New ‘localization revolution’ to advance community led solutions to global challenges.

The inaugural World Communities Forum launches as a first-of-its-kind global development event that will flip the dynamics of traditional high-level events that focus on the global elite, instead amplifying the voices of local leaders on the front lines of vulnerable communities around the world. The inaugural event will feature groundbreaking conversations and interactive showcases from practitioners who are driving impact in marginalized communities, where traditional, top-down interventions are falling short.

The Forum will be taking place virtually across 23-24 March 2021, and accessible globally to stream via www.worldcommunitiesforum.org, as well as being streamed live to socially-distanced, outdoor viewing stations, including in Nairobi’s Mathare slum. The event has been programmed from the grassroots up, with local practitioners from Kenya and around the world, designing the stage content. Programming will pair high-profile leaders, including Chelsea Clinton, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Darren Walker, Samantha Power, Cecile Richards, Nick Kristof and Cheryl Dorsey as interviewers who will listen and learn from community-based leaders sharing insights and solutions from their paradigm-shifting work on the front lines of inequality and social change.

The programme will feature:  

●     Chelsea Clinton tackling empowerment of women and girls, with community-based feminist experts Winny Obure, Teenseed, Kenya; Bianca Santana, UNEAfro Brasil, Brazil; and Adwoa Kwatenq-Kluvitse, FORWARD, UK

●     Darren Walker (President, Ford Foundation) tackling mistrust, racial equity and avoiding a vaccine apartheid with community-led pioneers Kennedy Odede, SHOFCO Founder and CEO, Kenya; Dr. Fallah, Refuge Place International, Liberia; and Glenisse Pagan-Ortiz, Filantropía, Puerto Rico

●     Dr Oby Ezekwesili discussing the economic recovery from COVID and how community solutions are vital, with local economic innovators George Gachie, Mathare Roots Initiative, Kenya; Innocent Magambi, There Is Hope, Malawi; and Dr. Quratulain Bakhteari, Institute for Development Studies and Practices, Pakistan 

●     Cecile Richards investigating the future of grassroots organising post-COVID with social justice activists Eugene Young, Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, U.S., and Nelly S Cooper, West Point Women for Health and Development, Liberia; and Nsé Ufot, CEO of New Georgia Project, U.S.

The Forum will also facilitate interactive spotlight sessions where community organisations will demonstrate their innovations on the global stage, providing the opportunity for live participation and interaction. This will include mapping anonymous community-sourced reports of SGBV in India, showcasing ‘talking walls’ art murals in Africa and India, and a tour of the University of Community Development which provides education to unsupported youth in Pakistan.

Ahead of her participation in the panel on empowering women and girls, Chelsea Clinton, Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, stated “The pandemic has had a devastating, and unequal, impact on women and girls across the globe. It has wiped out progress, with estimates the pandemic has set gender equality back 25 years. We need to ensure women and girls have what they need to recover and thrive, so they can set out a brave vision of the future for themselves.”

“As COVID-19 swept all corners of the world, it also brought on a global re-examination of the stark power structures and social inequities that continue to leave marginalized communities, particularly Black and brown people, behind. Philanthropists have a moral duty to step up and do more to protect everyone’s right to a just recovery and we can guarantee this by lifting up local leaders of color as a crucial first step” states Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation.

Delegates at Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) Mathare listen in on the discussion during the World Communities Forum on Tuesday, 23rd March 2021. 

The World Communities Forum is reflective of a growing ‘localisation revolution’ within the global development community. To achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, huge transformational progress must occur to promote peer-driven change over traditional ‘top-down’ approaches that treat marginalized communities as beneficiaries, rather than change agents. Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), the host of World Communities Forum, has been working tirelessly to advance this revolution, with the launch of the Forum and the Global Alliance for Communities serving as the first steps towards this. The Forum was originally due to take place in 2020 at its headquarters in Kibera, where SHOFCO instead mobilized a grassroots response to the COVID-19 pandemic, impacting 2.4 million slum residents in 17 urban settlements across Kenya. 

Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Co-Founder of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and a Senior Economic Advisor, is a key supporter of the localization movement with a particular focus on how this revolution will affect the global recovery effort post-pandemic. “Economic recovery cannot be obtained without new breakthroughs in job creation, particularly for young people who lack formal education but have the will and ingenuity to succeed, when given a chance. . Empowering community leaders and locally-based organisations to create jobs that drive recovery from the ground up will be vital to success.”

“The success of a ‘Great Reset’ after the pandemic hinges on the leadership of community-based practitioners who demonstrate unparalleled impact in marginalized communities, but are systemically locked out from policy and funding decisions” says Kennedy Odede, CEO and Founder of SHOFCO and a founding member of the Global Alliance for Communities. “We can no longer afford to live in a world of aid workers and beneficiaries. We must recognize the talents that already exist in marginalized communities, and unlock this potential to drive durable, social change. As COVID-19 drags on and vulnerable populations are pushed to the brink, it is time for policy-makers and philanthropists to pledge their trust and support in proximate leaders – those on the ground who know what is required and can deliver lasting impact.”

Noting the negative economic impact of Covid-19, development practitioners in Kenya have called for direct cash transfer programs to cushion vulnerable communities.Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), the largest informal settlement Community Based Organization in Kenya, has stepped in to ensure the continuity of cash transfers with a particular focus on informal settlements.SHOFCO will be piloting a cash transfer mechanism targeting an initial 12 informal settlements located across Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa. The Rockefeller Foundation’s support for the SHOFCO pilot will ensure that SHOFCO is able to develop a cash transfer protocol that can be scaled nationally with a focus on beneficiaries in informal settlements. This project falls under the Africa Regional Office’s brand ambassadorship objective of positioning the Rockefeller Foundation as a catalytic partner for national and regional socio-economic development. 

Cheryl L. Dorsey, president of Echoing Green, who will close the Forum in a conversation with Kennedy Odede, said, “Racial equity in development is not just a moral imperative, it is also an impact imperative. Investing in proximate leaders of color generates a greater impact return, yet these leaders experience significant barriers and biases relative to their white counterparts. We must face racial disparities in the development sector head-on and chart a new course towards a more just and equitable paradigm.”

The Global Alliance for Communities is a new, agenda-driven coalition of proximate leaders stretching across the globe, which aims to bring a community-based perspective to the global development agenda. During the World Communities Forum, the newly-formed Global Alliance for Communities will set out its first series of policy asks to demand immediate support for hardest-to-reach communities, equitable access to vaccines, and better investment in locally-led projects, which will ensure communities have what they need to drive themselves towards a better recovery post-pandemic. With 150 community-based founding members, from George Gachie of Mathare Roots Initiative in Kenya to Enrica Duncan of Nossas in Brazil to Dr. Quratulain Bakhteari of Institute for Development Studies and Practices in Pakistan to Adwoa Kwateng-Kluviste of FORWARD UK, the newly-formed Global Alliance will work to write the playbook for how community-based organisations can close the gap for delivering on the 2030 SDGs.

Cecile Richards, former President of Planned Parenthood, says “the COVID-19 pandemic has forced community organizers around the world to accelerate the use of digital tools, and has reshaped what it looks like to be a community organizer in the modern era. As COVID-19 drives the wedge of polarization and inequality even further, the work of grassroots organizers has never been more critical to keeping communities connected and their voices heard. We must protect their voices to ensure their future as essential forces for change.”

“The Global Alliance for Communities is a vehicle to advance what local leaders from around the world need to get us through the COVID-19 pandemic and back on track towards the 2030 SDGs,” states Kennedy Odede. “This starts with equitable access to vaccines for COVID-19, immediate support for marginalised communities and significant investment in locally-led projects that offer the most viable and lasting solutions to rebuild communities and economies.”

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