“Power” is at the center of our Theory of Impact – “FCCP seeks a society where marginalized communities have POWER to make a difference on issues that impact their lives.” Yet “building power” means different things to our members, their grantees, and certainly philanthropy as a whole. So from January-May 2018, FCCP worked with Renee Fazzari to facilitate a 12-member funder-field team to dig into new research on how communities build and wield power with an eye towards what funders can do to best resource these long-term efforts.

What do we mean by building power?

To ground our process in common terms, the team first spent time with Richard Healey of Grassroots Policy Project and Hahrie Han, a Professor at UC Santa Barbara. Their research and field work has revealed a complex and nuanced framework for building power, which they will present the afternoon of Tuesday May 15 at the FCCP convening.

Some highlights of their frameworks include, power can be seen as having “three faces”:

  • First face: organizing people and resources for direct political involvement in visible decision-making.
  • Second face: building political infrastructure – networks, movements and institutions
  • Third face: the battle of big ideas (ideology, narrative and worldview); the power to shape people’s conscious and unconscious understandings of the world.

The Team agreed with Healey that most movement work falls into the first face, with more second face institution-building needed, and only rare experiments with third face tactics at scale. Grounded in Han’s analysis that policy always comes to reflect the underlying power dynamics in society, the team narrowed in on the centrality of constituency to durable power building. In Han’s words, only when people can become something new together, create a new set of commitments together to bring something new about – a solidaristic group of previously fragmented individuals – is power truly built. Other important characteristics of power will be discussed at the convening and posted to the web along with links to multiple reports in June 2018.

What does the team recommend for funders interested in building power?

Working from a common framework and deepening it with power building stories shared by the field leaders, the team then set about to determine what funders might do to best resource power building. In a series of team calls and buddy “workouts” (field-funder pairs having one-on-one conversations), the team pointed to many recommendations for funders that ranged from centering racial equity to cooperatively funding over multiple years to developing a true partnership with grantees through practices like the “trust-based philanthropy” approach outlined by one team member, Pia Infante of the Whitman Institute.

The team will present a work-in-progress set of recommendations for feedback and conversation during the final session of the convening Thursday May 17 – Tying it Together. Following feedback from convening participants, FCCP will publish recommendations in June 2018.

What have we learned so far?

This process was an experiment for FCCP, working with field leaders and funders to dive deeply into a topic of import to our entire membership as we try to live into being “more war room, less trade show.” We will share more learning soon, but here are a few key insights:

  • An effectively facilitated small group space can break down power dynamics between funders and field to inspire honesty, authenticity and relationships – all of which are required to dive into grantmaking strategy.
  • Go small to go deep. With only 6 funders involved, the Power Impact Team was different from FCCP’s usual open-invitation programming. But the experience allowed for a deeper strategic conversation informed by field experts that can now create the basis of broader programming for FCCP and our partners. FCCP will look for opportunities to replicate this concept in the future with new small groups.
  • As an affinity group, FCCP can add value by taking research and thought leadership from an individual member – in this case the Ford Foundation’s work to define power building – and make it accessible to our broader membership.

Thank you to all of the Power Impact Team members!

Each of the twelve members below contributed remarkable thought leadership and time to this process. Thank you from all of FCCP and our members!

  • May Boeve, 350.org
  • Maurice BP-Weeks, Action Center on Race and the Economy
  • Angela Cheng, JPB Foundation
  • Sara El-Amine, Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative
  • Ethan Frey, Ford Foundation
  • Keesha Gaskins-Nathan, Rockefeller Brothers Fund
  • Arisha Hatch, Color of Change
  • Pia Infante, The Whitman Institute
  • Burt Lauderdale, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
  • Scott Nielsen, Arabella Advisors
  • Art Reyes, We The People (Michigan)
  • Doran Schrantz, ISAIAH Minnesota

Special appreciation to the Ford Foundation for their generous grant to support the Power Impact Team process with FCCP, and especially to Ethan Frey for his thoughtful guidance of this project.