Giving Compass' Take:

• Oli Kelly-Dean explains how Rosa, the UK’s first women’s fund, is working to overcome the power dynamics inherent in grantmaking. 

• How are you analyzing and addressing the power dynamics inherent in your grantmaking? What can you do now to address the power imbalances? 

• Learn more about participatory grantmaking.

What types of power do grant-makers hold?
Trusts and foundations can have many sources of power. Their wealth, independence, status, privilege and knowledge all give them an ability to set values and norms in wider civil society. This is not to say that these organisations wield this power illegitimately. The knowledge they bring to the sector is invaluable.

However, when looking at other sources of power such as privilege and status, and the access this gives them to other holders of power such as government, we need to look carefully at how decisions are made and by whom.

All these different sources of power shape the priorities of these organisations. It shapes the people they talk to, listen to and the whole environment in which they exist in. The boards of trusts & foundations are the nexus of all these forms of power. When we see how little these boards reflect modern Britain the need for foundations to share power becomes critical.

This lack of diversity has consequences: creating blind spots, reordered priorities and different conceptions of socio-economic justice. Transforming trustee boards is important (if time consuming), but it is only half of the equation. Sharing power with people, communities and charities is the other half.

How are Rosa experimenting with sharing power?
We were joined at our seminar on sharing power by Rehana Reid from Rosa, the UK’s first and only women’s fund. Rosa began using a version of participatory grant-making for its Justice and Equality Fund.

Participatory grant-making (PGM) encompasses a range of models, but it is essentially about sharing decision making power about grants with the stakeholders who will be impacted by those decisions. It goes beyond grant-making to the ‘importance of advancing public and democratic participation in decision making’ and is intrinsically linked to place-based approaches.

Rosa created their PGM approach by building a collaborative of activists, donors, women’s services and grant-makers. Bringing them together to co-design the programme and even decide on some of the grants awarded. Rosa also brought in others such as trade unions, HR specialists and lawyers. Convening a much broader range of voices than a traditional grant-making programme.

Read the full article about power dynamics in grantmaking by Oli Kelly-Dean at NPC.