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Stars Foundation invests in organisations and ideas that transform the lives of disadvantaged children and their communities globally.

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Sector Superstitions: Stalling Progress

Posted by: Emma on 13 Jun 2014
in Blog

Today is Friday 13 June, and while I don't count myself as the superstitious sort, a couple of things had already gone wrong on my way to work this morning, all the more conspicuous because of the date on the calendar. 

Of course, losing my keys or tripping on the pavement could happen any day of the year, and science provides no fact to indicate that bad things really are more likely to happen on this day. But it's the perception of risk that counts, and for the hard-core superstitious, leaving the house on a Friday 13th is a perceived risk that keeps some hiding under the duvet all day. 

A superstitious sector

In the world of international development, superstitions and myths are called by their professional name: misconceptions.

And misconceptions stall progress.

Within development, 'local' and 'unrestricted' are the risk equivalents of opening umbrellas indoors, walking under ladders and happily cracking mirrors on a Friday 13th. But at Stars, these two words underpin our entire approach. We award well-managed, effective local organisations with unrestricted funding. 

Others think 'local' is too small, too unreliable, too insecure, too unreachable. They hear 'unrestricted' and audibly gasp, believing it's the biggest gamble a donor can take – unaudited, untrustworthy, not requiring collaboration. 

But you cannot know what 'local' means until you go 'there'. So we go 'there'. You do not know what 'unrestricted' funding is for until you are shown a crucial need that others will not fund. So we work to understand that need.

Local knows best

Local organisations already know what is needed, and often they are already doing what works. Unrestricted funding supports their unique knowledge with the power that flexible funds provide. 

We do not fund blindly. It takes a huge amount of work, but our 12-month Impact Awards process consists of five steps that identify in rigorous detail well-run organisations with a strong track record of serving the needs of their communities. Stars understands that there are people all over the world working tirelessly through extraordinary local organisations to improve the lives of their communities.

Over the last seven years, we have recognised more than 50 outstanding local organisations. Their work is proof enough that the misconceptions surrounding 'local' are exactly that.

Taking a closer look

I am a new member of the Stars team. Before my interview here, I trawled the website for all I could find that would help me understand the work Stars does; I could not tear myself away.  The inspiring explanatory animation produced last year had a huge impact on my reasons for wanting to work at Stars. It illustrates that what others see as risks, Stars sees as opportunities simply waiting to be unlocked.

I may not be the world's biggest risk taker by any stretch, but neither is Stars. The Impact Awards process proves that local works, and we did not come to understand that by hiding under the duvet from the perceived risks.