Giving Compass' Take:

Alissa Hauser discusses how to liberate philanthropy from current power structures to shift towards a collective. She describes three kinds of power that exist in philanthropy today: centralized, shared, and decentralized. 

• How can you actively share power with those who do not have the access and advantages you have? 

• Read another post by the Justice Funders, who are re-imagining power distribution in philanthropy.

To talk about liberating philanthropy, we must talk about power: the structural and systemic power that has allowed philanthropy to operate within its current colonial mindset.

Power can be “centralized,” “shared,” or “decentralized.” In centralized philanthropic organizations, boards and senior staff set priorities and determine who has access to the foundation’s money. Most foundations use some version of this model, and grantees and grant applicants are at the impact of a board’s decision-making process.

Today’s more forward-thinking foundations are exploring models of shared power through participatory grantmaking strategies, offering some grantees a chance to provide input in a decision-making process or sit on an advisory board. These are ways to begin shifting power.

Decentralized systems deliberately “push power to the edges.”Decision making is moved out of the hands of a professional team and into a more distributed network. A decentralized grant making strategy might focus on strengthening ties between grantees and maybe grant applicants, so peer-to-peer learning and collaboration can emerge.

Here’s an example from The Pollination Project: Two months ago, we received a compelling application to support a village school in a rural part of Kenya. I would have funded it at first glance if it were up to me. But our Kenya leadership team, comprised of 6 Kenyan Pollination Project grantees, immediately questioned the project, asking why the application wasn’t from a local leader.

In this case, our team member worked with all the stakeholders, including the original grant applicant, to ensure the Kenyan leader had a strong voice in the project and was the main liaison with the Pollination Project’s Kenyan team. The school was funded and the grant funds were sent directly to the local leader.

Read the full article about power in philanthropy by Alissa Hauser at Medium.