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What Does Sustainability Mean for Movements?

Written by Lucerito, CMJ

I had the opportunity to participate on behalf of CMJ in Sustaining the ONSIDE movement, a space for dialogue between funders and movements of the ONSIDE community. Despite having our own identities and contexts, all the participants in this dialogue resonated with the perspectives shared by each other. For us at CMJ, sustainability goes beyond the financial; we think it's important to find a balance between financial and social wellbeing. When these aspects go hand in hand, our organisations face less challenges, and this is why when we talk about sustainability, we don’t just refer to long-term funding.

This dialogue gave us the opportunity to speak our minds directly and not through evaluation reports, which are often not read in full, or the data contained in them never reaches the funders. This could be why many funders continue to follow the same practices and structures, thinking that this is the best way for grassroots organisations to achieve their goals instead of letting us focus on what we actually need to develop ourselves. This often leads to demotivation and fatigue and does not contribute to community building as a key aspect of sustainability. In our work towards sustainability, we experience great challenges and as part of the ONSIDE community we value spaces for dialogue and flexible funding because these help us to sustain ourselves.

During this event, we discussed questions such as what does sustainability mean for movements and how are we contributing to it? This was an open question that provided a great opportunity for reflection, and I would like to share some insights. Sustainability for movements is:

Photo by CMJ
  • Listening to the diversity of voices, moving towards gender justice, and recognising leadership.

  • Play (sports) as an act of resistance for movements.

  • Promoting collective care and strengthening relationships.

  • That the communities acknowledge our work and the importance of sports as a tool to challenge gender roles. 

  • Having human and financial resources that contribute to developing actions to meet the needs and priorities of the girls.

  • Accessing renewable and flexible funding to develop our creativity as a movement. 

Financial flexibility contributes to our social sustainability, and it is important because it allows us to be diverse and inclusive, to be creative in order to seek better horizons, to change power and promote systemic changes, to be flexible with our ideas and get out of stressful situations. It also contributes to our autonomy, mental health, self-care, and self-defence and provides us with the opportunity to adapt our ideas based on the needs and contexts we face (such as COVID, patriarchy, political and economic contexts, etc.).

Understanding sustainability from broader perspectives (and contexts) gives funders the opportunity to adapt what they require from us as organisations. This is why it is important to maintain spaces for dialogue between both parties to act as a bridge between two different worlds: a world that is less “square”, one in which we strive to contribute to the wellbeing and development of girls and vulnerable groups and recognise the power of diverse voices to bring about meaningful, long-term change.

The ONSIDE Fund Thought Piece Series IV - Lucerito
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