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

In a series of group calls and buddy “workouts” (field-funder pairs having one-on-one conversations, based off of Eugene Eric Kim’s collaboration workouts), the Power Impact Team surfaced poignant 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 full set of recommendations can be downloaded by sharing your name, email, and organization below and hitting submit. If you are a funder, please take 5-10 minutes to tell us how these recommendations resonate and help us shape programming around these ideas! Your feedback will be requested after you download.

What do we mean by building power?

To get to the recommendations above, the Power Impact 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 presented at the 2018 FCCP Convening in Denver.

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.

Reports reviewed by the Power Impact Team include:

After reviewing these reports, the team generated 100+ questions about philanthropy and power. The questions formed the basis for exploration and strategic thinking that led to the recommendations mentioned above.

What have we learned from the process?

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 as the team wraps up, 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.
  • While the research and reports provided a helpful baseline, the team got the most insight from the detailed, in-depth stories told by seasoned field leaders to funder “buddies” where a relationship and common language had been built. With a goal as complex as building power, the experts are truly those in community learning and adapting. You can hear some of their powerful stories here.
  • 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 12 members below contributed remarkable thought leadership and time to this process. Their experiences, ideas and energy really drove the effort and, if we had an 11th recommendation on our list it would be for philanthropy to invite one of our field team members to speak to their trustees about how to effectively build power in place. Thank you from all of FCCP and our members!

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.