Next City : Ending the Colonial Mindset in International Philanthropy

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Next City
Join Lucas Grindley, executive director at Next City, where we believe journalists have the power to amplify solutions and spread workable ideas. Each week Lucas will sit down with trailblazers to discuss urban issues that get overlooked. At the end of the day, it's all about focusing the world's attention on the good ideas that we hope will grow. Grab a seat from the bus, subway, light-rail, or whatever your transit-love may be and listen on the go as we spread solutions from one city to the Next City .

Episode transcripts

Straw media. This is Lucas Cranleyfrom next city, to show about change
makers and their stories. Truth is, there are solutions to the problems of
pressing people in cities. If you'relistening, I hope it's because you want
to spread good ideas from one todayto the next city. Today we're talking
about a way to decolonize philanthropy.What does that mean? Edgar Villen Aueva
wrote the book on decolonizing wealth.That's literally the title of the book.
Here he is in a speech shortlyafter it was published. But what does
it really mean, you may ask. Well, first, are we clear
what colonization is? Colonization things totallynormal to us, because history books are
full of it right and because tothis day, many colonizing powers talk about
colonization not with shame but with pridein their accomplishments. Because it's actually really
strange. Conquering is one thing.You travel to another place, take resources,
kill people who get in your way, then you go home with your
spoils, but in colonization you stickaround, you occupy the land and you
force the existing indigenous people to becomeyou. It's like a Zombie invasion.
Colonizers insist on taking over their bodies, the minds and the souls of the
colonize. Is there a Zombie invasionhappening right now in American philanthropy? Maybe
they want to send a great newtechnology overseas and ultimately make people there more
like them. That's just one example. On the show today we'll meet the
founders of into roots. They arepushing for an alternative philanthropic structure, one
where the community is to find theproblem and they're defining the solutions. Here
is next city correspondent sentnamon answer.Yeah, I mean it makes perfect sense
Um kind of from the outside.But then there's really well intentioned projects that
are designed to solve a problem.But then when you really sort of analyze
the problem and it's like, well, who's defining that problem right, and
it's more these people that want tomake this solution and save things and maybe
even do something good. But thenthere's but if there's if it's not connected
to like a real community issue andlike something that like the people in the
ground really care about and want tohave solved, it just kind of quickly
comes across it's useless and comes acrossas like out of touch there's all these
other problems. It's like we don'tneed this like green plastic laptop. We
need, I don't know, allthese other things that is obvious to us
living here, I mean piling up. They wants to have real impact like
you're talking about. Do you thinkthey're aware of this disconnect, this sort
of inclination toward a colonial mindset?Some of them have to be, I
guess. If I think if thepeople working in these foundations have any sort
of idea about the like modern challengeslike to their work, but I don't
think. I think it can behard. There's this whole ecosystem of funding,
right, and why something is selectedor not selected, and goals and
Um. So I think it canbe, even if they might know it.
I think it can be hard tofunnel money and projects towards things that
aren't neo colonial when it's like,even with maybe the best of intentions,
like a U N report might comeout or something, and you know,
we would of course want to endup with these like sustainable development goals and
and things like that, but thatdoesn't necessarily mean that like every worthwhile project
on the ground is going to likemeet those needs either. And so Um,
yeah, I guess it's hard tosay if they're aware or not.
I feel like there's just a lotgoing on. Actually, I've worked in
development a little bit before I starteddoing journalism, and so obviously we worked
a lot of funders and like justthis one pro this one project, stuck
with me, where like a lotof the project and its research and stuff
was geared towards the program managers,like Phd Work Um or like supporting that,
and that's always sort of stuck withme. All of that to say
I think there can be like selfinterest on a lot of levels. So
what exactly does interrouts do and howdoes it prevent this colonist philanthropy? Yeah,
by just taking this really true anddeep community approach. The people at
the highest level making these decisions areconnected to actual community needs and everything kind
of comes through that. And interrowit's really like sort of sees itself as
like more empowering like community needs thantaking this sort of like well, we
see a problem, here's our solutionfor it and we're going to give it
to you, and it's a lotmore about sort of connecting communities or groups
with maybe the funding or grant opportunities, just basically taking this approach of like
what you don't have is like theresources you need to do these things for
yourself, so we can help youget these things to do it for yourself,
because obviously you're capable and obviously you'rein the best position to understand and
therefore like solve your own problems.So it's Inter it's kind of like an
intermediary then to their helping connect fundersto what people say they need. Yeah,
yeah, and I think another sortof interesting thing that they offer is
is sort of the ability for foundationsor like funding sources to be connected to
like real issues with real community drivensolutions, and I think that that can
be sort of a disconnect for funders, Um and foundations and sometimes too,
to like find the ways where theirdollars can be really well utilized, and
so I think inter routs like providesthat kind of on both sides. In
a way, interroots provides the criticalliaison between local communities and philanthropic support.
After the break we will hear fromthe CO founders of inter roots, Ronald
Kibbridge and Uganda and Scott Frank herein the United States. Welcome back to
next city. On the show todayending the colonist mindset that can exist in
international philanthropy. A group called interrootsis making the case that solutions must be
envisioned and owned by the community itself. That's the principle you've also heard from
Edgar Villaueva, the author of declonizingwealth. Here he is in that same
speech at the Chicago History Museum.So this is what I argue in the
book. We are resilient. Wethe resilient, all of us who have
been excluded and exploited by today's brokeneconomy. We possess exactly the perspective and
the w some that is needed tofix it. Joining us now are Ronald
Cabbridge and Scott Frank, the COfounders of interrowts, a group that puts
local communities in charge. I wantto start really big with this idea of
what is a colonial mindset in internationalphilanthropy. What is that for people?
How do they notice it? That'squite a big question and I and I
think this is the response to thiswill come in different fold from Uganan perspective,
for example, where I'm coming from, or from my own point of
view as well as this is concerned, is having a colonial mindset is always
looking to the colonial masters or theprevious colonial masters for all the support.
I think this idea also is bothsides. Is formed from communities that were
previously colonized and to the communities thatcolonizes. So that's how I see it.
But from that, this is whatwe like to from the Inter side
to a art. Having been anin it, in the system of support
Um, I can I was supportedby charity called General Uganda a good part
of my life and I have observedthe way the system works for Um support
and all that. There's there's thiskind of Um, there's a development of
dependency on another person all the timeand you know acknowledging the fact that yes,
you need help, but yes,there's some things you can do for
yourself. It's this mentality that somethingneeds to be brought to a place and
that the answer always exists within thecolonizer's framework. Right, you're always looking
to the people who created the problemin a lot of cases to be the
answer, in in and in modernparlance. A lot of times people say
it's like white savior complex things likethis um where basically you think, oh,
I must be the one to solvethis issue somewhere else, when really
it's about what's already there in aplace, what's what's already a history,
knowledge, acknowledge as existed for centuries. People want to do right, but
when we're cultivated within a colonial framework, it's hard to operate outside of that
framework, even though you think you'redoing the right thing. A lot of
time it's perpetuating a power dynamic andyou don't even know it. And we
recognize that. But at the sametime we also believe that it's possible to
change that and people are more thancapable of understanding what's going on. was
there a moment, like just beforeyou formed into roots, where you thought,
oh, that okay, that's it. I've had enough and now we
have to form into roots. Wassomething that made you decide to do this?
Through our discussions with Scott for along time? Yeah, we phoned
that there are some things that reallyneed to be changed in the process and
of this power structure. We hada lot of moments from all the night
where we just kind of I thinkthis is how we connected. We just
kind of look at each other andbe like wait a minute, this is
this, this, there's something goingon it that this, this isn't how
how it has to be, youknow, whether it be, I think
in the Uganian context, observing anotherorganization and, you know, like trips
where people would come over and interactand that dynamics of interaction, how inequitable
they were. Um, you know, we just see that and so we
started talking about it literally on Ronald'sroof, you know, and we're like,
how do we do something different?And that's kind of how we delved
into this idea and it took along time, as a long conversation,
because centuries of of of colonial ruledoes not just go away with a conversation,
nor an idea, and that's kindof one of the problematics of current
you know, Um, nonprofit ideas. It's about people always want to know
what is the one idea that's goingto change it all? What's the innovation
that's gonna do it? But thatidea of innovation, it's also kind of
a colonial paradigm, if you will. When you're operating in a framework that
is fundamentally unjust, you perpetuate inthis unless you actively try not to.
You know, that's that's our field. Interrouts is calling out a cycle of
dependency. Edgar Villa, in theway of the author of declonizing wealth,
might have called it the colonist virus. He said the virus spreads because people
and cultures adapt to your new technologyand pass on the adaptation. So how
do we break from the cycle?So I think you perfectly set up,
you know, the question that allthese bags, which is, what does
interrowt to do exactly, then,to prevent this colonist mindset from creeping in?
First of all, we engage withthe community and within the projects that
we interrupt with, we deal directlywith the communities and we bring the members
of the community, and they committeditself to to the table and actually they
present their own needs and their theirown ways of solving the challenges they're facing
on their own terms. This alsofeeds in what we've been saying about dependency,
that we have a particular time schedule, that after this the projects that
we are doing must be sustainable andthey should be running themselves and the community's
investment is visible and are able torun the projects themselves. So right from
the from the onset of the projectsthat we are engaging with, the commute
is on the table. They bringtheir challenges and then they find they find
solutions of how they want to solvethem, and then we support we come
in as partners to solve these problems. That equal partners. The other thing
that we do is that we onlycome in when we are asked to.
If they need something that they cannotaccess in the process and we can't do
it, we come in as UMequal partners to solve the problem that comes
up from the community in the process. Basically, we work for the community
and they contract us to help troubleshoot, you know, and accomplish the
vision that they have Um, aswell as bring any sources to bear that
are helpful to break into this nonprofitsphere, the resources that are here Um
that are so widely inaccessible to communitieswho are just trying to make a change.
After the break, we will talkabout the processes that interroots has developed,
which they say are key to anequitable relationship. Welcome back to next
city on the show today, interroots and how it envisions freeing communities from
across the globe from toxic relationships withphilanthropic organizations. In Uganda, interroots is
helping a community construct the TATSAT CommunityAcademy, a secondary school, Performing Arts
Institute and Credit Union all in oneand all designed to help preserve cultural traditions.
Along the way, they've developed realchanges to the grant making process which
others could emulate. Here again isScott Frank, CO founder of interroots.
Another thing that we do is wewe implement a lot of things called system
mitigators or mitigating systems, right,for example, Um. One thing that
interests does is that we never actuallyinteract with the community directly. Um.
This is very important in because weunderstand that, no matter who we are
and how conscious you are of saying, okay, there's a lot of these
colonial systems exist. You know,I'm trying to do this right. It
is implicit and no matter what youdo, if you're sitting at a table,
there are dynamics that will always bethere. So how do you mitigate
those? Um. One thing thatwe do is we have a liaison to
every project. Um. The liaison, for example, sits in between the
community and an inter subcommittee. Umthat that basically translates norms, needs and
everything else effectively, meaning that theyare able to Um. You know,
the community has complete autonomy to discussthings as they will with this person who's
a trusted Lee is on from thecommunity, Um, and they can also
say exactly what they need to sayor want to say to the interroot side.
But it's not that those Um.That dynamic is there. While they're
having the conversation. The liaison alsoworks Um to translate two introots and from
the introots to the community. Right. It can be a selective process and
they have a lot on their shoulders, but it allows for autonomy on each
side and also more fruitful conversation aboutwhat really is needed from the other person.
Um and formally, more importantly,Um, our board on introots is
actually made up of community members.One of the requirements of a project is
to have um communities sit on theboard of introots itself. Now, as
we grow as an organization, wehave three projects going on. Right now
there's three community members, but theview is is that ultimately interroots will be
the communities itself. Um. Theboard will be made of communities across the
Globe and represents of those communities whatwe provide as an equitable structure. That
said, Um, how do youdo that? And one of the things
that we do is we all werejust interrogative. On the Interruth side,
we will never say what to doever to a community, even if they
present a problem that they're dealing with. We will only ask questions, right,
and oftentimes those questions are what doyou mean by that? I think
a great example, Ronald Talks aboutthis all the time, is Um.
We were because you accountability is important. Right. Just to decolonize something doesn't
mean that people aren't accountable to eachother. Right. Question is, what
do you mean by accountability? Andthat's the conversation that's important. And there
was a whole conversation of Um,conflict of interests, right, and that
was a fascinating one because we saidwhat what? On the interring side,
what are you doing to control forconflicts of interest? Is this something you've
just thought about as a question?And there was a whole conversation that happened
through the community and they said,Oh, we give what you mean.
Finally, right, you said,so, how we see it is,
how do we keep from cheating ourselves? And we said Yeah, sure,
so how? And if we hadn'tasked the question, allowed the space for
someone to say what, what dothey mean? My conflict adventures, this
is this makes no sense. Youknow, like then that would have never
happened. And they came up.One of our projects came up with a
structure that is incredibly accountable and wecall community compliance. So what interests does
afterwards, after these structures are creative, is we just sit back and we
say, okay, how are youholding yourself accountable? At the end of
the day, our job is tojust say, okay, have you held
yourself to your own terms? AreYou community compliant? So can we talk
about the money side of it?You work for the community, but then
how are you connecting with all thismoney that wants to come to different places?
It's a great question and that's somethingwe are still trying to figure out
the best way to do, becauseone of the key relationship that exists in
the current nonprofit model is this ideaof the donor relationship right, and oftentimes
they wield unnecessary amount of power overwhat happens on the side, as far
as programming, as far as influencein the community, etcetera. So our
goal as into routs was to createa structure where we would be able to
for example, we created our nonprofitstructure sore a c three, but we
also give grants out to organizations whenappropriate. We can be a fiscal sponsor
when appropriate. We adapt to whateverthe community needs as far as a funding
structure, so that all can bekosher and all can be legal. That
said, it's been difficult for usbecause donors want to plug in right to
the community directly. Ronald and Iand interests think that this is highly problematic.
Yet someone still needs to feel meaningfuland connected to what they're doing.
So that's the problem that we're tryingto figure out. For example, we
don't do trips. What we're tryingto do is sell the idea of a
different model Um so that people willsupport us. Also, we help bring
to bear tools that are in thecommunity and also tools that they identify that
they want to do fundraising on theirown um so that once we separate from
that project in a short term,they're able to fundraise on their own.
And also, most importantly, wewant to support projects that actually don't depend
on the cycle of charitable giving.At the end of the day, there
are many ways that money plays inthe current world, non government organization world,
and one of the things is howto to fundraise it and how to
fundraise while actually representing the community directlyand not portraying it as as something else.
As you know them, for example, they are pictures of children that
are in need and they is allwe have all is been have having a
question. How can we represent thecommunity the way they want to be represented,
not their way they perhaps they don't, as we best, get attracted
to it. So uh, andthis is has been ongoing, and it
is uh on ongoing question. Whatwe do is that we have this planged
into the community themselves. They presentwhat they want to present. We cannot
present any any material, pictorial orvideo or anything that is not sanctioned by
the by the community itself, bythe people on the ground, and actually
what we say is mostly coming fromthe community, so that it is very
well represented. Let's conclude now bylistening to a short clip from one of
the videos updating supporters on the taskerproject in Uganda. Here's the rejects community
based consultant. The great aspect ofthis project is that we're deep in a
rural area. You see the mountainsbehind us. If you have a chance
to tour the place, you'll seethe forests around, and the young people
here don't always have an opportunity toget the facilities that we're building for them.
Plus, the curriculum involves training themin financial responsibility, so they have
a role to play in the savingsand credit cooperative. They're also going to
be trained how to read and towrite business planes, so that when they
graduate there will be equipped not onlywith an academic background but a practical one
that they will be able to applyin their lives. We hope you enjoyed
this episode of next city, ashow about change makers and their stories.
Together we can spread good ideas fromone city to the next city. Thank
you to reporter Cinnamon Jancer and ourguests Ronald Kibbridge and Scott Frank from interroots.
Our audio producer is Sylvana Alcohola,our scriptwriter is Francesco Mamlin, our
executive producers are Tyler Nielsen and RyanTillotson, and I am Lucas Grimly,
next cities executive director. By theway, next city is a news organization
with a nonprofit model. If youlike what we're doing here, please consider
pitching in to support our work.visit next city dot org slash membership to
make a donation. We would loveto hear any feedback from our listeners,
please feel free to email us atInfo at next city dot Org and,
if you haven't already, subscribe tothe show on Apple, spotify, good
pods or anywhere you listen to yourpodcasts. Eight