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From Active Listening to Active Change


Since its inception, Voice has been intentional in seeking to listen and learn from its grantee partners. It is our commitment and aspiration to be a truly inclusive grant facility, putting into practice the principles we are anchored on: Leave No One Behind and Nothing About Us Without Us (NOW-Us). In keeping with this ethos, Voice in February 2021, commissioned the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), to carry out a confidential survey with its grantee partners to understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. We are grateful to the 257 grantee partners (a 69% response rate!) who made time to engage in this exercise at an especially challenging and constraining time. The overall report prepared by CEP is available here:

We receive your insights and recommendations for improvement with great humility and commitment. We also hope that this can be an ongoing conversation between you and Voice. We are very inspired to learn that grantee partners see Voice as having a positive impact on the work of the grantee partners themselves, their fields and their communities. The sense of solidarity and connection forged by our Linking & Learning efforts have also been very well received by grantee partners in addition to the non-monetary support Voice offers. We are thrilled to learn that these efforts have contributed to growing grantee partners’ networks, forming new collaborations, and/or led to innovations or changes to their own practices or ways of working. Voice’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in its work and its commitment to combatting racism is also clearly seen and appreciated by our grantee partners.

Being committed to reflective ways of working as a grant-making facility, we will continue building on these positives. We will also dedicate specific attention to the areas of improvement our grantee partners have identified. These include- the quality of interactions between the Voice team and grantee partners, the stringency, intensiveness and formality of some Voice processes, and the perceived pressure on grantee partners to change their organisational priorities during proposal development. We are humbled to receive this feedback, which is particularly telling in the context of the long-due but ongoing sector-wide discussions on localising, decentralising and decolonizing aid. While we are keen to contribute to the systemic change that the #ShiftThePower movement is demanding, we are equally committed to taking immediate, tangible actions that demonstrate our intention to be a feminist, trust-based, and inclusive grant-making facility.

Since September 2021, Voice has been taking steps to ensure dissemination and socialisation of the findings and recommendations of the survey report within Voice and within Oxfam Novib and Hivos. Measures to share the survey report widely with grantee partners have been planned as outlined in section 2 below. Voice has also begun an internal reflection on how to translate the recommendations received into concrete changes to our ways of working. One such reflection is taking place on the issue of terminology and a shift in our framing to viewing grantees as partners. This change comes from a collective understanding of the power of language and the way in which terminology itself can empower or disempower. We seek to signal our intention to build transformative partnerships with groups whose work Voice is resourcing and move away from transactional ways of working. The measures outlined in this response are some steps we are taking to ensure that this change in terminology is practically embodied further in our grantmaking and ways of working.

Based on the full report of findings, we present below some of the specific actions we will be taking within the coordination team and the country teams to respond to the recommendations:


[1] The Voice Linking & Learning infrastructure has been decentralised with the recruitment of 10 Linking, Learning & Amplification Officers in the Voice focus countries and the selection of Linking & Learning Facilitator organisations who work with the Linking & Learning Coordinator to deliver on Linking & Learning as an intervention.


Further boost positive perceptions of impact on grantees’ fields and local communities, continue growing Voice’s Linking and Learning efforts and provision of non-monetary support

  1. The Linking, Learning & Amplification team will continue to move their planned activities forward, fostering connection and collaboration between grantee partners.
  2. As part of grant making strategies, we will test out ways to provide technical capacity building on organisational development and financial resilience to our grantee partners.
  3. Voice in Kenya and Tanzania will prioritise more media support to grantee partners. This could be done by placing stories in the media or collaborating with media to feature grantees.
  4. Voice in Indonesia will develop a learning agenda such as Learning Groups Discussion (Advocacy, Campaign Media Creative and Economic Sustainability) and Local Grantee Forum (topic: Gender Equality and Social Inclusion).
  5. In the Philippines, the Voice team will create an engagement and communication plan to further amplify grantee partners materials and outputs. They will also map partner events- both online and offline, so Voice team can support and participate in them. Voice in the Philippines will also enhance language accessibility by permanently adding major languages such as Cebuano and Bisaya in calls for proposals

Explore approaches to improve the quality of interactions with grantees

  1. We are taking steps to ensure dissemination of the survey findings and recommendations among all grantee partners of Voice. Voice in Niger for instance will be holding a workshop with grantee partners to share the report and create a feedback loop. Voice in Philippines is developing a visual translation of the report for more engaging communications in multi-lingual Philippines.
  2. We will organise mindful communication capacity strengthening sessions for all team members to ensure that we are working to embody trust and empathy in all interactions with grantee partners
  3. We are also developing an annual feedback survey to systematise the way in which we gather feedback from grantee partners.
  4. As proposed by Voice in Cambodia and Nigeria, we will immediately put into practice a change in our terminology and refer to grantees as grantee partners. 
  5. In Laos, Niger and the Global levels, the team will explore a strategy of purposively building time into weekly/ monthly activity plans for interaction with grantees. Voice in Laos will also create an email group for bi-weekly information dissemination.
  6. Voice in Indonesia after the implementation of Conversation Based Report and monitoring will build up an open and courteous dialogue with the concept of having a regular discussion per grant type with the topic of project implementation and finance. Across all teams, adoption of the Conversation Based Report in itself signals an aspiration to build closer connection with grantee partners and foster openness and trust.

Review Voice’s proposal and reporting requirements to identify areas that could be revised to ensure processes are streamlined, less time-intensive, helpful and more adaptable to grantee circumstances, particularly for small grantee organisations

  1. We will create a standard user experience checklist based on the Voice grants manual and share with all applicants at the start of the application process to give them a clear sense of timelines and manage expectations concerning the granting process. The checklist will be translated to the main working language of each Voice focus country.
  2. As is the practice in some Voice country teams already, Voice in Philippines and Indonesia, we will video record the grantee partners induction session and share the recording with them. 
  3. Voice in Indonesia will conduct outreach sessions in the form of detailed question & answer webinars to elaborate more on how to apply for Voice grant. Voice in Kenya is holding in-person inception meetings already. Voice in Laos is planning to hold in-depth information sessions prior to proposal development so grantee partners and potential grantee partners have an opportunity to gather as much information about project and proposal requirements as possible.
  4. Across all teams, we will continue our effort to constantly and consciously find ways to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of our processes and requirements through our internal reflection sessions embedded in various meetings, such as process cafés and e-meets.

Facilitate internal discussions about the drivers behind the high level of pressure grantees experience to change their organisational priorities during proposal development and seek ways to mitigate its potential adverse effects on impact and on relationships with grantees

  1. We recognise that a key driver of the high level of pressure grantees experience is due to the nature of Voice as public tender that mandates not only specific areas of focus but also a ‘call for proposals’ modality. Unfortunately, these facets cannot be modified. However, across all Voice teams, we commit to applying the learning on mindful communication to ensure that we remain respectful and transparent to grantee partners during the grant selection process.  We will seek to understand how prospective grantee partners view Voice and share the constraints built into our processes from the start. We will also maximise the use of the grant manual per country and assess the possibility of translating the grants manual and share it with prospective grantee partners at information sessions.
  2. We will also utilise the existing internal mechanisms for discussion and capacity strengthening to periodically revisit our performance on this issue. 

Consider providing more flexible and multi-year grants for Voice’s trusted grantees.

  1. This recommendation can continue to be partially addressed through existing grant modalities of Voice, including the repeat Influencing grants and Empowerment Accelerator grants. In addition, we will assess the possibility of supporting our grantee partners to strengthen their financial sustainability and resilience through providing technical accompaniment. 


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