Trust, Relationship Building, and Ownership in Grassroots-Grantmaker Collaboration

Trust, Relationship Building, and Ownership in Grassroots-Grantmaker Collaboration

Power shift and localization are the core of the global philanthropy and humanitarian sector’s discussions on reforming institutional practices. Growing conversations around these topics have sparked global movements like #ShiftThePower, aiming at establishing more equitable partnerships. 


The #ShiftThePower movement was raised as an urge to make the voice of local communities heard and for grassroots initiatives to find their place and be actively sustained. These debates resonated during our annual Lightup Impact Days 2023 conference, “Shift the Power, Ignite Change”, which provided a much-needed stage for in-depth discussions, workshops, trainings, and interactive activities all focused on decolonization, power shifts, and localization. Over the course of our two-day conference, young grassroots leaders from across East Africa, including our Lightup Impact members, were invited to speak out. They drove discussions about how their potential can drive social change and how the concept of localization can be put into action.

A Recap of Lightup Impact Days 2023 – Shifting the Power and Igniting Change

A Recap of Lightup Impact Days 2023 – Shifting the Power and Igniting Change

Discover highlights from our 2nd Lightup Impact Days conference, where grassroots leaders and…

Localization goes hand in hand with power shifts and focuses on overcoming power imbalances by transferring decision-making and resources directly to local communities. While shifting the power seeks more equity, inclusivity, and transparency in the aid sector, localization empowers grassroots organizations to drive their projects to become solutions for their communities. As such, a deep understanding of the main challenges grassroots face when working with national and international NGOs is vital to making the #ShiftThePower movement fully achievable. These difficulties have been recognized mainly in the lack of trust and in the inadequacy of building strong relations with local communities. 


Establishing stronger relationships based on transparent and clear communication is the foundation for achieving trust-based partnerships, where local initiatives can emerge without being overshadowed by global organizations.


Similarly, investing time and resources to empower local organizations to lead their own projects can foster long-lasting partnerships based on equitable power dynamics. 


As this is one of Lightup Impact’s main goals, we frequently co-create and co-implement tailored development programs with our grassroots founders alongside our other bottom-up and community-driven approaches. 


Now, we’re once again turning to our community to help us understand more about the strategies they believe are most effective in shifting the power.

Striving for more equitable partnerships

Over the next four months, Lightup Impact’s dedication to the #ShiftThePower movement will take shape in an on-site research project conducted by Alicia Claus, a Bachelor’s student at Windesheim Honours College and research intern at Lightup Impact. 


The project’s main goal is to investigate the role of trust, relationship building, and ownership in partnerships between grassroots and grant-making organizations in East Africa and the Global North.


Central to our project will be understanding the concrete actions needed to establish trust-based collaborations that empower grassroots leaders to bring sustainable solutions to their communities.


We have structured the project around three main objectives:

  • an in-depth investigation into the role of trust and relationship building
  • the development of a concise research report summarizing the findings
  • the creation of a professional product comprising a report and a video for advocacy


Alicia will conduct interviews and group discussions with selected local actors (and Lightup members) to gain insights into their perspectives and experiences on the topics of trust, addressing their challenges, and creating awareness about their initiatives. These dialogues will also help to understand partnership dynamics and provide strategies to stakeholders.

By prioritizing community involvement, ethical considerations, and stakeholder engagement, the project aims to empower grassroots leaders, ultimately contributing to the establishment of more equitable and sustainable partnerships.  

#ShiftThePower and Lightup Impact

Upcoming #ShiftThePower event

You are invited to our online #ShiftThePower event on 30 May 2024 (keep an eye out on our social media for updates). This will be a great opportunity to share part of our project’s findings and continue our conversation around these important topics. 

The event is also expected to provide actionable recommendations for stakeholders to encourage trust-based relationships in grassroots-grantmaker collaborations.


The #ShiftThePower movement is a powerful force that seeks to transform the way people think, work, and see the world in the context of global philanthropy and humanitarian practices.


By amplifying the voices of grassroots leaders and fostering equity, we can create sustainable solutions for communities worldwide.


We look forward to hearing your voices and driving transformative change!

A special thanks to Dr. Jacqueline Bersano for authoring this article. 

About the Blog

The Lightup Impact blogs cover compelling and valuable topics relevant to its members, partners, investors, and anyone with an interest in the work of grassroots social organizations active in women’s health and gender equality in East Africa.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a question?​

For all inquiries regarding the Lightup Impact Days 2023,
please contact us at:

Want to stay updated?

Sign up for our newsletter

Get notified about new articles

Join us!

We increase the visibility and impact of social organizations with a focus on women’s health and gender equality in Kenya. We support the growth of our founders through tailored mentoring and networking opportunities