On Friday, November 4th, EPIP members gathered at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in San Mateo to explore power dynamics in philanthropy, both between foundations and grantees, as well as within our own institutions. EPIP has developed a curriculum called Philanthropology™. As you might guess, the curriculum is the study of philanthropy, specifically as it relates to EPIP’s mission and values. There are four modules that comprise the curriculum. We looked at the third on Friday: Power Dynamics.
I attended the workshop in two capacities, one as a staff member with EPIP who organized the whole day, and two as a steering committee member of the Bay Area EPIP chapter. I flit back and forth between these two perspectives, wondering how it was going for others who were attending, and actually participating myself.
The questions posed at the beginning of the day helped to frame the discussion. How do we define power? How do we obtain power? How does that power affect the philanthropic landscape? How can you leverage your own power? How do you work with donors, with grantees, and with each other in a way that helps us all achieve our goals? Is there any way to get past the power dynamics that exist within our sector?
Emmett Carson, President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, joined us at lunch, and we had the opportunity to hear his views on the subject. He shared sage advice: “Acknowledge that there is a power dynamic. Allow people to be heard, and be transparent and accountable, but acknowledge that it’s not equal.” Once you do that, he continued, the question becomes: “How do I exercise this power and responsibility in an accountable and responsible way?” In closing, he left us with: “Be as respectful as you can, but own your power.”
Everyone who is in the social sector is here for the same reason: we want the world to be a better place. How we achieve that goal is different, but we must embody our roles and exert ourselves within them to be effective ambassadors of social change.
One of the things that I love the most about EPIP is the ability to engage with people who share similar goals, both for the world and for our sector. This day-long experience with 20 other individuals was a true demonstration of EPIP’s ability to pull people together to engage in honest conversation about difficult topics. I had the chance to fall in love with EPIP and my local peers all over again as we spent the whole day doing just thing. Other Philanthropology™ modules will be available in the Bay Area and I urge you to attend. The modules provide a phenomenal opportunity to step outside of your work and think about how to be our best selves as we accomplish our goals.
– Kate Seely
Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy | Chapter Support | www.epip.org