For more than 50 years, Counterpart International has supported local leaders and changemakers around the world, cheering them on as solution creators in their own communities. At the core of our mission is the understanding that power lies within these local communities, and it is our job to support them and help implement local solutions to local problems. #ShiftThePower is a powerful global movement rooted in this long-standing philosophy that goes beyond just bringing to the decision-making table people who have historically been excluded: it moves power closer to the ground, ensuring that local people to have greater control over their own destinies. Counterpart is constantly striving to find new tools that can help our global teams more effectively support our partners on the ground to create social good.
With this goal in mind, on May 23rd Counterpart brought together our staff with local entrepreneurs at WeWork Crystal City for a happy hour and networking event around the theme of UNESCO’s Africa Week, combining skill building and community building in one engaging evening. As part of the event – the first in a series of networking events that Counterpart will be producing in the DC area in the coming months – Teresa Crawford, Executive Director of Counterpart’s Social Sector Accelerator, led a bootcamp exercise to help attendees identify and explore cultural preconceptions and how they impact our world and our work.
In a hands-on exercise intended to get people talking, Teresa used photographs from Counterpart’s programs across Africa, journeying from Morocco to Burundi to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and beyond, to explore how we take in and evaluate images, experiences, and interactions, and then draw conclusions based on our own preconceptions. After assessing and discussing each picture, teams learned the true story behind the image and evaluated how their preconceptions and biases came into play when initially describing what they saw. Exercises like this are critical for Counterpart employees and our partners: they are a reminder to be aware of our preconceptions and their impact on the way we work, put others at the center of our work, and shift the power back to the communities we serve.
Counterpart believes that we can’t effectively support communities to design effective projects or durable solutions without knowing about the specific challenges they face and the barriers they must overcome. We meet this challenge by employing human-centered design techniques in each of our programs. Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem-solving: it’s a process that begins with the people we’re designing for and ends with solutions to complex problems that are tailor-made just for them.
All our work is grounded in relationship building and immersion in the communities we support. Human-centered solutions are effective because the very people we’re serving are kept at the center of the process. Through their efforts they bring solutions to life in community spaces. #ShiftThePower ensures that all of us can tap into our own power and proactively share and wield that power for our collective good.