Traditionally in international development, community-based and grassroots organizations are used solely as implementers: they’re given a small, specific scope of work that they’re asked to achieve, after a thorough due diligence process led by the “prime” awardee—typically a big INGO that serves as a pseudo-donor to the local partner.  

It’s time for local partners to lead.

When we shift power and co-create, co-implement and co-evaluate programming alongside local partners, we can advance people powered health solutions and get us all closer to Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Locally-led models for feminist funding can get us there. Maverick Collective by PSI and Fòs Feminista are collaborating on a new feminist fund – Maverick Portfolio.


Fadekemi Akinfaderin, Chief Advocacy Officer, Fós Feminista 

Institutions with resources tend to hold the power and dictate how much funding is provided; to whom those resources go; and what priorities are resourced. Feminist funding aims to: 

  • Challenge this power by calling on institutions, especially those in the Global North, to question how this power is being used 
  • Call on us to provide increased and better-quality funding to activists, organizations and movements in ways that provide the greatest flexibilities on a long-term basis to bring about systematic change 
  • Center the leadership and experiences of those most affected by systematic oppression and aims to resource them to change the status quo.

Common misconceptions about feminist funding include perceptions that grassroots organizations are not able to manage large and flexible funding that are not tied to prescribed project activities; that it is difficult to measure results and change with feminist funding; and that feminist funding has no due diligence processes, and it is greater risk. These misconceptions are false and center around the notion of power and control. We now have examples that have demonstrated otherwise.

We recognize that many organizations, especially those led by excluded communities, do not have the luxury to engage in co-creation processes due to resourcing constraints. PSI and Fós Feminista are committed to eliminating this barrier by providing flexible funding to grassroots partners to not just engage, but take leadership in the entire process. Through this partnership we are demonstrating how we can shift power and work with partners horizontally in program co-creation, implementation and evaluation. 

To integrate feminist approaches into program implementation, we recognize the power we hold in our relationships with national partners; we commit to co-create the project and resulting scope of work for each partner; jointly own work products produced through this partnership and make it open source; and engage in a process of mutual learning, exchanges and capacity building, where every partner shares its strengths and capacities for the benefit of all.  We will also include as part of our theory of change and results framework systems to check on how we have been able to live into the partnership values we have set and not just the “outcomes” related to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Finally, we are very intrigued and excited about working through Maverick Portfolio on “engaging men and boys” for delivering SRHR interventions.  This is the funding theme the pilot countries have selected, with local input, to focus on, and we see this as a unique opportunity to reflect, dream and co-create a feminist model to engaging men and boys. Most of the national partners are feminist organizations who have strong analysis that will be brought together in the design of this new initiative ensuring that we continue to center women, girls, and gender diverse people, while working with men and boys to transform harmful social norms around masculinities. 


Natalie Fellows, Senior Manager for Impact, Experiential Philanthropy, PSI DC

We know that local partners, and their deep ties to the community, as well as their experiences and expertise, bring so much to the table, especially in terms of strategy, setting priorities and determining metrics for success. We want to work with incredible local organizations and grassroots movements as true partners – this means mutual accountability, transparency, respect and decision making. 

We are doing this through Maverick Portfolio, a new giving program from Maverick Collective by PSI implemented in partnership with Fòs Feminista.

The Portfolio started with a question: how is traditional philanthropy and international development actually standing in the way of achieving the most impact possible? With this question, we launched a co-design process—with seed funding from our existing members—to create a philanthropic fund that eliminates these barriers and puts impact front-and-center. The resulting model shifts power from the donors to the doers, the people in the countries where our programs operate, who are closest to the impact. We hypothesized that by moving decision making power to those closest to the work; providing flexible funding to allow for adaptive programing; engaging with local partners who bring their full value to the table; and co-creating solutions, we can create more impact, at-scale for the communities we aim to serve.

But we know we can’t catalyze systemic change alone. Our partnership with Fòs Feminista and local actors is fundamental to us accomplishing long-term change; this partnership will be our guidepost to make sure we’re walking the walk and not just talking the talk.


Metsehate Ayenekulu, Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Director, PSI Ethiopia

The Maverick Portfolio model is all about centering consumers and ensuring local priorities and solutions are uplifted. We know that local partners often have some of the deepest connections to the communities we are aiming to serve, and by working with them it can help further support the goal of consumer powered healthcare. 

Through Maverick Portfolio’s development, we’ve thought a lot about the due diligence process, reporting requirements, credit due and donor access. We see these as elements of a partnership in need of change. Why should INGOs get to see all the financial, operational and programmatic details of a local partner during the due diligence process, when they themselves are sharing no information? How can we co-create reporting requirements that fit both organizations’ needs? And how do we ensure that local partners have access to donors as well, and are also given proper credit for the success of initiatives they contribute to and lead? These are all things we’re working to shift through Maverick Portfolio.

We can see that, on an operational level, PSI is shifting in a similar way – looking at its subaward processes to simplify and streamline for our partners, and making a concerted effort to continue shifting power to local-led entities. We hope that this pilot will deepen the evidence base for how INGOs can shift power dynamics on resource allocation and decision-making processes; how we define success and on how we thoughtfully and effectively engage local partners.

Visit Fòs Feminista and Maverick Portfolio to learn more.

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This article is a part of PSI’s ICFP 2022 Impact Magazine. Explore the magazine here.

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