Mona Eendra via Unsplash

This toolkit was originally published as a blog on the Stopping As Success website.

In the context of both COVID-19 and the global racial justice movement, there’s energy like never before to listen to the people affected most by the issues, and for them to be represented in decisions and as a central part of diverse leadership.

The recently published book, What Transformation Takes: Evidence of Responsible INGO Transitions to Locally Led Development Around the World, was produced out of the demand for evidence related to responsible transition processes and the need to listen to people most closely affected by aid. The book was produced by the Stopping As Success consortium, consisting of Peace Direct, CDA Collaborative Learning and Search for Common Ground.

What does a transformation within responsible transitions look like?

“Transition is the process, but transformation is the outcome. It’s a journey of discovery - there are moments on mountaintops and moments when you feel frightened, messed up, and knocked down, but it’s the best work you’ll ever do.” - Keti Getiashvili, Board member and Head of Development and External Relations for BRIDGE-Innovation and Development (SAS Case Study)

Across the Stopping As Success cases, the ‘recipe for success’ varies with each organization and context. However, common features of a successful transition process are clear: 1) both technical and procedural aspects of transitions are essential and interconnected and 2) dedicated time to plan for and manage relationships among international and local groups makes responsible transitions possible. In short: the ‘how’ matters.

Before the transition

  • “How INGOs enter matters just as much as how they leave”. In order to set up a successful transition down the road, partnerships need to start with a joint vision built on trust, solidarity and joint decision making.
  • Have a transition planned before you start. If an INGO plans to transition over to local leadership before programming even begins, the overall process will be more locally driven and owned.

During the transition

  • Address existing power imbalances. At every step of the process, it’s critical to transfer responsibility, ownership, resources and power to local partners.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. Transitions are messy, complicated, and ever-evolving processes. It’s key to ensure there is room to experiment and try different approaches that are most responsive and adaptive to the local context.

After the transition

Post-transition partnerships are possible. Relationships do not have to end when a formal partnership ends. Allow the relationship to evolve into new forms during and after the transition process that are centered around collaboration and solidarity.

Looking Forward

The case studies and practical resources from the SAS program, and their synthesis into the forthcoming What Transformation Takes book, contribute to a growing body of evidence that seeks to understand how the development sector can be authentically led and driven by people working in their own contexts. As an essential piece of the larger development ecosystem, responsible transitions exemplify that stopping as success can be a reality.

What Transformation Takes was released in early December 2020.