Submission of Evidence to the International Development Committee inquiry on the philosophy of aid – March 2021


Small International Development Charities Network (SIDCN)


There are 10,000+ small charities in the UK working internationally and yet the small charities within this sector who arguably can have the biggest impact at a grassroots level are forgotten about. SIDCN began as an online collective on facebook group and has now grown to a community of 1,700 members. SIDCN is now a registered charity in the UK and its aim is to amplify the voices of small international development charities and the communities they serve. To us, small charities are those with a turnover of under £1million/year with the majority of our charities under £350,000/annum.


Small international development charities are efficient and effective mechanisms for aid


We believe that small international development charities (under £1m) are efficient and effective mechanisms for good aid and development. This is grounded in their long-term commitment, strong connections and relationships of trust with the communities they serve.


Working from the grassroots ‘smalls’ identify the needs of those who often fall through the gaps, and find solutions to empower, educate and elevate to achieve sustainable lives and communities. They are uniquely placed to localise power and build relationships which will affect deep, long term change.


“We see the bigger picture but make sure the small pieces are looked after”


The pandemic has highlighted how local knowledge and understanding of the challenges communities face enables small organisations to be responsive. They are adept at identifying issues and acting quickly, cost effectively, and practically on the ground. They are extremely lean, flexible and resourceful with low overheads, and no money to waste. Localisation and embeddedness into the communities they serve brings high impact with less resources.



Small international development charities are best placed to "challenge the old ways of doing things" in overseas development aid


Small international development charities ensure participatory approaches, build local capacity and local ownership. This means that development is not top-down and that it is both wanted and needed, and directly shaped by the communities served. Direct contact and relationships with both donors and beneficiaries allows small development charities to share views, ideas and strategies upwards. They are well situated to shift the power in development aid, to amplify the voices of local people engaged in community-led development, and value local knowledge, assets and resources. They know and understand impacts at the level of the individual, the family and community, and where they aren’t held to overly complex reporting in tightly defined top-down targets, are able to define success in terms of the transformations felt and valued by those communities.


Small international development charities are characterised by their passion and long term commitment to positive change and need more unrestricted aid funding, trust and flexibility from funders for core costs to deliver with greater organisational sustainability to meet needs. In our experience big humanitarian agencies disappear shortly after a crisis, leaving small development charities to take over but we are completely underfunded and underrepresented for the work that's actually required”. SIDCN challenge this to change through greater valuing and investment in the small charities with huge amounts of knowledge and skills who are already rooted in communities, supporting and empowering individuals around the world.


The future for ‘smalls’ in aid

Small international development charities have mixed views about the future of our sector. On the one hand, the current challenging funding environment, with smaller funding pots, and increased demand on our services due to the global covid-19 pandemic, leaves many insecure. On the other hand, we know our value, and believe that together we can create wider platforms to show our impacts, but need help to educate the public, increase funding and influence upwards to shift the way aid funding is conceptualised.


We are calling for a shift in development aid toward greater recognition of the value of small international development charities. We call for:


Small international development charities part of the aid and development sector is larger than most realise, as its impact. Small charities working overseas are small but mighty, efficient, effective and greater value of smalls can play a part in shifting the philosophy of aid towards localisation and shifting the asymmetry of power that runs through it.