Power-shifting is not simply a trend for Restless Development; it is a core principle that guides our actions, says Charity Bafana

The Fair Share Festival 2024, which took place in Berlin, Germany from the May 13 to 15 was a landmark event, marking five years of the organization’s important work in promoting gender equality and feminist leadership. The atmosphere was one of shared purpose and excitement, fueled by a collective commitment to positive change.

Restless Development has been actively involved in this movement. Our participation in the Fairshare Monitor, where we rose from 19th in the 2023 to 5th position in the rankings in 2024, reflects our dedication to reshaping power dynamics within our organisation. Power-shifting is not simply a trend for us; it is a core principle that guides our actions.

The festival provided a valuable opportunity to learn and share experiences.

Here are some key takeaways that resonated with me:

  • Gender is not a monolith. Feminist leadership and its challenges are multifaceted and look different depending on the context.
  • Insights on patriarchy. Some discussions highlighted the limitations of viewing patriarchy solely through the lens of men. While men often hold positions of power, one session revealed how patriarchal systems and unconscious biases can also be perpetuated by women, even within organizations striving for gender equality.
  • The power of community. The Fair Share network (and other networks like it) is a powerful counterpart that fosters collaboration and mutual accountability amongst feminist organisation, recognising the strength that comes from collective action. 

Restless Development wasn’t just attending the festival, we were actively contributing!

I co-facilitated a workshop with our Co-CEO, Kate Muhwezi, where we shared our agency’s journey towards power-shifting over the past 40 years. We got to showcase how we have been intentional in Integrating power-shifting principles into our entire strategy and action plans. We are not perfect, and it by no means has been easy, but with networks like Fair Share, we’re constantly learning, unlearning, and evolving to better serve the young people we partner with. 

The Powershifting Checklist is not a static document; it is a living framework that guides our ongoing efforts. We are constantly evaluating its effectiveness and adapting it to meet the evolving needs of our organization.

My experience co-facilitating the workshop at the Fair Share Festival was truly enriching. Several key themes emerged from the discussions with participants from other organizations:

  • The Importance of Lived Experiences: Integrating the diverse lived experiences of staff into decision-making processes is essential for creating truly inclusive leadership.
  • Shifting vs. Transforming Power: The concept of power-shifting goes beyond simply redistributing power; it’s about dismantling traditional power structures and creating more equitable systems altogether.
  • The Power of Reimagining: One of the most inspiring takeaways was the recognition that even small acts of reimagining existing structures can have a transformative impact.
  • People Management and Development: Investing in effective people management and leadership development is critical for creating a workforce that can drive positive change.
  • Moving Beyond Traditional Metrics: The focus on transforming power requires going beyond traditional metrics of success, such as pay scales and recruitment models. We need to consider more holistic approaches that measure empowerment, inclusivity, and impact.

Here’s a call to action for organisations inspired to power-shift. Below are some action steps:

  • Data is your friend. Gain an understanding of evidence-based research and learn from it. For example, check out the Fair Share Monitor for insights on women in leadership.
  • Review your policies. Are they hindering or helping your power-shifting goals?
  • Build a community of practice. Learn from and share with like-minded organizations.
  • Walk the talk. It’s important for organisations to show commitment by operationalizing their plans.

The Fair Share Festival served as a springboard for continued learning and collaboration. By sharing experiences and best practices, we can collectively move the needle towards a future where feminist leadership empowers positive change across all sectors.

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by Charity Bafana Reading time: 3 min