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A voice about the Magic of Voice


I feel immensely grateful to have had the opportunity to help plant the seeds out of which Voice developed, and to have been able to follow and support Voice and the magic of its voices till recently.  Voice has been and still is an enormous source of learning and experimenting to do grantmaking differently, to innovate, to localise and to bring rightsholders to the front beyond the ‘normal way of doing’.

From my own experience in projects fighting poverty and inequality in many countries, I had learned how difficult it is to really meaningfully engage rightsholders, particularly the most marginalised and discriminated. All donors have social inclusion as a requirement, almost all development organisations speak out loud “to leave no one behind”. But in practice, in the hectic of the race against the clock to achieve ambitious results under challenging conditions, many commitments to “leave no one behind” get diluted and deprioritised.



Both the donor as well as the two leading implementing organisations have been a continuous hinder to experiment, demanding compliance and reducing risks. Any grantmaking project, or any project in fact, always will encounter challenges of mismanagement and fraud. Voice also did. But Voice has tried to build trust by bringing the rightsholders together and stimulating as much accountability and transparency as possible. Rigorous risk management eats away the space for experimenting and trust building. But of course nobody is served by just throwing money without following what happens with it.

In my view, the Voice team, together with the rightsholders, have done a fantastic job to strike that difficult balance between compliance with rigid (financial) M&E systems and creating space to make errors and learn. A lot of ‘learning by error’, trying things that are completely ‘out of the box’. Being close to and with the rightsholders with staff mainly in the Global South, meaningfully engaging rightsholders in different ways in the implementation and management of the programme. Voice has lived its slogan successfully and with pride: “Now US! Nothing about us without us”. Voice has left a legacy and inspired me hugely to challenge myself in doing my work differently!

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