Hivos is changing course

April 24, 2013

An innovative approach to bring ‘state’ and ‘street’ closer together

Persistent global problems such as growing social inequality, corrupt, incompetent governments and energy scarcity in poor and emerging countries demand a new approach. Hivos therefore feels that now more than ever is the time for innovative solutions to achieve social change. We plan to do this hand in hand with civil society, universities and companies. One of the consequences of this new direction, announced by Hivos yesterday at the symposium ‘Development as Innovation’, is that our current partnerships (over 700) will be reduced by half starting from 2016. This event was also the official farewell of managing director Manuela Monteiro, who has stood at the helm of the organisation – passionately – for the last ten years.

Many problems are far from new: failing political leadership, dysfunctional political-economic systems and glaring social contradictions in low and middle income countries. “But it’s the persistence of these problems that requires a new approach,” said Manuela Monteiro. “Old solutions no longer suffice; we need to break new ground. So we are increasingly using ICT applications for democratic renewal, with a prominent role for the creativity of both better and lesser organised citizens. And Hivos will also pursue unconventional projects in the field of sexuality and women’s rights, such as the regional approach to combating female circumcision in Iraq.”

Six key themes
In its commitment to an open and green world, Hivos will focus on six key themes: democratic reform, freedom of expression, sexual rights, women’s rights, productive ecosystems and green energy. We will be making less of a distinction than before between low-and middle-income countries because the majority of poor people currently live in emerging economies.

A model project for the new course we’re setting is Uchaguzi, a digital platform that enabled citizens to report abuses during the presidential elections in Kenya through texting, Twitter and Facebook. Uchaguzi then assembled these reports digitally and made them available to the public and lawmakers. The result was a transparent electoral process with the world as a witness.

Tough choices
Hivos is going to collaborate in a more targeted way with organisations worldwide, and structural support to traditional NGOs in developing countries will be phased out. “In time, for example, we are going to stop investing in microfinance institutions because there are enough players and philanthropists who can take over this role from us,” said Manuela Monteiro. Institutional support for human rights organisations will also be reduced to allow Hivos to raise human rights issues in a new, creative way. Monteiro: “On paper, many countries attach great importance to human rights, but in practice they do very little. So Hivos is going to focus more on ‘the street’ than ‘the state’. “