Some Lessons from Participatory Grantmaking and Meditations on Power for the Field

ORS_Meditations on Power

Many lessons from the design and implementation of Fund for Shared Insight’s Participatory Climate Initiative have been documented, but as the evaluation and learning partner to Shared Insight, ORS Impact had the unique opportunity to talk to those who participated. Shared Insight had convened teams to design the overall initiative and make the grantmaking decisions. The teams were comprised of people from communities across the United States and Territories most impacted by climate change but least likely to be consulted on the philanthropic decisions that affect them. ORS asked participants for their responses to this prompt:

One purpose for engaging you is to shift power from funders to communities when making decisions about what issues are funded, how they are funded, and [how much to invest in them]. Tell us about your sense of power as a Design Team/Grantmaking Group member.

In their responses, participants talked about the power they felt individually as trusted members of a process, the power they felt in community with others, or the inherent power they felt as members of communities already solving their own problems, with or without philanthropic support. They experienced positive examples of power in ways Shared Insight and ORS hadn’t fully expected. At the same time, many participants felt  that power hadn’t shifted significantly or enough. 

In this report, ORS shares findings from their evaluation and discusses a framework for understanding power that could be helpful in assessing the Shared Insight’s initiative and other participatory processes.

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