimes, INGOs implement programs with a “cut and paste” approach without understanding local realities or adapting to the local context.
How can Pact do better? What changes or improvements are you hoping to help make as a member of Pact’s board?
Kashangaki: Pact’s transformation work is the right thing to do and there’s momentum there – transformation of business models so the donors are going to be secondary to the core work, not primary.
Mwenye: Pact has already started its transformation and is in the process of introducing new governance structures that will go a long way in increasing local community participation in the running of the organization, and I am excited to be part of the process.
What is your hope for the future of international development?
Kashangaki: The future of international development is enterprise-driven. I see two revolutionary changes underway. The first is in technology and its rapidly growing availability and affordability across the developing world. For example, in East Africa, people are using cheap mobile phones to pay bills, to conduct small business and to make calls all over the world. Technology is making the impossible possible, the unsolvable solvable. The second revolution is the burgeoning new relationship between private enterprise and the development community. Leaders in both sectors are finally figuring out how to take advantage of each other’s unique capabilities and apply them to challenges that neither could fully take on alone. Today, international development initiatives are embracing the creativity and the entrepreneurship that the private sector brings. Nothing attacks poverty better than inclusive economic growth.
Mwenye: My hope is that aid gradually shifts to progressive partnerships with local communities that don’t give handouts but instead empower communities to do much more for themselves. A significant component of development work could focus on developing and equipping civil society in local communities to better hold local civic and national leaders accountable so that governments become more responsive to the needs of communities and avoid corruption and unnecessary waste.
Ngunze: The role of international development organizations is changing as communities become more aware of and assertive about their priorities. This is coupled with a shift in the kinds of flows previously funding these organizations. Self-sustenance and diversification have become key.
Ruda: My hope is that international development programs will go beyond traditional donor-funded projects, whether it’s technical assistance or direct service delivery, and will become platforms to bring together the social, public and private sectors, all working toward a shared goal and all receiving returns on their investments, both social and financial.
This article originally appeared in Pact's e-magazine, All In. For more on Pact’s transformation and Shareholder Council, read All In’s previous issue.