Resources: Reimagining International Development

Critiques of international development

The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith (Development Essentials Edition) (2019) Gilbert Rist, London: Zed Books, ISBN: 9781786997562

Many books critiquing development, from a variety of perspectives, have been published over the years, and they continue to appear on a regular basis. This work, first published in 1997 and now in its fifth edition, has proved to be an influential text. Its main argument is that the belief in growth (central to the idea of development) as the answer to poverty is illusory. For the author, modern development, which has its roots in colonialism, has only really resulted in the extending of market relations, regardless of the intentions of its advocates.

‘International development’ is a loaded term: it’s time for a rethink (2017) Jennifer Lentfer, The Guardian, 3 May

This blog encapsulates many of the current critiques of international development. For the author, who founded an INGO 30 years ago, international development now means flying in ‘experts’ from the global North, an economic growth-fuelled perspective, and neoliberal policies that have resulted in economic, social, and environmental failures. With current understandings of development at odds with her organisation’s ethos, the author explains the need to change its name from International Development Exchange to Thousand Currents to better reflect interdependence and shared global challenges.

Buzzwords and tortuous impact studies won’t fix a broken aid system (2018) The Guardian, 16 July

This is another quick and easy read outlining one of the key criticisms directed at current development policy and practice. It is authored by some of the leading names in development economics and research. They critique what they see as the current obsession with ‘aid effectiveness’, and the associated tendency to privilege ‘micro-interventions’ carried out at local level. These tend to yield observable results in a short space of time. For the authors, this current emphasis ignores the broader economic and political drivers of poverty and underdevelopment.

9 Reasons the International Development Sector Needs to Get Political, Address Power Relations, and Adopt a Transformative Agenda (2019) Stephen McCloskey, openDemocracy, 31 July

This short blog addresses a long-standing criticism of international development – that it ignores the realities of power and politics. The author argues that the current development model, embodied by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is failing, citing in evidence areas including climate change and gender (in)equality. The author identifies a ‘broken’ neoliberal economy as the reason for continuing high levels of poverty and everincreasing inequality, and challenges the development sector to shift from its largely technical, managerial, and depoliticised discourse to push instead for systemic change and political influence to address the root causes of economic inequality.

Development Aid Confronts Politics: The Almost Revolution (2013) Thomas Carothers and Diane De Gramont, Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, ISBN: 9780870034008

The authors of this book argue that aid providers are belatedly recognising that development cannot be separated from political processes. However, they are hampered from applying more politically informed approaches by a number of internal and external factors. These include inflexible bureaucratic structures of aid management, pressure to demonstrate quick impact, and resistance on the part of aid recipients. The book’s central points are helpfully summarised in a one-page briefing note.

The Anti-politics Machine: ‘Development’, Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho (1990) James Ferguson. Reprint, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1994, ISBN: 780816624379

Although 30 years old now, The Anti-politics Machine it is still cited by many (including the authors of the work above) in their critiques of international development, and can be seen as something of a classic in the literature on development. The book provides a detailed analysis of a development project in Lesotho, revealing outcomes that have since become standard criticisms of international development. These include viewing the political realities of poverty and powerlessness as ‘technical’ problems to be solved by development agencies and experts, and the unintended consequences of often ill-judged development projects.


From colonialism to development: reflections of former colonial officers (2006) Uma Kothari, Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 44(1): 118–36

International development is seen by many critics as another form of colonialism. This fascinating and illuminating article explores the continuities between historical colonialism and today’s international development industry. It examines the experiences of individuals involved in both colonial administration and subsequently in the field of development, as expatriate consultants. The article highlights the high status derived from being from the West, in either role, but recognises that there has been some opening up of the field – particularly in terms of themore diverse nature of those involved, in terms of sex, race, and class.

Under Western eyes: feminist scholarship and colonial discourses (1984) Chandra Talpade Mohanty, boundary 2(3): 333–58 

First published 36 years ago, this article was, and remains, hugely influential, being a powerful critique of Western feminist scholarship on women in the – as it was then termed – Third World. Among other things, the article criticises the ‘colonisation’ of women’s experiences by researchers from the global North, and argues for genuine transnational feminist solidarity, through the pursuit of grounded research. This would recognise contextual complexities, the overarching structures of global capital and imperialism, and acknowledge local struggles against oppression.

Capitalism, Postcolonialism and Gender: Complicating Development, Gender and Development Network (GADN) Thinkpieces (2019) Sara Salem, London: GADN 

This thinkpiece has the stated aim of enriching the perspective of practitioners but will be of interest to all those concerned with gender and development more broadly. The author’s key point is that development practitioners should recognise that for many women around the world, gender is not the only, or even the most important, source of their oppression. For post-colonial feminists, colonial histories and capitalist development are inseparable, and gender oppression operates within a wider framework of global, postcolonial capitalist oppression.


Race, Racism and Development: Interrogating History, Discourse and Practice (2012) Kalpana Wilson, London and New York: Zed Books, ISBN: 9781848135123

This book cogently argues that race and racism play a central, but unacknowledged, role in development policies and practices. The author examines the ways ideas about race have underpinned approaches in areas such as human rights, security, good governance, HIV/AIDS, population control, and non-government organisations. Central to the author’s thesis is the historical and contemporary relationship between ‘race’, capital accumulation, and development. For the author, these are all inextricably
linked, with development ultimately helping to perpetuate hierarchies of wealth and race.

The ‘Gender Lens’: A Racial Blinder? Paper prepared for the International Workshop Feminist Fables and Gender Myths: Repositioning Gender in Development Policy and Practice, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, 2–4 July (2003) Sarah C. White

Despite being published nearly 20 years ago, this article is still pertinent to discussions on race in development. In it, the author argues that the field of gender and development (GAD) has arguably, through its own ignoring of the issue of race, helped reinforce the erasure of race in development more broadly. The author cites the absence of black feminist thought in the development of GAD as evidence (although the importance of intersectional approaches – first championed by black American feminists – has been widely recognised in the years after this article was published). However, the author believes that GAD’s concern with power dynamics and its call for gender issues to be addressed ‘at home’ in the office as well as in ‘the field’ means that it provides a model for addressing the issue of race in development.

Opinion: International development has a race problem (2019) Angela Bruce-Raeburn, Devex, 17 May

This opinion piece argues that there is an unwillingness on the part of the international development sector to recognise the inherent, racialised power imbalances at play within it. In this system, those who receive aid are poor black and brown people, and those who deliver it are white people, who determine what is needed and how it is delivered. For the author, the face of international development is still white, and there needs to be a genuine commitment made to fostering diversity and inclusion.

Institutional issues in the development sector

Galvanising girls for development? Critiquing the shift from “smart” to “smarter” economics (2016) Sylvia Chant, Progress in Development Studies 16(4): 314–28 

Sylvia Chant’s critique of the recent trend of focusing on girls in development (first articulated in her 2012 article in Gender & Development, co-authored with Caroline Sweetman (Fixing women or fixing the world? “Smart economics”, efficiency approaches, and gender equality in development) has proved highly influential. In it, she draws attention to the instrumentalist, neoliberal economic agenda behind much development work targeting women, and more recently, girls.

Aid, NGOs and the Realities of Women’s Lives: A Perfect Storm (2013) Tina Wallace, Fenella Porter, and Mark Ralph-Bowman (eds.) Bourton-on-Dunsmore, UK: Practical Action Publishing, ISBN: 9781853397790

This book is particularly helpful for readers of Gender & Development as it brings together some of the key critiques of current international development policy and practice, while at the same time paying attention to the way these relate to women and girls ‘on the receiving end’, in the global South and global North. The failings explored in the first section of the book represent a crisis for non-government organisations, pulling them further and further away from the women and girls they claim to work for. The second section provides examples from organisations and others attempting to, in the words of the editors, ‘change the conversation’.

The dangers of NGO-isation of women’s rights in Africa: NGO agendas in Africa depoliticise women’s rights and sideline and weaken grassroot African activism (2018) Hala Al-Karib, Aljazeera, 13 December

This persuasive opinion piece offers a distillation of the ‘NGO-isation’ critique often levelled at international development. The author argues that existing women’s rights activism in Africa has been overtaken in the last few decades by non-government organisations (NGOs) that are either run from or are reliant on funding from the global North, and therefore work to Northern priorities. The author gives the example of the focus on female genital mutilation (FGM) in the Horn of Africa, which while an undeniable human rights abuse, is only part of a deeply rooted culture that seeks to subordinate women, and is promoted by ultra-conservative political regimes. Representative of the depoliticised and depoliticising nature of NGOs, this focus on FGM draws energy and resources away from wider political engagement by women’s rights activists.

From Public Space to Office Space: The Professionalization/NGO-ization of the Feminist Movement Associations in Lebanon and its Impact on Mobilization and Achieving Social Change (2015) Dalya Mitri, Beirut: Civil Society Knowledge Center/Lebanon Support

This is another critique of ‘NGO-isation’. The author provides a thoughtful analysis that contrasts social movements, and their ability to mobilise large numbers of people, with the professional activism and ‘projectised’ approach of women’s rights non-government organisations (NGOs) in Lebanon and the wider Arab world. She argues that the nature of present-day women’s rights NGOs has resulted in a separation and distancing from many of the women they wish to engage with. This has resulted in a failure to mobilise the numbers of women necessary to bring about social change in areas such as violence against women and personal status law.

Cowboys and Conquering Kings: Sexual Harassment, Exploitation and Abuse in the Aid Sector (n.d.) Danielle Spencer, Changing Aid

Revelations in the media around sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by Oxfam staff during the 2010 Haiti earthquake response have cast a shadow over the international development sector as a whole, and have led to calls for wholesale reform. This report documents instances of SEA, affecting both those in receipt of aid and female aid workers. Interestingly, the author locates this SEA within a framework of a set of harmful masculinities that she sees at play within the sector. For the author, these perpetuate the patriarchal and racist attitudes that foster abusive behaviour on the part of male nongovernment organisation workers.

Gender Mainstreaming: Moving from Rhetoric to Reality (2019) Gabriella Pinto, Bond, 7 March

This short online piece gives a brief but helpful introduction to the debates on gender mainstreaming in international development. Gender mainstreaming was widely adopted after the 1995 Beijing United Nations International Conference on Women as a strategy for achieving gender equality, and refers to efforts to integrate a gender perspective into processes and decision-making. Many view gender mainstreaming as having failed in its ambitions. Here, the author outlines what would be needed at organisation and programme levels for gender mainstreaming to be pursued meaningfully.

It’s just been such a horrible experience.’ Perceptions of gender mainstreaming by practitioners in South African organisations (2012) Jenevieve Mannell, Gender & Development 20(3): 423–34

This article helps bring to life some of the reasons that gender mainstreaming as a strategy has failed in many places. Drawing on research undertaken with South African gender and development practitioners – some of whom ended up rejecting gender mainstreaming altogether – the author identifies some key explanations. These include the substitution of checklists and technical tools for any real commitment to achieving gender equality, and the absence of issues such as race and class as well as gender when considering power inequalities.

Funding for womens rights work in development 

Watering the Leaves, Starving the Roots: The Status of Financing for Women’s Rights Organizing and Gender Equality (2013) Angelika Arutyunova and Cindy Clark, Toronto: Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

This important report from 2013 focuses on the low levels of funding for women’s rights and gender equality work undertaken by women’s organisations. The report argues that while there is much interest expressed in ‘investing in women and girls’ (the ‘leaves’) in international development, there is little financial support being made available for the ‘roots’. This is the kind of collective action by feminists and women’s rights activists and organisations that has always been necessary to advance the rights of women and girls around the world.

Only 1% of gender equality funding is going to women’s organisations – why? (2019) Kasia Staszewka, Tenzin Dolker, and Kellea Miller, The Guardian, 2 July 

This newspaper article is a condensed version of the argument offered in the resource above. Statistics bring it up to date, so that the article provides a snapshot of the current state of funding for women’s rights work in international development, as well as a major critique. The authors highlight the mismatch between the bureaucratic requirements of donor funding and the nature of social movements and the organisations closely connected to them. They therefore call for new funding models to be adopted to support genuinely feminist gender equality work.

Feminist development alternatives 

Development, Crises and Alternative Visions: Third World Perspectives (1987) Gita Sen and Caren Grown for Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), New York: Monthly Review Press, ISBN: 978-0853457176 

This short book was first published in 1987, and is a seminal work. In it, DAWN, a network of feminists from the global South, present a feminist postcolonial critique of international development and the macro-economic policies that fail to transform the lives of women living in poverty in the global South. One of the first of its kind, the analysis has proved highly influential. The book is included in this part of our Resources for its section ‘Alternative Visions, Strategies and Methods’. Here the authors set out possible ways forward for challenging inequality based on class, gender, and race.

Feminist Development Alternatives Pack (2016) Gender and Development Network (GADN)

This resource is the result of a project seeking to generate alternative, feminist thinking about and approaches to development. A set of eight papers focuses on areas including feminist movements, funding, and care work and the economy. The paper ‘Aspiring to Feminist Societies’ outlines a vision for the kind of future that a feminist development paradigm would bring about. See also the introductory blogpost, which sets out some of the key questions that arose during the project and in the papers themselves. 

Healing Solidarity: Re-imagining International Development (2018) Mary Ann Clements, openDemocracy, 25 September

Healing Solidarity is a project initiated by Mary Ann Clements, a feminist writer and coach. Through the medium of online conferences and spaces, the project engages those working in international development in honest reflection in order to reform development practice. In this online piece, Mary Ann Clements sets out why such a project is necessary, and outlines some of the topics discussed by participants at the 2018 conference. Further information on the project is available at and

Co-creating Feminist Realities (2019) Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

Co-creating Feminist Realities is an ongoing five-year project aimed at feminist activists. It seeks to recognise and promote existing feminist practices around the world while working towards a transformation of patriarchal, exploitative systems, globally. The first output of the project is Feminist Realities: Our Power in Action: An Exploratory Toolkit, The toolkit is designed as a starting point for thinking and action around the idea of feminist realities, and presents tools for creating presentations and running activist workshops.

Strategies for Building Organizations with a Soul (2015) Hope Chigudu and Rudo Chigudu, African Institute for Integrated to Responses to Violence Against Women and Girls & HIV/AIDS (AIR)

This is a manual for those wanting to ensure that their values around feminism, social justice, and equality are put into practice in the organisations they work for. The chapters help support reflection, and guide the reader through the process of developing an organisation ‘with a soul’, including how to respond to typical challenges. Downloadable worksheets are included, plus a ‘Rapid Soul Check’ – a quick checklist that enables users to assess how their organisation is doing in terms of putting values and principles at the heart of its systems and activities.

Transforming the economy: justice, feminism, and sustainability

Building Feminist Economies (n.d.) Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

The building of feminist economies is one of the priority projects for the feminist network, AWID. On the dedicated section of their website, AWID sets out their vision of what a feminist economy would look like, the actions they are taking in pursuit of it, plus reports and other resources related to this theme. 

Feminist Propositions for a Just Economy (n.d.) Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

This online resource forms part of AWID’s Building Feminist Economies project (see above). It offers a number of alternative economic visions which have at their centre concern for equality, social justice, and the environment. Areas explored include the solidarity economy, reclaiming the commons, and an alternative framework for economic growth.

Towards a radical re-appropriation: gender, development and neoliberal feminism (2015) Kalpana Wilson, Development and Change 46(4): 803–32

This article is helpful from two perspectives. Firstly, it suggests possibilities for reclaiming feminism in a development context from what the author sees as its appropriation by neoliberalism. Secondly, it traces the history of gender in development itself, until it arrives at this current, neoliberal, iteration. The author draws on examples from India to illustrate the dynamics of feminist movements that are confronting patriarchal norms in a neoliberal context, and argues for the centrality of the feminist concepts of social reproduction, heteronormativity, and intersectionality for reclaiming gender within development.

Plan F: A Feminist Economic Strategy for a Caring and Sustainable Economy (2015) UK Women’s Budget Group and Scottish Women’s Budget Group

This short two-pager outlines an economic strategy for the UK, and was developed in the context of the austerity measures imposed following the global economic crash of 2008. It lists a set of feminist economic policies that focus on improving well-being and reducing inequality. Key elements include investment in social infrastructure, such as care, health, education and training services, social security and housing, and improved pay and conditions for those working in these areas.

Investing in the Care Economy: Simulating Employment Effects by Gender in Countries in Emerging Economies (2017) Jerome De Henau, Susan Himmelweit, and Diane Perrons, Brussels: Women’s Budget Group for UN Women and ITUC

While not a feminist revisioning as such, this report does add weight to feminist calls for rebalancing economies in favour of more equitable and supportive outcomes for all. The report calls for public spending on the care economy as well as on infrastructure projects in emerging economies. Pointing out the inherent gender bias in economic thought, which sees spending on physical infrastructure as investment but on the care economy as a cost, it models outcomes of increased spending on construction and the care economy for a range of countries including India, Indonesia, and South Africa.

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist (2017) Kate Raworth, London: Random House Business Books, ISBN: 9781847941374

Again, although not an explicitly feminist text, this book includes a feminist economist analysis of the economy as a central part of its argument. Rejecting environmentally unsustainable economic growth as the goal of development, it argues for recognition of the centrality and importance of unpaid care work to the functioning of society and the economy. Accessibly written, with an entertaining style, the book presents a model for a sustainable future for humanity.

Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development (1989) Vandana Shiva, New Delhi: Kali for Women, and London and Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Zed Books, ISBN: 9780862328238

Vandana Shiva is perhaps the world’s most prominent ecofeminist thinker and activist. Central to ecofeminism is the connection it makes between the domination and exploitation by man of both women and the earth. This, and what Vandana Shiva calls the ‘feminist principle’ in relation to nature, is explored in this book, in which she offers both a critique of the current ‘maldevelopment’ paradigm, and a vision for a future where development does not entail the destruction of the environment. See also her book, Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability and Peace (2005), reprint, London: Zed Books, 2016.

Feminist leadership

Feminist Leadership for Social Transformation: Clearing the Conceptual Cloud (2010) Srilatha Batliwala, Just Associates (JASS)

This resource provides an in-depth consideration of the notion of feminist leadership, with the author arguing for the importance of defining abstract ideas – or ‘nailing the jelly to the wall’. The author uses the model of the ‘feminist leadership diamond’ to explore the concept. The diamond consists of four inter-related dimensions, which are: power; principles and values; politics and purpose; and practice. While this document is not a quick read, ideas are explained clearly and accessibly, and it is well worth engaging with.

Achieving Transformative Feminist Leadership: A Toolkit for Organisations and Movements (2014) Srilatha Batliwala and Michel Friedman, New Delhi: CREA

This toolkit draws directly on the theoretical analysis presented in the resource above. It is intended to support individuals and organisations in examining the nature of leadership within their own organisation, the ‘self’ in relation to leadership, and how better to align individual and organisational leadership practice with the principles of transformative feminist leadership. The toolkit consists of four modules, each containing exercises for participants, plus a guide for facilitators.

Transformative and Feminist Leadership for Women’s Rights, Oxfam America Research Backgrounder Series (2017) Shawna Wakefield, Boston: Oxfam America 

This report provides an assessment of current transformational and feminist leadership, thinking, and practice. It includes examples of transformational and feminist leadership in action in movement-building organisations, and a particularly helpful analytical framework, which helps clarify what the key aspects of what transformational and feminist leadership actually look like.

What is Feminist Process? (2007) Solidarity, 20 February

This clearly written online piece describes feminist process, that is, ways of working that seek to avoid perpetuating patriarchal and hierarchical norms in order to foster the participation of all. The piece describes the evolution of feminist process itself, and its role in norm setting to improve interaction within groups or organisations. These norms emphasise respect, inclusion, and crucially, an awareness of power dynamics.

Funding for social justice and development alternatives

  • New models

Shifting Power and Resources to Grassroots Movements: Findings from consultations with activists and funders (2019) CIVICUS

In this short document, the civil society organisation network CIVICUS sets out the results of its research into what better funding for organisations working at the grassroots might look like. Four potential models are identified. Mapped against them are the solutions each provides for some of the most pressing funding challenges faced by grassroots groups and

Power is shifting to communities and INGOs need to be part of it (2019) Jenny Hodgson, Bond, 11 March

This online piece provides a helpful introduction to community philanthropy and participatory grantmaking. The author is Jenny Hodgson, who is an article contributor to this issue of Gender & Development and heads the organisation, the Global Fund for Community Foundations. In the piece, Jenny Hodgson describes the adoption of these alternative funding methodologies as a growing trend, one which sees communities organising to fund and to determine their own projects, moving away from the ‘beneficiary’ model typical of international development work.

What Does Community Philanthropy Look Like? (2013)

Barry Knight and Andrew Milner, Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, thropy in practice. A set of eight case studies documents the history and work of a diverse range of community philanthropy organisations from around the world. These range from indigenous Amazonians developing forest livelihoods in Brazil, to an African-American photo-voice project in Alabama, USA. An overview section pulls together the common organisational challenges faced by all.

Deciding Together: Shifting Power and Resources Through Participatory Grantmaking (2018) Cynthia Gibson, Foundation Center

This document is a ‘how to’ guide, aimed at funding organisations that are considering the participatory grantmaking model. It explains the concept, the mechanics, the benefits and challenges of the approach, and includes a section on embedding a participatory ethos in organisational processes beyond grantmaking.

  •  Women’s rights funding

Toward a Feminist Funding Ecosystem: A Framework and Practical Guide (2019) Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) 

This is an attractively presented guide and set of infographics from AWID, laying out its vision for the future of funding for women’s rights work. This would see much greater levels going directly to feminist movements themselves, and a more collaborative and complementary relationship between feminist movements and funders. Here, movements, particularly in the global South, would define priorities, and work in equal partnership with funders. For a good introduction to the topic as a whole, see the 2018 essay on the AWID website, Why we need a feminist funding ecosystem.

Money and Movements (n.d.) Count Me In Consortium

This resource is a product of a 2018 meeting bringing together women’s rights and other activists with funders from around the world. Beautifully designed, it is a set of graphics illustrating key considerations for funding feminist movements in the future. These include the need to move away from reliance on donor grants, the importance of addressing climate change, and the need for funders to influence their organisations and sector to support feminist funding.

Women’s funds

Women’s funds have a history of providing funding directly to grassroots women’s organisations and movements, supporting activism for women’s rights around the world. Below is a brief selection of some of the more well known.

African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF),  Twitter: @awdf01

AWDF was founded in 2000. With a headquarters in Ghana, it makes grants available to women’s organisations across Africa and the Middle East. The fund also runs training programmes for its grantees, in areas such as programme evaluation and financial management.

FRIDA l The Young Feminist Fund, Twitter: @FRIDAfund

FRIDA l The Young Feminist Fund began life in 2011. FRIDA is an acronym for the fund’s values of flexibility, resources, inclusivity, and action. It provides funding specifically to young feminist women’s, girls’ and trans people’s organisations around the world, and uses a participatory grantmaking process. FRIDA l The Young Feminist Fund’s office is
located in Toronto, Canada.

Global Fund for Women,  Twitter: @GlobalFundWomen

The Global Fund for Women was set up in 1987. As well as providing grants to women’s, girls’ and trans people’s organisations across the globe, the Fund works to support and strengthen other women’s funds and to help develop the women’s funding movement. Global Fund for Women is based in San Francisco, USA.

Mama Cash, Twitter: @mamacash

Based in the Netherlands, Mama Cash was the first international women’s fund, founded in 1983. It funds the activism of women’s, girls, trans and intersex people’s organisations globally. It also offers accompaniment support to organisations, which can take the form of financial support for organisation capacity building and development, or one-to-one advice.

Prospera International Network of Women’s Funds, Twitter: @Prospera_INWF

Prospera is not a grantmaking women’s fund, but a global network of women’s funds, with its base in Canada. It works to connect its members, to provide capacity-building tools and technical assistance to women’s funds, and to influence key audiences. Its member listing on the website provides a useful list of women’s funds, organised by geographical region.

Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, Twitter: @UrgentAct

Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights began in the USA in 1987, and provides rapid response funding to women and transgender human rights defenders across the globe. This support is intended to assist in moments of crisis, with responses to funding requests given within three days and funds arriving within a week. Sister Urgent Action Funds now exist in Africa, Latin America, and Asia-Pacific.

Decolonising development: working in global solidarity

An agenda for thinking about ‘race’ in development (2006) Uma Kothari, Progress in Development Studies 6(1): 9–23

In this article from 2006, the author identifies a silence on the issue of race in development; something that continues to be reflected in current critiques. The ways forward proposed by the author, therefore, are as relevant now as then. These include specific areas for investigation, focusing on the legacy of colonialism, the connection between whiteness and power within development, and the hidden racialised understandings of difference, poverty, and inequality embedded in some development terminology. The author also considers anti-racism and multi-culturalism work undertaken in the UK, along with postcolonial critiques, calling for the power analysis inherent in both to be applied within international development.

De-centring the ‘White Gaze’ of Development (2019) Robtel Neajai Paily, Keynote address, Development Studies Association Annual Conference, Opening Up Development, 20 June, Milton Keynes, UK

This is the film recording of an informative and thought-provoking talk given by academic Robtel Neajai Paily. Central is Robtel Neajai Paily’s idea of bringing together critical development studies and critical race studies in order to ‘decentre’ the white gaze, and her own research on Liberia and Sierra Leone that aims to do this. Robtel Neajai Paily references a wide range of, mainly academic, texts throughout, making this a particularly rich resource for those who wish to read more broadly on the topic. Details of these references, along with the text of the talk, are available at Development & Change

Decolonising Gender (2015) Raewyn Connell, LSE Public Lecture, 18 May

This recording of a lecture by eminent gender scholar Raewyn Connell will be of relevance to all those working on gender in the development sector. In it, she explains the incorporation of feminist knowledge into a global economy of knowledge, dominated by the global North. As a means of decolonisation, she outlines alternative sources of knowledge, and proposes a three-point plan for those producing feminist knowledge in the global North, so that their work will better support the practical issues feminist movements currently face.

Decolonizing Solidarity: Dilemmas and Directions for Supporters of Indigenous Struggles (2015) Clare Land, London: Zed Books, ISBN: 9871783601721

This fascinating and insightful book examines the relationship between indigenous activists and their non-indigenous supporters. The book focuses on Australia but will have resonance in other colonial-settler contexts, and in the realm of international development, as well. The author argues that critical self-reflection is needed on the part of non-indigenous activists/supporters, and draws on her research with indigenous activists to set out a framework for how non-indigenous supporters of indigenous struggles can better pursue alliances and solidarity politics.

Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups (2001) Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun, ChangeWork

This is an online resource aimed at activists working on social justice issues. While some of the material has a specific US focus, it will be useful more widely, particularly in contexts where the white population is in amajority. In clear and concise language it defines racism, and offers breakdowns of concepts including assumptions, internalisations, and white supremacy culture. 

Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism, and Change the World (2020) Layla F. Saad, London: Quercus 

This is a 28-day self-guided course for individual or group use. It is designed to guide honest self-examination and reflection on the ways in which those benefiting from white privilege reinforce white supremacy and racism, often unconsciously. Engagingly written and presented, the workbook nevertheless raises many uncomfortable questions, and argues that ultimately, it is not enough to hold anti-racist views; individuals need to commit to taking action for change.

‘Grassroots means no brains’: how to tackle racism in the aid sector (2017) Rashida Petersen and Jennifer Lentner, The Guardian, 4 August, 

In this short online article, the authors propose four ways of addressing the structural racism they see as impeding the progress of global development. All relate to organisational practices. First in the list is questioning the need for ‘expats’ to get the job done, second is tackling the lack of people of colour in leadership roles, third is recognising the difference between diversity and actual inclusion within an organisation, and finally is challenging the ways dominant, white culture operates within an organisation.

Making Aid Agencies Work: Reconnecting INGOs with the People They Serve (2019) Terry Gibson, Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing, ISBN: 9781787695122

This persuasive and accessibly written book combines an analysis of what has gone wrong with aid agencies with a vision for the future. The author’s contention is that international non-government organisations (INGOs) have become disconnected from the local people they seek to assist, being service deliverers for their own donors’ agendas, rather than the change agents they wish to be. Instead, the author advocates that donors support INGOs’ own vision for development which has been built up from on-the-ground knowledge. INGOs could then focus on working as civil society organisations connecting with other local actors to address locally determined priorities.

Solution – or Part of the Problem? Reflections on the Role of INGOs in Women’s Rights Work, Gender and Development Network (GADN) Briefings (2019) Mwanahamisi Salimu Singano, Fenya Fischer, Isabel Marler, Jessica Woodroffe, and Laura Aznar Herranz, London: GADN, FEMNET, and Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID

In this valuable briefing note, staff members from two women’s rights organisations (AWID and FEMNET) set out what it is they want and do not want from international NGOs (INGOs) in order to advance their work. This is in a context in which INGOs are increasingly moving into the space occupied by smaller, activist organisations. Areas touched on include the lack of genuine partnership and ‘extractivism’ exhibited by INGOs, and the need for funding models better suited to small, movement-based organisations.

Sustaining feminist activism: solidarity and resilience

Politicizing Self-care and Wellbeing in Our Activism as Women Human Rights Defenders (2015) Veronica Vidal, Susan Tolmay and Jessica Horn, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), 10 June

This interview with women’s human rights activist Jessica Horn provides a good introduction to the topic of self-care in activism. In it, she frames self-care as a political act, necessary not only for the well-being of individual activists, but for sustaining organisations and movements within systems of power that actively work to erase the happiness and well-being of certain groups of people. She argues for organisations and funders to recognise the collective and individual stress involved in rights work, and to develop mechanisms to support the emotional and mental well-being of staff.

On Africa’s Feminist Frontlines, We Need Accessible Care Practices to Sustain Our Movements (2019) Jessica Horn, openDemocracy 50:50, 2 July

In this online piece, the author (interviewed in the resource above) argues that the kind of individualistic, consumer-based self-care championed by the ‘wellness industrial complex’ in Europe and North America (e.g. yoga sessions), are out of reach for the majority of women’s rights activists in Africa. Instead, the author points to the example of the collective care models that HIV+ women developed in parts of Africa at a time when lack of government response and social stigma were at their height. This kind of accessible and collective support continues to be needed, the author argues, at a time of backlash and increasing threats to the security and lives of African women’s rights activists, and she shares initiatives from a number of organisations that are putting it into practice.

The subjective side of development: sources of well-being, resources for struggle (2016) Linda Klouzal, in Kum-Kum Bhavnani, John Foran, Priya A. Kurian, and Debashish Munshi (eds.) Feminist Futures: Reimagining Women, Culture and Development (Second Edition), London: Zed Books, pp. 314–24

This book chapter, first published in 2003, draws on the author’s research with former female Cuban revolutionaries. In it, the author identifies factors that explain the women’s sustained positive engagement with social issues and their pride in their achievements decades after the revolution. This is in the face of considerable trauma and suffering experienced by them during the revolutionary period.

What’s the Point of Revolution if We Can’t Dance? (2007) Jane Barry with Jelena Dordovic, Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights

This short and engagingly written book is often cited in writing on self-care in activism and rights work, being one of the first publications in which the issue was addressed. In it, activists from around the world share experiences, and reflect on the toll taken on health and well-being in a field in which self-sacrifice and exposure to stress and trauma are regarded as the norm.

Develop Your Self-care Plan (n.d.) FRIDA I The Young Feminist Fund 

FRIDA l The Young Feminist Fund, who have put this online resource together, argue that self-care of oneself and one’s organisation is a political act, undertaken to ensure the sustainability of the feminist movement and one’s own resilience. Develop Your Self-care Plan is a short collection of useful readings documenting FRIDA’s experience, plus a list of further resources, which aim to support others in incorporating a focus on self- and collective care into their work.