Giving Compass’ Take:
• Funders can build constituent engagement by empowering peer-driven groups that will catalyze social change in their lives.
• How can you support peer-driven collective efforts in your local community?
• Understand more about collective impact in philanthropy.
Instead of relying on funders, governments, and nonprofits to engage communities and incorporate their input into institutionally led strategies for improving people’s lives, peer-driven change occurs when constituents identify their own goals and lead their own change. Funders and nonprofits can support peers’ efforts, but they don’t drive them. However, while initiatives that are authored and directed by individuals and families are a pervasive part of social change, they are often hidden in plain sight. As a result, philanthropists typically overlook this naturally occurring resource when they launch “interventions” directed at low-income individuals and families.
What does it look like when peers build their own approaches to enhancing their lives? Why should philanthropists support peer-driven efforts? And how might funders abet peer-driven change, without getting in its way?
These animating questions led our team to investigate efforts where individuals and families are harnessing their assets in Boston, in three villages in Rwanda, and in Oakland, California, which are chronicled in three case studies.
Our aim is to take a step toward exploring peer-driven change, engaging social sector actors who might want to lean into it, and surfacing insights for funders who decide to pursue it. These philanthropists might create a parallel track to their standard grantmaking—one where they channel resources to individuals and families who have the latitude to set their own direction and the opportunity to collectively advance it.
We’ve found that peer-driven change has three distinguishing features. Each of the features may seem commonplace, but their combination gives peer-driven change its vitality:
- Self-determination and initiative: Individuals and families define and lead for themselves the improvements they seek in their lives and communities since they are closest to their challenges and know best how to overcome them.
- Mutual support: Individuals and families, informed by the experiences of pioneering peers who have succeeded at getting around barriers, help each other by sharing knowledge and resources.
- Financial capital: Families and individuals share funding from internal sources (such as savings groups), as well as from external sources, such as funders and nonprofits.
Read the full article about peer support to drive social change by Rohit Menezes, Simon Morfit, Willa Seldon & Bill Breen at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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