Trust and humility.

That’s what Degan Ali said is sorely needed in international aid and development at a June Global Washington roundtable on decolonizing global development and the role of U.S. based iNGOS. What does trust and humility look like? More trust in local people on the ground in the places iNGOs work. And more humility to listen to and learn from them.

Ali, the executive director of Nairobi-based Adeso and a trailblazer in the movement to decolonize aid and rethink humanitarianism, put it this way. “If there was a crisis, God forbid, in Seattle, we would expect that level of dignity and respect that people would trust you all to know what you need and how you need it and when you need it. But that level of consideration and trust is not given to people in the Global South, unfortunately.”

A global leader in community-centered development, Ali is working to change both the conversation about aid and development and take concrete steps to change the sector. Briefly, she envisions the Global North ceding more resources, voice and power to the Global South. It’s a vision that supports self-determination and civil society in the Global South—with iNGOs walking the talk of cultivating local vision, leadership and capacity. (And one where donors increasingly give directly to local groups.) Ali acknowledges the decolonization conversation can be uncomfortable—especially for leaders of iNGOs who aren’t based in the places where their work is being done or who don’t represent those communities. But she says it’s necessary.

iNGOs in the Global Washington network have the chance to be part of that conversation and change, Executive Director Kristen Dailey told leaders at the roundtable. She sees Seattle as a potential leader in reform toward community-led, globally connected development. “We have the NGOs and entrepreneurs here in our community to evolve what global development looks like,” Dailey told the assembled leaders. “And it’s going to happen with or without us. … I hope you’re excited to join me in this journey.”

Read the full article about a path forward by Lynn Schnaiberg at Global Washington.