Giving Compass' Take:

• Jennifer Lentfer, writing for Medium, discusses why some terms in philanthropy perpetuate unequal power dynamics, particularly when referencing development aid work. 

• How can funders and nonprofit professionals work together to ensure that language in philanthropy is thoughtful?

• Read more about language used in philanthropy. 

Any words or phrases like “empower” or “capacity building” that can contain, assume, uphold, or cover up a giver/receiver dynamic and what have been severe and damaging power differentials in the international aid and philanthropy sector, are problematic for me as a Director of Communications.

Words reflect and become intentions, and intentions reflect and become changes. It is time to retire not just these words, but the mindset and orientation that created them and are often still working underneath them.

Here’s why: Women have inherent power. People in the Global South have inherent power. Everyone.

And there are different kinds of power — from the institutional and the positional to the personal.

It’s time for all of us in the global aid ecosystem to recognize that if you “give” power to someone, by implication that also means you can take it away.

There’s seriously entrenched power dynamics in capacity building. Who says people in the Global South don’t have skills and knowledge and resources already?

And who defines what skills are necessary? The do-gooder sector prioritizes building capacity for financial absorption over capacity for improved service, advocacy, or organizational learning, i.e. do this or learn this in order to take part in the donors’ funding flows.

Read the full article on philanthropy terms by Jennifer Lentfer at Medium