By Paul Knipe

The aid system is changing. Initiatives like RINGO and Pledge for Change, which are reimagining the role of INGOs are making real progress and growing in influence. Funders are also thinking differently. Comic Relief are pushing for change in the way they commission consultancy, and Packard Foundation are looking at change within the civil society ecosystem specifically. Institutional funders are publishing guidelines to cement a different way of working – these include FCDO’s commitments to equitable partnerships and USAID’s 14 measures for localization.  

Change is exciting and needed in the sector. While many INGOs are struggling with transformation, I was struck by Nana Afadzinu’s “lightning talk” from the #ShiftThePower global summit. Nana, CEO of WACSI, spoke of how our differences are what make us stronger. Just as the black and white keys on a piano are played together to make great music, we all have a part to play in this journey to create a more equitable global civil society. 

Within this context, INTRAC has set out an ambitious five-year strategy. A key part of this is to become increasingly network-led. This means building a network practicing ethical and values-driven consultancy – one that is rooted locally and connected globally – working in different ways to strengthen the resilience, impact and legitimacy of CSOs and the broader ecosystem of civil society support. We believe that networks can effectively and equitably distribute leadership and practice and can bring about social change. Through our network we intend to contribute to development that is locally determined, led, and owned.   

At its core, the network will provide platforms for consultants to come together and weave connections with likeminded practitioners. Dynamic spaces will enable them to hear and learn from each other, to mentor and continue to develop their own practice. The network will be rooted in various regions, through partnerships with consultant collectives and CSOs. Distinct learning communities will connect through the global network.  

A focus is to understand the realities of being a consultant: the challenges, opportunities, and trends within civil society support ecosystems. We will explore what it means for core areas of our work – MEL, organisational development etc – to shift power, be antiracist, feminist and decolonial in practice. The network will also share and carry out consultancy opportunities, aligned with our ethical and values-driven framing. Through different perspectives and experiences, we can influence policy and practice.  

Encouragingly, progressive foundations are indicating their support for this ambition. With funding from Packard and Comic Relief, our partners C4Change and WACSI are working with us to root a learning community for consultants in Indonesia and Ghana, while also providing core funding for global network development.  

To the many consultants and partners who have fed into INTRAC’s evolving network offer – thank you. Over the coming months, we will be sharing details of learning and professional development activities through the network.  

You can read more about INTRAC’s network offer here.