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On graceful exits and determined beginnings

By Ishita Dutta, Programme Manager, Voice

In this reflection blog, Ishita shares how Voice traverses from 2022 to 2023. What were the impactful experiences in 2022, and how do we bring them to 2023? What awaits us this year? Voice believes it is as important to look back from where you are standing as having your feet move forward.


“The more different and diverse we are, the more beautiful we become when we co-exist, and co-create and find a way to have each of us involved by contributing to the process through leveraging on each person’s strengths.”

– Stella Cheboi, Emerging Leaders Foundation (ELF) Africa, sharing her key takeaway from the Global NOW-Us! Bootcamp 2022.


A woman posing for the camera while holding a paper with her drawing.


With cautious optimism and due regard to safety, we stepped into 2022, aiming to be in closer connection with our partners, key stakeholders and team members. And undoubtedly, the most inspirational moments of the year were those where we could be in the community. These ‘in-person’ events best exemplified our principled belief that there is strength and beauty in diversity.

The Global Nothing About Us Without Us (NOW-Us!) Awards Bootcamp 2022 was a particular highlight. It brought together 11 activists representing first-place winners of the NOW-Us! Awards and the NOW-Us! Awards organisers from Cambodia, Kenya, Laos, Mali and Tanzania at the Butterfly Works facilities in Amsterdam for 5 days in October. The exchange of creative storytelling techniques became the anchor for a moving performance delivered by the NOW-Us! Award winners and organizers to close the Partos Innovation Festival 2022.

Another significant moment of reconnection was the Voice Annual Reflection Meeting organized in Siem Reap, Cambodia, after a gap of 2 years. As in pre-COVID times, the annual reflection meeting is the only instance in the year where all Voice team members come together— to pause, reflect and refresh on values and principles, ways of working, and bonds and connections across the vast nodal network that is Voice.

Reality check!

The basis of our collective work at the annual reflection meeting was the context analysis update 2022, the final such exercise for the Voice extension phase. While in previous years, the context analysis update had been the primary source of consultation with the national Community of Stakeholders on the situation of the five Voice rightsholder groups, in 2022, the premise of the context analysis update was a ‘reality check’!

The stakeholders affirmed in all countries that the intersectional focus of Voice on the five key rightsholder groups has facilitated outreach to a broad range of grassroots civil society initiatives. However, the complex lived realities of the rightsholder need us to further hone in on the intersections of various identities, visible and invisible. Where we continue to see hope and opportunity is the increase in grassroots collaboration and networking among civil society, advanced leadership development across all rightsholder groups, particularly women and youth, more attention to mental health issues at various levels, and the improved information flows among rightsholder groups, including due to digital connections. Ultimately, the context analysis update continued to validate the underlying assumption of the Voice theory of change— while the struggle for a just, equitable and inclusive world is a protracted one, rightsholder groups will continue to rise and organise as they always have.


A photo of a hand drawn representation of a vision for an inclusive, intersectional and just future created by Voice teams at the annual reflection meeting 2022
A hand drawn representation of a vision for an inclusive, intersectional and just future created by Voice teams at the annual reflection meeting 2022

In 2023, the Voice programme will enter its final full year of implementation!

A key priority for the coming year will be to make the final grant approvals for all calls for proposals issued under the extension phase. Simultaneously, we will continue the momentum on in-person convenings to organise a number of linking and learning activities that also contribute to the strategic positioning of Voice. We are especially looking forward to reviving the flagship annual linking and learning event— the Indaba. Finally, we will redouble our amplification efforts and facilitate the Voice final evaluation.

With a view to the close of the Voice programme in 2024, the unifying agenda across all programme areas will be the identification and implementation of strategies that contribute to sustaining the work of Voice grantee partners, with or without Voice. In grant-making, this will mean fostering closer collaboration with other funders and cascading those connections to Voice grantee partners. In linking and learning, we will enhance the internal capacity to bring the Voice grantee partner–led Linking and Learning approaches to life and support the anchoring of learning in knowledge exchanges and communities of practice. In our amplification efforts, we will emphasise the strengthening of capacities for storytelling that facilitate a wider reach of voices of grantee partners and rightsholders. In monitoring and evaluation, we will implement collaborative information-gathering strategies that document progress, lessons, and best practices. As a team we will continue to improve the information flows, communication and knowledge management across Voice. And lastly, through our strategic positioning activities we will emphasize external dissemination of lessons learned from grant-making and linking & learning and contribute to sectoral discussions on #ShiftThePower and localisation of aid, thereby contributing to systemic changes.

We invite you to walk with us as we enter this penultimate and exciting phase in the journey of Voice!

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