We’re changing up FP2P: here’s the plan (but we haven’t got a name yet – please help!)

In the 11 years since I launched this blog, it’s churned out getting on for 2 million words across 2,500+ posts, generating 12,600 comments (thanks everyone). It’s time to change things up.

Time to decolonise Duncan?…

Up to now, I’ve been running the blog as pretty much a solo effort – roughly a day and a half a week to generate 5 posts, deal with comments, and read lots of guest blogs from people keen to share their ideas on FP2P. Right now I have 8 potential posts in the queue. The trouble is that most of them are from my demographic: northern, white, working in high-profile spaces (although pretty well balanced on gender).

These are the voices that largely continue to frame global debates and skew discussions.

Which means FP2P readers are missing out on other views and voices, and we want to fix that. We want to include more ideas and content from thinkers, researchers and doers in the Global South, in a wider range of formats (video, podcasts, forums and debates etc). We want to spotlight unheard (at least in the North) voices and amplify stories that are often ignored. Essentially, we want to start rebalancing some of the asymmetries that continue to characterise a large chunk of development communications, and start making these conversations more horizontal (easy job, right?).

World map of IMF votes…and of main development authors.
Copyright: Worldmapper.

But it’s not just about what gets posted here, or whether we need to expand our list of authors. We want this project to be a part of a broader effort to challenge our assumptions, ask hard questions, and strengthen efforts to tackle the blind spots in conversations about local and global development. Because we know development itself as a concept and practice is deeply embedded in power relationships, involving issues of representation and the way we produce knowledge. So if we want to better understand the depth of issues, we can’t really afford to exclude the perspectives of those actually affected by them.

There will be more discussions on this in later posts, with more details on the blind spots we will be trying to identify and challenge. For now, here’s some exciting news.

María Faciolince

Thanks to a bit of funding from Ford and Hewlett Foundations, we have recruited a person (half time) to begin sourcing content outside of the northern bubble, and to help me run the blog. She is María Faciolince (left), a whip smart Colombian-Antillean woman, with a degree in Anthropology and Psychology, a Masters in Anthropology and Development, and an activist with lots of experience generating multimedia content.

Here’s our plan: for the next 3 months, we’re going to try lots of new stuff, and then take stock on what works, what doesn’t. That will include:

  1. Stories of endogenous change that may not have external/aid element to them
  2. Links to breaking stories, like what to read on Yemen, Syria, Venezuela, etc. from authors in those countries.
  3. Reposting top commentary from Southern thinkers, or reviews of their books.
  4. Turning the tables, including commentary on Northern events from Southern perspectives
  5. Measurement: Poverty? Power? What counts? Including debates around indicators and methodology.
  6. New Issues: What’s coming up the development agenda? And what isn’t but ought to be?

But we’re open to other suggestions too – the whackier the better.

I’m very excited but also a bit anxious – I’m guessing that being decolonised may involve rethinking many things, and learning to ‘hand over the stick’ more often.

But FP2P is not going away – I’ll still be posting several times a week, along the lines that have interested enough readers in the past to generate good traffic and great commentary. My ugly mug will still be on the homepage. We’re still committed to avoiding the worst excesses of devspeak, to wallowing in real life ambiguity and confusion, and to sticking to the central core theme of the move from poverty to power. We just want to try some new, cool stuff out, and then we’ll ask you what you think.

And the first job is to choose a name for the project – Global Voices was taken, Southern Voices sounds too ….. Northern. I can only come up with naff ones like ‘New Voices’, ‘Changing the Record’ or ‘FP2P, but we really mean it this time’. ‘Decolonising Duncan’ is obscure and insufficiently serious. So please help us out with some suggestions, (no Boaty McBoatfaces please), then we’ll pick the best ones, and have a vote…..

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Comments

37 Responses to “We’re changing up FP2P: here’s the plan (but we haven’t got a name yet – please help!)”
  1. Ken Smith

    Honest, I’ve nothing against anthropology, psychology or masters’ degrees in general but if that is a qualification for your new content writers, I still don’t think that’s very far out of the northern development bubble even if they live elsewhere. How about voices from outside the development world altogether ? You have talked about faith and development before – maybe the new Archbishop of Lima could be persuaded to write guest blog as an example https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/11436/new-archbishop-of-lima-calls-diocese-to-journey-to-poor-

    • Maria Faciolince

      Hi Ken, thanks for your comment.

      We will most definitely be looking for content outside of the development bubble and will engage in discussions on deconstructing knowledge hierachies that question not only what is being said, who is being heard and how we’re talking, but also the very ideas of ‘authority’ and ‘expertise’. We’re also thinking of this project as an attempt to leave behind walled-off conversations in order to make them more accessible using various methods – for example, with multimedia communications. In all of this, a priority is to spotlight voices, stories and critical perspectives that highlight the agency and power of people.

      We’ll have a contact form up soon so everyone can keep suggesting!

  2. Rakesh Rajani

    Wonderful that this is happening — love that Maria Faciolince has joined the effort — and that you are inviting ideas/engagement on how to make it work. Like with other decolonizing efforts — some of the best stuff will likely involve pressure, disruption and messing with how your change ducks have been lined up. All the very best!

  3. Débora Zampier

    Dear Prof., glad to know that your idea of turning the blog´s narrative into a more global and diverse voice is finally becoming a reality with Maria´s support. Looking forward to reading/watching/listening to new stuff. Good luck and all best from Brazil!

  4. Paz

    What about a non-English name? Or a name that can be read in English and another language(s) as well? This is just an example: “Po”. It can mean the abbreviation for “poder” and for “power”, for “politica”, “politics”, “potencial”, “potencial” (or even the chilean slang “po” which goes after almost any other word). But it might be too weird… I’ll keep thinking of options. And congrats, this feels pretty refreshing 🙂

  5. Gareth Price-Jones

    Just a thought, but is google translate now good enough to enable people to publish in their first language and yet still have their perspectives open to a wider, English-reading audience?

    Also, being less sniffy about education levels is essential. Our sector is generally extremely well-educated, which by definition limits the space for contributions from the people most affected, if only because they are intimidated by everyone else’s qualifications. Yes, people might revisit ideas thoroughly debunked already by genuine experts, but thinking changes and perspectives are different. Even if it results in the same conclusions, we’ll likely see more convincing explanations and deeper understanding.

    Finally – not necessarily the best date to have published this one – ‘ha ha, white northern male development expert wants to hear different perspectives – good one!’ 😉

  6. LARRY GARBER

    Appreciate the need to refresh, but glad that you will continue to post regularly. Used several of your posts to provoke students in my “civil society and international development” course and to keep myself up-to-date on the current discourse. Duncan Green thrive weekly should suffice.

  7. Great initiative Duncan. Happy to refer a few potential writers from my part of the world.
    I agree with Gareth on education levels and how those might intimidate and exclude… how about a bias towards doers – at least initially?

    • Maria Faciolince

      Hi Allan, many thanks for your comment. We’re aiming to get more grounded perspectives from doers all over, and highlight non-aid-related processes of change. We’d love to get your suggestions for potential writers whenever you can!

  8. First: great initiative, hope it works.

    One recommendation re online translation: https://www.deepl.com/en/translator is much better than google, but has less languages

    Some questions: Was curious how you will evaluate what works and what won’t with the new site – especially after only 3 months. The number of comments? The number of new subscribers? The number of subscribers/comments from “the South” – which shows that the diversified site not only educates “the North”? I personally would think that the latter could be my success indicator, but that might take more time than 3 months.

  9. Miguel Moreno

    A warm welcome to Maria and thank you, Duncan, for valuing different voices and challenging your readers to be humble and keep an open mind when it comes to knowledge. Your blog has been a great contribution to the development community and I hope even better days are still out in front of us. Here some suggestions of potential names for the project:

    • Perspectives matter
    • Embracing diversity
    • Maximizing what we’ve got
    • For the common good
    • The power of listening
    • Our voice: Views from different levels
    • Different shades of grey
    • Bigger than us

  10. gawain kripke

    Duncan (and Maria),

    I’m so excited for this initiative! Can hardly wait to see what emerges. I like that you don’t have a plan, but are going to try things and see what works. Also glad for the continuity – Duncan’s voice and the more traditional development practitioners. It’s better to have some of the old and the new together and interacting, debating, competing, synthesizing.

    Don’t have a name suggestion, really. What about “rupt” For disrupt, erupt, rupture, (corrupt)? I think decolonizing Fp2p is a wonderful project. make sure to bring on feminist voices and perspectives – and make sure they are diverse, intersectional, and personal. I have a lot of ideas which I’ll float towards you.

    • Maria Faciolince

      Thanks for your comment, Gawain. We’ll definitely be aiming for intersectional, grounded and critical perspectives. Please do send over your ideas whenever you can!

  11. Ashley

    Do you need to rename now? Suggest leaving the name and asking each writer suggest one, committing to rename in a year to let it fit what it has become and the ideas there expressed, not what you and we might project it to be as a derivative of today.

  12. John Whittle

    If you are wanting to make your blog somewhat different without completely giving up your own inputs, which are development focussed, I believe a few things are needed:
    1. As Ken Smith says get away from development personnel and look for inputs from local self-contained efforts uninhibited by aid and experts.
    2. To attract such people to write, you also want to make your everyday blog more intelligible to them, so minimize or remove the common development jargon. So for the northern development experts that are guest blogs, they might need to rethink how they write.
    3. As for a new title that is actually more difficult. Again why not forget the development orientation and come up with something more simple like: New Knowledge, or copying your current naming K2U (knowledge to understanding). I will give it some more thought.

    • Maria Faciolince

      Hi John, these are good insights we’ll definitely be taking on board. Thanks for sharing!
      We’ll be striving to make conversations more accessible not only by avoiding ‘dev speak’, but also using more multimedia methods. And we’ll aim to highlight grassroots initiatives and people-led stories of change, grounded experiences that offer contextualized and nuanced perspectives, and critical takes, among others.

  13. Gareth Price-Jones

    Just a reflection on the multi-media elements – I find I don’t have (or fail to create) time to engage with vlogs etc, so for me plain ol’ vanilla text-and-pictures still works best. I suspect this is the case for many of the ‘doers’ working directly with affected populations, too.

  14. Hi Duncan and Maria (and Amy behind the scenes!),

    Been following these developments with great interest – your blog prompted questions which I hope are useful rather than annoying (!)… they are not questions I think you should feel you have to answer in the blog, although of course it would be interesting to hear your reflections on them!

    Even with the increasingly diverse content and authorship, I would say that F2P is still very closely associated with you, Duncan, and this is part of its appeal: you are well known – at least amongst the global dev chattering classes (even more so as a result of the blog) – and people are drawn by your provocative (or perhaps thought-provoking), straight-talking no-nonsense style – prepared to challenge orthodoxies and unquestioned assumptions in aidland and beyond. Additionally, you and Oxfam do some brilliant and innovative work, and you provide your readership with a valuable window on spaces and conversations they would never otherwise have access to. You can see the palpable relief in the Comments to this blog as you reassure people that you will still be publishing your thoughts and opinions. Will new content – if featuring a relatively “unknown” person or organisation draw the same attention? (you might be able to do some analysis on your “most read/most tweeted and most commented-on pieces, and check whether there are any trends here).

    By significantly changing both content and “brand” (name etc), is there are danger you may lose that audience? Perhaps that’s not a bad thing – in fact, that brings me to the common question we comms people always ask: 1) who is your intended audience (for this re-vamp)? e.g. do you have the same audience in mind (Gareth referred to the “the ‘doers’ working directly with affected populations”) but the idea is to broaden their perspective? Or, is part of your re-brand about attracting a new audience (your New Year’s post seemed tired/uninspired by your still largely Anglo-Saxon readership)? Detailed thinking about intended audience can lead to (potentially) facing up to uncomfortable things like – language (will content still be predominantly in English?), format (what’s the best format for engaging this audience e.g. you’ve talked about video) and promotion (what’s the best way to reach this audience? i.e. do you need to be on Instagram? Weibo?)…

    Second typical Comms person question: 2) what are your objectives? your ambitious plans to diversify content in this way almost sound like you are setting up a media platform for Southern perspectives (and there are others out there, so what are you offering that is different/better? how will it differ from the other Oxfam blog platform “Views & Voices”?). What is the benefit for the authors to be on your blog (rather than, perhaps channelling their energies towards publishing an op ed in their national paper, for example)? Is there a danger that instead of “decolonising” you are inadvertently “colonising” – drawing voices to your (northern) platform, whereas they could, instead, be supported to create their own platforms, for example? Beyond showcasing Southern perspectives, what is the “underlying” aim…? .e.g is it about “profiling” people amongst a Western audience? And at the risk of sounding very log-frame-y – how will you know if you’ve been successful? Or at least, how will you know that you are going “in the right direction”?

    I think once you have a clear sense of who this new content/rebranding is for and what it’s aiming to achieve, you will more easily find an answer to the question “what shall we call it?” (if you decide you still want to change the name).

    Hope that’s useful – good luck!

    All the best, Emilie at IDS.

    • Duncan Green

      Thanks Emilie, v helpful comments – won’t try and answer them here (too knackered and jetlagged in Manila!) but just wanted to clarify that we are not changing the FP2P name. We just need something snappy to call this exercise! Will mull over your MEL-type questions with Maria and Amy……

  15. Paul O’Brien

    I’ve been looking forward to seeing this go live. And love the first exchanges from María. Should be fun!

    How about a play on “power“ for the name? There is a 1997 article from foreign affairs called “powershift“. It argued that the future belongs not to nation states but to Civil society organizations and activists. Not sure the argument is holding up, but the name might be interesting.

  16. Congratulations on making this bold step! and a big welcome to Maria!

    I’m really excited to see this happening. A few years ago I started a blog to focus exclusively on listening to Southern citizens and it’s been a humbling experience. I’ve been surprised to find out there is a lot of literature out there already that is only waiting to picked up by ‘Northerners’. Also, interviewing Southern thinkers and practitioners really does change your perspective on things. I have learned more from interviewing a Tax Justice Officer working with communities in rural Kenya than from years of reflecting on different tax campaigning models.

    I completely agree on the importance of choosing the right name for the blog. Language defines – and often limits – our thinking. How about “Decolonising Development” or, even better, “Decolonising Power”?

  17. Jessica McGarty

    I like “Power to the People’ and have used it as an essay title for university work on a number of occasions. Short, simple and to the point (and I am a fan of Citizen Smith, if anyone is old enough to remember that series!).

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