Episode 23: Participatory grant-making & co-leadership at ADD International. Fredrick Ouko and Mary Ann Clements interviewed.

About this episode:

In this week’s episode, Fredrick Ouko and Mary Ann Clements discuss ADD International’s organisational structure, especially their roles as co-CEOs and how representation matters. They tell us about modelling the team leadership in line with the lived experiences they want to represent and advocate for. Through participatory grantmaking, they challenge the “colonisation of resources”, through which international funding goes mainly towards INGOs, rather than organisations of people with disabilities. Fredrick and Mary Ann reflect on their personal roles as co-CEOs of ADD, and how their particular identities affect their working relationship. They also tell us about being conscious of ADD’s role as a ‘facilitator’ of participatory grant-making, rather than an ‘implementer’ of programs.
Episode 23: Full Transcript

​​The Power Shift: Decolonising Development

Episode 23

Participatory grant-making & co-leadership at ADD International. Fredrick Ouko and Mary Ann Clements interviewed.

Mary Ann: [00:00:00] And I think one thing that’s different maybe in my experience about ADD from maybe other INGOs that experiment with participatory grant making is that we’re making quite a wholesale change. So we’re not saying we’ll just make it a part of our existing programs. We’re saying we will phase out our existing programs. We don’t think that the role for ADD is to be implementing programs. And we think a full scale shift away from our own programming is the right way to go because of all the things we talked about before.

Kate: Hello, welcome to the podcast, The Power Shift Decolonising Development. I’m Professor Kate Bird and today we’re going to speak to Fredrick Owoku and Mary Ann Clements, co CEOs of ADD International. Our conversation today explores ADD International’s structure, their roles as co CEOs, how representation matters, and how participatory grant making challenges the colonisation of resources. Listen on for more. 

Charmaine: Hi, everybody. Hi, Kate. Hi, Mary Ann. Hi, Fredrick. I’m Charmaine McCaulay. And[00:01:00] I just want to say welcome, welcome. Welcome to the Power Shift: Decolonising Development, the podcast series seeking to bring together thinkers, practitioners and activists to share ideas, inspire change and identify tools for practical action.

I’m Charmaine McCaulay, a body psychotherapist, director of Kokoro and lead facilitator of the groundbreaking training program called Racism in Real Time. And my co-host is the wonderful, talented professor Kate Bird, director of the Development Hub. As a Black psychotherapist and a White development professional, we’re using our own lived experiences and professional skills to frame the way that we approach the topic of decolonisation.

Over to you, Kate. 

Kate: Thanks, Charmaine. So today we’re talking to Fredrick Ouko and Mary Ann Clements. Fredrick and Mary Ann are co CEOs and Transformation Officers at ADD International, an international NGO which fights for the independence, equality and opportunities for disabled people [00:02:00] living in poverty.

Fredrick co leads ADD’s work to become a participatory grant maker. He has worked for the Open Society Initiative for East Africa and Light for the World Netherlands to advance disability rights. He founded Action Network for the Disabled, a national disabled people’s organisation in Kenya, and Riziki Source, a social enterprise using tech to improve employment access for disabled people.

He’s an Atlantic Fellow, was elected an Ashoka Fellow in 2012 and was shortlisted for the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovations in 2016/17. 

As well as being co CEO and Transformation Officer at ADD with Fredrick, Mary Ann is also a feminist writer, facilitator, activist and coach committed to building a better world together without replicating patterns of injustice. She co convenes the Healing Solidarity and her Embodying Change coaching practice, which centers a genuine solidarity that is focused on healing injustice. Previously, [00:03:00] Mary Ann has worked as Executive Director at AbleChild Africa, Regional Representative at Basic Needs East Africa, Chair of Lambeth Women’s Health Aid, and an Assessor at Comic Relief.

For more on Mary Ann and Fred and the work of ADD International, please click on the show notes below this episode. And I pass back now to Charmaine for our first question. 

Charmaine: Thank you and a hearty welcome once again. Fred and Mary Ann, as Kate has just said, you are joint CEOs of ADD International and are guiding the organisation through a process of transformation. Can you explain why ADD has joint CEOs, one based in the majority world or Global South and the other based in the minority world or Global North? Can you describe how you divide the task in transforming ADD to become an anti racist and decolonised organisation? So this will be for both of you. So who would actually like to start first?

Fredrick: Yeah. Thank you Kate and Charmaine, for this opportunity to speak on this [00:04:00] platform. So really ADD as an institution, our board made the decision three years ago to really center the rights and the lives of people we work for. And this informs why we have co CEOs. Actually, we do have co board chairs as well.

This was made from a fact that as human beings, there are instances where you need some sort of collaboration and thinking together to solve a particular situation. And when the decision was made to have two co CEOs to help the organisation transform, it was just that we needed to have people from where we’re working from, and people with lived experience of disability.

And that’s where we actually ended up having myself and Mary Ann, who by fate, we’ve worked together in our previous life before this particular position. So it wasn’t that there should be someone from the North or South. It was just that the board [00:05:00] wanted someone who has a lived experience and someone who is from where the organisation has been situated or registered or working from across the globe.

Charmaine: And Mary Ann, would you like to add your perspective on that? Which would be great. 

Mary Ann: Yeah, I mean, Fred said it really that the board committed to this wider process of transforming what was quite a traditional INGO really, into an organisation that, you know, we’ll talk about it more as we go through, but is really changing and transforming.

And as part of that, really recognised that it was important to model that in the leadership of the organisation. So they’ve also made sure that over 50% of the board have lived experience of disability and also heritage from the Global South and majority world.

So, they were really keen to model that and it’s actually easier to model it at board level more quickly than it is with your staff team, because with the staff team, you have to wait until either people leave or they actually take time to change your staff team, [00:06:00] but your board, you can change quite quickly because the board can decide to bring on more members and things like that.

You don’t have to create new roles and then pay people. So the board realised that actually we can change quickly. Some people can transition off or in fact, they decide to have a slightly bigger board for a bit. And we can get very quickly to at least 50% of people on the board being majority world and people with lived experience of disability.

And actually I think they’re getting to the point where they’re over both of those and could probably go further. And the same with the CEO, you can make that decision when you are recruiting. So, it was really about modeling that kind of, maybe sharing power is really more of the sort of language we use.

Obviously, it also connects all the ideas around shifting power as well. But I think that, if we were to leave and ADD was to recruit again, they could recruit two people from the majority world with lived experience with disability. Like you don’t have to have a person who’s in the Global North necessarily, I don’t think.

You obviously have to have someone here, because we currently have a registration in the UK and that was [00:07:00] originally kind of conceived of as our head office. So there is sort of some legal and administrative things that you do have to have here, but increasingly our whole staff team.

We’re looking at almost all roles as being for anybody, anywhere in the place where we operate. So we’re not confining very many roles to any geography anymore within ADD. So that could shift and change. But I think that the key thing that’s important is that lived experience, leadership and really modeling the other changes we’re making at the leadership level, so that our staff and partners can see that we’re serious about them. 

Charmaine: Yeah, right. Thank you. Which actually leads into my next question is, can you describe what steps ADD International is making to decolonise and how your organisation’s public commitments contribute to this.

So you alluded to that but I’m asking more for a clearer definition of that. And this is open to both of you again. 

Fredrick: Yeah, so decolonising is just making changes and not theorising about those changes, like leaving the changes we want to [00:08:00] see, for example, an organisation has existed for over 35 years, it works with persons with disability and supports them.

So it means that for it to be able to get concrete ideas and issues around disability, there has to be people with lived experience on the decision making that inform the choice and the decision to ensure that our board is 50% persons with lived experience from all these parts we’re working from Asia and Africa and UK as well.

The fact that our leadership is the one that is visualising where we are going, in charge of distributing resources and ensuring that we are following up on the plans we have for the organisation, it so goes that those who are leading, those who are within responsibility, we’ve done that leadership as SLT, Senior Leadership Team, that there’s a representation of persons with disability, and people from all the areas you are working in. And that’s just a common sense [00:09:00] issue because you don’t need a conference to discuss that because it’s a clear way through how you move, how you walk the talk. And the board said, can we then have on our SLT this kind of representation when you are recruiting, when you’re appointing people to the SLT, can you then have a look at where does the directors come from? And we’ve just ensured that our directors are representative from Africa, Asia and the U. K. So it’s just a common sense thing that you have to do in terms of how then do you move and walk the talk and then follow up with resources.

So when we look at resources, we’re also thinking around what do we need to be doing in Asia? What do we need to be doing in Africa and who’s responsible and who’s making a decision around that? So really nothing very technical there. Just about when we’ve decided that we’re going to shift, we’re going to share.

We actually just need a shared kind of perspective in terms of when we are making decisions that enriches where the organisation is going. It’s not just about [00:10:00] participating within the discussion around shifting the power. No, it’s about a shared goal, whereby if we want to be a better organisation, and one that responds to the needs of people we are serving, then even at our leadership level that has to be represented. Because then we get the nuances of every decision that we make is informed by their lived experience and from how they show up into those meetings when we want to make those decisions. 

Charmaine: Thank you, Fredrick. 

Mary Ann: Let me pick up a few things.

So we’ve had internal conversations about what does it mean to decolonise, right? And of course, like decolonisation is this broad concept. Some people relate it very much to the sort of political decolonisation of colonised nations. Some people relate it a lot to working practice and how we do what we do and all things in between.

 We found that our staff had like a massive range of views about what this is, could be, should be, and also that they did quite a lot dependent on their positionality, the kind of conversations they had and [00:11:00] hadn’t been involved in both in the development sector and beyond it. But in our new strategic framework, what we’ve actually said in terms of the key way that ADD is trying to decolonise is that we’re trying to be a kind of force for change in terms of unpicking the problematic thing in the disability and development space quite specifically, which is that rather than funding and resources getting to organisations of people present with disabilities the funding kind of gets absorbed by international NGOs and very small amounts of it get put gets passed on so that kind of colonisation of resources and the funding system in disability rights and justice work was something that we’d both seen for many years even before we came to ADD but it was also something that was in kind of ADD’s founding principles because ADD was founded to be in solidarity with disability rights movements in the 1980s, but it over the years have become more and more of professional INGO.

And so we felt that the right way for ADD to decolonise was less of, kind [00:12:00] of, localise our country officers because they weren’t necessarily staffed by people with disabilities who were leading the work, they were staffed by great people who knew how to manage projects, because that’s what ADD was doing, right?

And they were predominantly, almost entirely staffed by people who were local to the context, but not necessarily to the lived experience of disability. Although some of them were. But we felt that the right way for ADD to get out of the way of this funding flow, so that’s the key thing that we’re trying to do in our new strategic framework for the next 10 years, is to enable the flow of funding and resources more to the people who’ve always been ADD’s partners.

So organisations of people with disabilities that are led by and for them who want to create change in the world. And so we’ve said that actually decolonising, as it were, that funding system that absorbs the money means those people don’t have power and agency and resources is the thing that ADD can do.

And the ways that we’ll do that is by the participatory funding that we’re going to do. We’re also doing, and Fred’s leading on this, can talk more about it perhaps, but a leadership academy because we [00:13:00] recognise that there’s a massive lack of leadership support for leaders within disability justice movements.

And then also having an objective around getting other people to shift their money as well. So talking to funds and other INGOs about passing on more resources. So we feel like that’s a role that ADD can play, and I think if I was to say one thing to other INGOs, I think there’s so many things that decolonisation can mean.

And we’re also doing internal work on how we work. That kind of takes time, that culture change, thinking about how we work, it takes time. And I think of that also as being a bit about decolonising. And that’s difficult and tricky work. I think the really big thing that ADD can contribute is how we unpick that resourcing problem, which is a colonial problem, right?

The problem of INGOs that are mostly headquartered in the UK or Europe or the US holding onto money and very little of it trickling down to organisations of people with disabilities that are led for by them in the regions where we work, which is Africa and Asia.

That’s the colonial problem, that’s replicating colonial [00:14:00] structures. And that’s the thing that we want to intervene on, that we think ADD can make a difference on in the next 10 years. And we’ve actually also said that we don’t even know if ADD needs to exist after that. If that funding flow really works, if we can persuade lots more funders and INGOs to put their money where their mouth is and actually shift resources, ADD might not need to exist.

But right now, there’s such a problem with that. There’s a very, very, very tiny percentage of funding, so tiny it’s hard to calculate, because we know that human rights funding, very little goes to those groups that are actually led by people who are affected by the problems in general, and then to disabled people in Africa and Asia, the funding flow is like 0.001%. It’s so small that if we could significantly affect that, then ADD might not really need to be here. There’s no need for an INGO if the funding gets there and activities are happening and things exist. And there might be need for us to be something different in the future. But so that’s how we’ve thought about decolonising and our new strategy, it’s very much about how we [00:15:00] can interrupt something that we think is harmful and do something differently instead.

Charmaine: Thank you for that. And I like, also go ahead, Fredrick.

Fredrick: Just maybe a quick one around, sometimes the way people are stifled from not knowing things that means you’re not making progress. And we think for the longest time that persons with disabilities haven’t been given information about how you run your organisation, how you resource it, and then how you work on your things consistently, including resourcing, that then you can effect change. And we think by training, supporting disability justice activists who have passion and have formed organisations, then we can unblock that aspect of colonisation. Because by stifling them from learning, it means that they are perpetuating same scenario whereby they are left there so that they don’t know anything.

And within the funding circles, you’ll hear that these organisations of persons with disabilities are weak, so we can’t fund them. And so for us to make them that they are now not weak, so it means we have to train them, we have to skill them, we [00:16:00] have to mentor them, and this is now the work that we want to do through the leadership academy.

Because no one has cared to do that. Yet, we always claim within the development sector that organisational persons with disability are weak, so they are not worthy of these particular resources. And as a way of decolonising, we want to invest there massively so that we have activists who understand what are the root causes of their issues, and how do you attack? How do you do advocacy that now no one else can come to them and say, “Oh, you didn’t know how to run your organisation. That’s the reason why we are not funding you.” We think that’s part of decolonising that particular space.

Charmaine: Yeah, well, thank you both of you. You’ve given quite a detailed description of how you want to do it.

And I’m really glad to hear that it’s a multiple pronged approach. It’s not just the funding, but I’m also hearing it’s about training leaders up to that and how you’re going to impart the different kinds of messages that are needed. And yeah, I’m just really glad that you’ve been able to do this, not just from one point of view.

So thank you for that. My next question actually [00:17:00] somewhat leads into that. In that this is really about how both of you are in your own ADD. So the question is to both of you and Fredrick, as we know that we cannot separate out race in terms of that you may be might consider yourself Black.

So race, gender and disability, these are labels that I’m assuming that might have been assigned to you. Whereas for you, Mary, your labels of race, your whiteness, woman and being able-bodied are the labels that you too carry. Given your assigned identities, can you share your experiences as individuals working in the civil society organisations, what impact have these experiences had on you? Fredrick, would you like to take the first stab at the question? Do you understand my question, just make sure that you got that? Yeah. 

Fredrick: Yes, absolutely. So, it’s true. I am someone with the lived experience of a physical disability. I’m Black with Kenyan origin. 

Charmaine: So Fredrick, would you mind sharing what your disability is? So we can be quite clear what that is. That’d be great. Thank you.

Fredrick: Yeah, my disability is [00:18:00] a physical disability. So, I lost the use of my limbs, I walk using calipers and two crutches actually. So, this presents a particular scenario whereby, traditionally, it has never been used to see someone with a disability taking up a leadership role, especially in terms of decision making, and especially in an institution that is meant to support persons with disability.

So coming here and working with Mary Ann, while the board has already made those particular decision that we’re going to have a leader who has a lived experience and the other one so that they’re kind of complimenting, while internally, the mechanism is set for that and everyone understands that. Our peers, because we also work in an ecosystem of other organisations, I think it was the hardest for them to believe that ADD was serious about the changes we had signaled that we were making in terms of co leadership, having someone that lived experience within the top leadership of an organisation.

And so you could go to a meeting and someone would say, [00:19:00] ah, but how does this work? Does it mean that Fred is the deputy and Mary Ann is the CEO? And even though all of us, we’ve worked in the past, we understand how the development sector is skewed in terms of North South, that only helped us as far as internal.

But then it means that within our ecosystem, we have to explain the reason for co leadership is that it’s a shared role that Mary Ann plays the same role as Fredrick, and we have the same mandate from the board. We are doing one job role. It’s not a divided job because co-CEO, these are one role that then we report to the board as one role, not two entities.

And so it takes time and over the time now, of course, we’ve been on this for over a year and a half, so people have understood now, but it took time before they got that because initially the fact that I’m Black, I have a disability, that wasn’t an expectation that I’m actually a co CEO for this particular organisation.

And so, conversation upon conversation and letting people know [00:20:00] that actually, when Mary Ann is not in, you can actually see Fredrick for a decision. When Fred is not in, you can see Mary Ann for the same decision, and you won’t need to hear from the two of them. So it took time for us to play the explaining role, which shouldn’t be if people understood it, but then that’s just the way it is because, within this space, it’s not expected for someone with a disability to show up as the leader, the main leader within the institution. 

Charmaine: I can just imagine it must have been quite a jolt to people’s sensibility to see, a) you’re a Black man, and a Black man coming from Kenya and a disability. I’m also clocking my own internal slight resistance, because to be truthful and to be really transparent, I haven’t met anyone in a high profile leadership position who is not only Black, but with a disability.

So I’m checking my own internal sense of “wait, I’ve got to kind of clean my glasses here.” This person is Fred, and that he [00:21:00] can do the job. So, if I’m struggling with this, and at least we have the Blackness and that to be similar, it is the disability that I am having to openly accommodate and I feel like I have accommodated, but the initial jolt when Kate sent a picture where you’re in a wheelchair, it was this thing.

So I’m really glad that you’re actually talking about that because it is real. And then it also means that you too have to make a slight accommodation, because there is a slight pushback to you also. So thank you, Fredrick, for bringing that up. And Mary Ann? 

Mary Ann: I’m just thinking, I was busy thinking about the experiences that Fred’s had coming into this role and some of the things that people said to you, which were sort of implying that, and how that came from all different directions that people make that assumption, both internally, externally from people who are here in the UK, but also from people on the African continent, so like you were saying Charmaine, and owning the way that you also experience that in your body like that, I think, was very [00:22:00] real. And, what is my experience? I think, so obviously, people aren’t surprised that there’s a white lady running an INGO, right? 

Charmaine: And able-bodied, right? I think that’s a huge distinction. 

Mary Ann: Absolutely. So I don’t have any of that experience. So I think the experience I more have is around trying to work out what the right role for me is and the right places to step back or not speak so much, but also to not let that stop me doing things that I need to do.

So there’s like that kind of, I work a lot with White leaders in INGOs, so just outside of ADD, because we both work part time for ADD, so I have two days where I do coaching and leadership work. And I work a lot with White leaders who want to be really intentional around how they think about shifting power and decolonising.

And it obviously brings up all these internal questions about how we behave, and trying to find that place of right relationship and right responsibility in yourself where you’re contributing and you’re being you. And at the same time, you’re thinking about your [00:23:00] impact on others and you’re and also thinking about, and I think we do think about, Fred and I, the impact of different decisions we can take as a co leadership team in terms of who does certain things, right? So, who starts the meeting or not, or who speaks more in a certain moment or not, and we don’t always get those right. And it’s a constant kind of navigation of that. And then there’s also like our personal tendencies that probably are, of course, formed by our experience of the world and the labels assigned to us, but also who we innately are even without those labels. So there’s quite a lot to juggle in that, but for me, it’s very much around trying to be in right relationship and allow people to really accept that we are doing this role together and hopefully see that that is possible.

 It feels possible to me, I hope it feels possible to you too, Fred. I think most of the time it does like anything, it’s hard sometimes and there are difficult bits sometimes. And sometimes one of us has to do more on something than the other, and it makes the juggle of balancing harder and all of that.

But I think, the [00:24:00] experience of being a White, able bodied person working in development at this point of history, I think, has to be one of reflection about where you should and can show up, because I also do kind of inherently believe that there has to be a role for White people in dismantling, but that that role can’t just be deciding what to do about everything, but it has to be something else.

And so I think the navigation of that is something that I’m daily present to and sometimes get more right than other times, you know?

Charmaine: So the next question is number four. So the first part I was really asking you what’s it like for you to be in this organisation and working with a civil society organisation.

Now I’m just going to focus the lens a little bit closer and ask you if you can reveal what’s it like for both of you now, Fredrick, with your disability and your race, and your gender, and within those things, there are the power dynamics that may not be named, but [00:25:00] they’re going to be there anyway.

And what’s that like Mary Ann for you being a White woman with no disabilities, having now to co work, can you kind of talk about, if anything, where you’ve had to actually navigate that where something broke down, and it didn’t quite work but you have to go and talk about that and come together. So, is that possible that you can sort of give a personal example? Because really what I’m trying to say, if you two can’t work through those things, then how can you guide the organisation to work through the same things with other people? Because I really do believe it first starts with us, the internal world, and how the two of you need to work and progress.

So whoever would like to go first. So I’m asking you to share a little bit to the audience.

Fredrick: Yeah, I think the benefit that we’ve had with Mary Ann is because we’ve had many years of working together even before our current roles and just found ourselves now working at ADD and so that was kind of easy to be more honest with one another and if there’s anything that is not working, just talking it up and finding time for us to connect [00:26:00] and discuss it and find a way of going through it, but perhaps… 

Charmaine: I’m just going to hold you a little bit, can you be a little bit more open and I know I’m asking you to be to reveal maybe some secrets that you don’t want to, but just so that the audience can get a sense of what kind of things that you two had to navigate. Yeah, because I think that’s really important that we get a sense of because when you say we have to work on things, I really am not sure what kind of things that you’re working on and I think the audience would also like to know.

I know I’m asking you to be a little bit more open and I know it’s a challenge but if you can think of something, a real concrete thing that you’ve had to work through. I really appreciate that.

Fredrick: I will say, for example if something has gone wrong, perhaps just a little bit from what we anticipated that it wouldn’t be that way, you’ll find that the default, now in my case, will be that who gets asked is Mary Ann, for example, yet we share a role and the fact that you will try to insinuate that perhaps someone is thinking if I asked Fred, maybe the aspect around disability will show up or something like that.[00:27:00] 

And for us, we can actually know amongst ourselves, we’ll even try just to seek ourselves out and say, but I don’t think if this was right, but yeah. And then if the other one understands it and say, no, I actually understand it. But I think problem was mine because we own up from our ourselves using the channel that we’ve established that ordinarily it wouldn’t go back to whoever said or something, but then we’ll find a way of fixing it for next time because we’ll say no, then for us to avoid something like that, let’s put in this particular mechanism so that it doesn’t always look like, if something goes wrong, it is me or the other one. Because the tendency, since we are in a space within an NGO that is registered in the UK, so the first person to take blame should be Mary Ann because she is in the UK and I am in Kenya. Why? Actually, that is not true because it is the CEO to take blame and the CEO is Mary Ann and Fredrick. And so then they assign, and then become like, oh yeah, because she’s White and in the UK, then she’s the one taking the blame. Yet, the blame is supposed to be shared between me and her.

Charmaine: Okay, great. Thank you. [00:28:00] Mary Ann, can you give us a concrete example? 

Mary Ann: Yeah, I think what we’ll say is that we don’t disagree that much. And I think that’s because, as Fred said, we’ve worked together before. And we’re both, at a vision level, very committed to the change that we’re trying to make. And I think that matters, because I think that helps us to navigate when there’s a small misunderstanding or we disagree about a decision or something. Because I think if you don’t have the relationship and the alignment about why you’re here and what you’re doing, it would be very difficult. But those things help a lot. They make the biggest difference. I think we are also both open to discussing if something’s difficult. So I think all those three things would have to be there. So I think if we didn’t have those things, this would be really hard. It doesn’t currently feel really hard because we have a good channel of communication between us. We talk quite a lot about what we do about this and that.

And so most of the time when we’re interacting with staff, we’ve already agreed what we both think about it. So that really helps the navigation. A thing that I think I struggle with, and I don’t know if this is a [00:29:00] gendered thing or just a Mary Ann thing, or a personal psychology thing, is that I have this tendency to feel like I need to carry a lot of, like, answer all the emails and carry some stuff, push it, I’ll do extra hours so I get stuff done on a Friday and things like that. And there are definitely other women that experience that all over the place, and I’m sure there are men that experience it too. But definitely, there’s a tendency in me to basically do too much, and that doesn’t help with this balance of us.

So what I’m trying to check in myself is… stop trying to do too much. Let it be. Don’t have to answer every email, so that’s something I’m trying to work with in myself. And I think, when we talk about it a bit, that may be about gender, it could be about Whiteness, it could be about Mary Ann. And the thing is, I think in individuals, those things are all merged and messed up. So, my mum always was a bit like that too. And also, of course, my mum was a White woman as well.

So that would be one example of something where I’m trying to actively take less responsibility for the things like answering every [00:30:00] email and be a little bit more hands off things because I think it’s better for our co leadership and for other people if I do that, so that would be one thing.

Is that fair for it? You can respond. 

Charmaine: Yeah. Would you like to respond to that Fredrick? How does that or not impact you that this lovely White woman feels like she’s got to do everything?

Fredrick: Yeah, I mean, of course we’ve talked about it. It’s true because then she feels that we need to move everything at now and then it ends up that then she gets to work more, and it’ll show up actually, we know when you do that.

And that’s just really to a disadvantage because it means just more hours and getting into more, as opposed to just saying, oh, no, I’ve reached my limit for today. Let’s work on it another time when I’m scheduled to do that or something like that. Yeah.

Charmaine: Yeah, well thank you. And I know that was kind of a tough question that a lot of times we don’t actually get those tough questions but I just wanted to give you a hint too because if I’m asking you to be transparent, just that Kate and I, we have very different personalities and my neuro diversity is [00:31:00] that I’m great at talking, but do not ask me to write full sentences, right, it’s just painful and it’s like, oh. So oftentimes with that, I do feel really insecure about that. And so, the backlash of that is that sometimes I won’t answer Kate’s amazing emails, because I can’t formulate the questions right, I can formulate in my head, but I can’t write it down. So then Kate, who’s a doer and she’s great, she’s on it, she moves. So it comes back where she said to me just yesterday, Charmaine, you need to answer your emails and you know, it’s taking you two weeks.

It’s like, okay. So there’s one of those things that we want to work together and I really do like working with this woman, but my own disability, you know, in a way kind of hijacks what Kate wants to do. So she and I then, we have to renegotiate some of the ways that we want to work but if we don’t negotiate and we don’t find the right language, then the organisation that we have, which I think it’s just absolutely fabulous, doesn’t get [00:32:00] to move along and then we don’t complete the goals that we want. So that’s why I’m asking, how are you guys working out these things that might feel subtle, but actually, they do impact in the goals that both of you want to have for ADD.

So thank you for that. I just wanted to give a little bit of clarity and sort of opening up. 

Mary Ann: I’m sorry. Can I say one thing for people listening, which is that we have a quarterly meeting where we talk about how we’re working together. It just might be useful for people if they’re in a similar situation.

So we try and set aside some time to talk about how we’re working together. Because obviously we meet every week, but we hand over to each other. So there’s always like 10 things we’ve got to talk about of what’s happened on the days you weren’t there. So we don’t get to all this sometimes. So we try and have that quarterly meeting that’s a couple of hours where we take that step back together and talk about these sort of things.

And my not trying to get everything done is a work in progress. And I think about it as important for the co leadership, to try and work with that. And there are others, and we are then increasingly trying to think about how can we talk to our senior leadership team about those things so that everyone’s able to have a bit of that reflective [00:33:00] practice.

Because I think, we basically need to talk about these things. So I’m with you, Charmaine. 

Charmaine: Yeah, Kate, over to you. But if you’d like to weigh in on that, I think that would be wonderful. But I just want to say thank you, Mary Ann and Fredrick for answering and for disclosing. Thank you.

Kate: Yeah, thank you. And I think that was a fascinating conversation. And what it indicated to me is that you’ve got all the practical layers of working together as co-CEOs. And then behind it, you’ve actually got some solution oriented approaches like your quarterly meetings. But you’ve also got your personalities that are there.

And I’m definitely an overdoer and an overworker. And what I’ve discovered is the more I work, the more work I create, because you’re creating new streams of work all the time. So I absolutely admire anyone who can knock off when they’re supposed to, and close their laptops and put down their pen and all of that kind of stuff.

Before I go ahead with the planned questions, I’ve got a very a quick comment that I want to make about hierarchies of disability and lived experience, because I have a son who has a complex disability. He’s neurodiverse and has [00:34:00] a cognitive impairment and mental health problems.

Disability is so complex that he actually doesn’t live with us at home anymore. He’s in a 52 week placement. And when you’re talking about the lived experiences of disabled people, and having people with lived experience working with you within ADD International, I’m very aware that my son will never be asked to lead a disability organisation and he’ll never be able to advocate for himself either with policymakers or with anyone else so he’s going to be relying on us to advocate for him. And I just wonder because I’m very aware that there are so called hierarchies of disability in the disability movement and it’s an area of contention.

And then you’ve got hierarchies of color and colorism, and then you’ve got hierarchies of power that affect both of them and then you’ve got hierarchies of organisations. And I suppose I’m turning this into a bit of a question I just wonder whether ADD is wrestling with these issues around hierarchies of disability, color, power, and institutions in the way that you work.

Fredrick: Yeah, not that we put our mind to it very strongly. [00:35:00] But then there’s been, of course, in the past, the accusation that, how can you have an organisation that is said to be working with persons with disability and doesn’t have personal disability representation, but the working formula is towards saying that, yes, you need to have a mix of both, persons with disability, but also people who are passionate around disability issues, all of us working together because there’s no way in this society, we are going to have 100% of something. But we have to find a common ground in which all of us are working towards a common purpose.

And so the issue for us is that all of us are committed to supporting organisations of persons with disability. We also know that as an organisation of persons with disability or within our families, we have allies, we have people who get it, we have our parents. And for those people with disabilities that have high support needs, you have their parents as those who are advocating for them.

And they are genuinely interested in how the movement works and how the ecosystem works out for them. To support both their kids, their friends, [00:36:00] their siblings. So, having that understanding, everyone comes to this sort of work with different things that then are leading them to be here.

And sometimes what we’ve tried out at ADD is asking people, what brings you to this work? And it’s interesting. You’ll find out why all of us are committed to the same piece of work, even though others will not have lived experience, but perhaps it’s their sister or a friend of theirs that has some sort of disability.

So all that are welcome. And it’s the only way that then we get to solidify why actually we need to move more resources to an organisation of persons with disability because then it will be easier to make it happen if we identify that one thing that brings us to this particular work and disability is not only one of them.

Kate: Thank you very much, Fred. I’m going to move on. Unless, Mary Ann, you’ve got something you’d like to add at this point. 

Mary Ann: It’s just very briefly that the way that we’ve thought about different hierarchies of disability is that in our new strategy, and ADD’s done this for many years, to think about [00:37:00] the participation of lesser represented groups of disabled people. So we’ve set an intention to resource those groups. And I think in terms of our staffing, I just wanted to clarify that our founder originally committed to 50/50 staffing, but we found ADD in the state where it was only I think less than 15% of our staff were people with disabilities, so we are now at 22% of our staff. So what we’re trying to do is move back to at least 50%. But as I was saying earlier, that takes some time. And within that, we’ve put in place quite a lot of refreshed policy around how we support different needs and the reasonable adjustment for them and so on. So I think we’re trying to make sure that we have a range of people with disabilities with different needs and experiences amongst our staff and the people that we support going forward.

But it’s definitely a work in progress. But please continue now, Kate, sorry. 

Kate: Thank you. Not a problem at all. So, you’ve talked a lot about representation and the importance of representation. [00:38:00] And I’d like to link that in to your work on participative grant making. Because it’s very clear that unless you’re giving, and you’ve said this yourselves, unless you give the money to the people who are working right at the coalface on disability issues, unless you give it to the right people, you won’t get the best work taking place and also the resources are being siphoned off and retained inappropriately in the Global North. So can you tell us a little bit more about the participative grant making approach that you’re implementing in ADD international, and why you think it’s an important part of decolonising your practice?

Mary Ann: Yeah, so our board made a decision to move towards participatory grantmaking as part of the new model through the transformation process that they’d already decided on about a year and a half ago, I think it was. We felt that was, as you said, the best way to ensure that resources and the decision making power to what to do with them would be with organisations led for and working on the issues of people with [00:39:00] disabilities in the regions where we work.

What we’ve done is committed to that being one of our key strategic aims in the framework for the next 10 years. And we’re actually moving away from any direct implementation of programs. So we currently have programs that we’re responsibly exiting from, and then the main mechanism of getting money and resources to the activists we support will be through this participatory grant making mechanism we’re developing.

What we’ve currently done is piloted a fund for youth with disabilities in Tanzania. So we’ve got some learning from that. It was actually just shared as a case study by Ringo, the Reimagining the INGO project, and we can share that in the links because it’s got some good learning about what we learned from that.

That was a small panel of youth with disabilities who made decisions about funding for some work in Tanzania. But we’re about to launch a much bigger pilot of a fund for women led disability justice organisations and activists in a number [00:40:00] of countries in Africa. This is a key part of our approach. And I think one thing that’s different maybe in my experience about ADD from maybe other INGOs that experiment with participatory grant making is that we’re making quite a wholesale change. So we’re not saying we’ll just make it a part of our existing programs.

We’re saying we will phase out our existing programs. We don’t think that the role for ADD is to be implementing programs. And actually, we weren’t really established as a program implementer. In the beginning, ADD was established and invested in disability rights activists in different countries. And then over time, the funding shifted, there was less flexible funding available, and we had to get into programs. I think the leaders at the time just felt that was the only way to resource the work, but it moved us away and away from passing on resources to the movements that we support. And we think a full scale shift away from our own programming is the right way to go because of all the things we talked about before.

So we’re basically in piloting, we’re taking an iterative approach. So we don’t have one approach, this is our PDM approach at this point. We’re actually just trying out some different approaches with different [00:41:00] pots of money. Some of that is very flexible money that we’ve been able to raise from foundations that understand the need for flexible funding.

And some of it is where we’ve got existing programs and managed to identify a pot within it that we can use to make grants to pilot and try for. But I think that important thing is that we will over the next five years shift entirely to this model, and we will, alongside that support, the leadership work that Fred can maybe talk about a little bit, and also what we’ve called movement support which is really about how we can support people connecting.

So maybe different grantees connecting, accessing networks and one another. So there’s a sort of connectivity role that we think we can play, but we won’t do any programming ourselves.

Kate: Right, thanks, Mary. And Fred, it’d great to hear a bit about the leadership program that you’re running.

Fredrick: Yeah, just before the leadership program, the other fundamental issues around why we made this switch is that while our establishment was to support the nourishment and nurturing of disability justice organisation, at some point, it became that we were actually [00:42:00] competing with them to the same resources. Why? Globally, only 2% of all human rights funding goes to organisations of persons with disabilities. And in that circle, we are actually privileged because we are registered in the UK. So you could imagine an organisation here in Kenya trying to compete with us for the same resources, which is from 2%.

So it means that then we were actually starving organisations of persons with disability from wherever they are from the same 2%, already a marginalised figure, within the overall funding in the human rights field. So the decision also is informed by that, because if now we become a facilitator, it means we are not competing with them, but actually we are using our privilege where we are, from our registration, and the networks then that we can try to amass globally now to create the flow that then these resources get to this organisation without now competing. And it’s the reason we are exiting completely from implementing, that then there’s no direct competition. We are actually vouching for them from anyone who’s having money [00:43:00] to give that then we can give it in a more sustainable way that then also do not have a restriction. And why participatory, is because then they let us know what are the priorities for this coming three years. What are the good organisations to work with or to support if you wanted to change particular policies that are supportive of persons with disability or women with disability or people with invisible disability in this particular region and our focus being women with disability, young people with disability because they haven’t been supported enough, and those with invisible disability because even within the disability rights movement, they kind of tend to be left behind.

So that’s more the reason why we have a participatory mechanism, but also exiting the implementation field so that we open up space and avail more resources to this particular organisation. Now, as an accompaniment, we think for these organisations to be sustainable because we can only be able to give a certain level of resources.

They also need to be now some sort of an ongoing concern so that at least [00:44:00] they can also fundraise on their own and have now multiple sources of funding. And through the networking that we create, and if their leadership is trained and supported to understand, this is how you write a strategic plan, for example, this is if you wanted to influence a policy, these are the kind of things you need to do, and perhaps within that ecosystem, if we give them a mentor to help them run through those things, and now they have maybe someone on their team that understands fundraising, and we are creating some sort of events for them to network and link up with other movements, say women rights movement, LGBTI movement, youth with disability, youth movement, workers, then they’re able not to be operating in silos. But then forming friendship with other movements, and then they will know where additional resources can be found and how to grow their networks, but also how to make their work sustainable and not just depend on ADD as a grant maker for them.

So really, that’s why it’s important for us to accompany them with the leadership academy that then [00:45:00] provides that facility for mentoring, training and opportunity even for either interning in some of these already working organisations so that then they see in a practical sense, how it is done, and then they can go back to the organisation and implement that so that their advocacy issues become sustainable, they form networks, they get also other allies from different movement that then they can promote their work.

Kate: Thank you. Thanks for describing that to me. Now, I would like us to have a think about how we can give our listeners a practical sense of how they can contribute to change. At the end of the podcast, we always ask our guests to suggest one thing that listeners and viewers could do to support shifting power and decolonisation, whether they work in the development sector or engage members of the general public. Fred, first, I wonder if you could suggest one practical thing that you think people could do to support this process of progressive change.

Fredrick: I think to support change, there’s [00:46:00] one thing that is in house that we can do, is just about changing our mindset around particular issues. For example, that this is something we can do. And we need to apply to ourselves to it that we need to do it and create some sort of an urgency around it that then we are doing it, but we are not theorising, for example, as ADD, we decided we wanted to make a change.

It started from the leadership. How can we ensure that this board has a representation of persons with disability to this level? How is it that the senior leadership is also recruited? We see these are the things that within ourselves, when you decide you follow up with an action, but don’t delay the action in terms of making some sort of buying time, you decide, but then follow it up with action because that’s what is going to determine the next steps.

And that’s what is going to bring up the authenticity that people believe that it’s actually possible to change. And we are hoping that [00:47:00] we can be a living example to other organisations that actually, change is possible. You just have to start walking the talk. It’s not easy. It’s not smooth, but it’s those challenges that give you a learning on how you iterate towards the change that you desire to see.

So really change the mindset and begin walking through and things should follow suit here. 

Kate: Thank you, Fred. And over to Mary Ann, would you like to add? 

Mary Ann: Yeah, mine is about embracing imperfection, which I think it sort of follows on from what Fred said about people should just start and get on with it kind of thing, which is part of what I heard you say, Fred, because I also hear a lot of CEOs and leaders in organisations saying they can’t see an example and what can they do and so on.

 The answers to all of this would be different for every organisation because the organisational histories are different, current models are different. So, you know, there isn’t a cookie cutter how do we change? And so I think there’s something about embracing imperfection because one thing we took on was looking at our salary scales.

Just one example, wanting to make them as equitable as possible across all the [00:48:00] locations where we operate. We did a huge bit of work on it. We got external support. We’ve tried our best to make sure that we have a salary scale that everyone can understand. But it also had to be affordable for ADD. We’re a medium sized INGO, we’re not huge. We didn’t have loads of resources to invest in changing our salary structure. And so what we’ve come out with isn’t perfect, right? It’s way better than what we had, which was like salary scales and different pages that didn’t talk to each other and there was no way of understanding any kind of equity and so now we’ve got a scale where you can see how much you’re paid and it’s on our website.

Whether you’re a certain grade in a different country and you can see all of that, but it’s imperfect. And we’re not paying in some cases as much as we want to be, in all cases, because we didn’t have enough money to push everyone up as much as we wanted to. So we had to make difficult decisions around that.

And I think that’s just one of many examples where we’re trying to push for doing as best as we can and all the things we believe in in terms of this transformation. And then there’s like the practical reality and we can’t get it perfectly right. And so there’s something also about embracing [00:49:00] imperfection and accepting that if you set an intention to change a working practice, you’re going to get so far at this point, depending, there are so many other restrictions around, people often say, funding, their boards, all these things. You know, set an intention and try and push for the bit of change that you can achieve right now, understanding that it won’t be perfection.

Cause I think sometimes we get stuck in the idea of it’s got to be perfect. Otherwise I just won’t try. And actually that’s not going to serve us. We’re not going to see change if people get stuck in that. So that would be my word of the day, or my two words of the day.

Kate: I love that. Thank you very much, Mary Ann, because it’s absolutely true. You’ve got to put a foot forwards and then you’ve got to put the other foot forwards or move forwards progressively on this journey towards decolonisation. So thank you for that. And I’d like to thank you both Mary Ann and Fredrick for joining us here today.

And Charmaine, if you’d like to say last words as well. 

Charmaine: I would just want to say thank you for both of you for being so honest and transparent. I did kind of push you a bit. And so [00:50:00] I just wanted to add one tiny bit when I said about my neuro disability. And so the conclusion that came about how I can answer the emails faster, because like I said there’s a lot of shame in not being able to write, but by being able to be transparent, Kate just said so simply, blew my mind, ” well, you know, you can send me a voice tape through WhatsApp, like, duh, I had not even considered it. So I’m just, again, Mary Ann and Fredrick, when you say what is that one thing that you can do, in our situation was to have the conversation that was difficult, and lo and behold an amazing resolution came about what I could do so I really am embracing exactly what you guys are talking about.

Thank you so much for being on the podcast with us. Thank you very much. 

Mary Ann: Thanks for having us.

Fredrick: Thank you so much.

Kate: Thank you guys. And I would like to remind listeners and viewers to check the show notes below for more on ADD International and participative grant making. There’s Fred’s blog, a link to Fred’s blog, which is a great read. And also information [00:51:00] about ADD International’s commitment to decolonisation which kind of goes through the commitments they’ve made.

This weeks guest:

Fredrick Ouko is the Co-Chief Executive & Transformation Officer at ADD International.

He is co-leading their work to become a participatory grant maker. Fredrick has worked to advance disability rights for the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa, and Light for the World Netherlands. He founded Action Network for the Disabled, a national disabled people’s organization in Kenya, and Riziki Source, a social enterprise using tech to improve employment access for disabled people. He is an Atlantic Fellow, was elected an Ashoka Fellow in 2012, and was shortlisted in 2016/2017 for the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovations.

Mary Ann Clements is the Co-Chief Executive & Transformation Officer at ADD International.

She is a Feminist Writer, Facilitator, Activist & Coach committed to building a better world together without replicating patterns of injustice. Mary Ann co-convenes the Healing Solidarity, and her Embodying Change Coaching practice which centres a genuine solidarity that is focused on healing injustice. Previously, Mary Ann has worked as Executive Director at Able Child Africa, Regional Representative Basic Needs (East Africa), Chair of Lambeth Women’s Aid, and Assessor at Comic Relief.

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