Across regions, issues, and core focus areas, foundations increasingly are embracing community power building, a report from the TCC Group finds.
Conducted in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the report, How Philanthropy Support Organizations Understand & Advance Community Power Building (22 pages, PDF), looks at how philanthropy support organizations (PSOs) collaborate with funders to advance strategies aimed at building power in communities of color and for other traditionally marginalized groups. Based on interviews conducted in the fall of 2019 with executive and/or program leaders of seventeen PSOs, as well as an analysis of twenty-six PSO websites, reviews of a hundred and forty-three power building resources and tools, and interviews with RWJF program and leadership staff, the report found that while PSOs recognize the importance of building power in their communities, they often differ in their understanding of what that means and how to apply it to their work.
The report also found that PSOs see common patterns among foundations that embrace a community power-building frame, including a willingness to engage in intentional and iterative learning, and to test, assess, and adopt new grantmaking and leadership practices. At the same time, many PSOs pointed to obstacles hampering their efforts to advance community power building work, including the need to balance foundation and community interests, the lack of clear metrics for assessing change, and the difficulty inherent in changing mindsets.
“As our project timeline preceded global protests [that] began in late May in response to the killings of unarmed Black men, women, and trans people by the police, observations that are specific to these protests are noticeably absent here,” the report’s authors note. “Nevertheless, this report captures and reflects issues at the heart of today’s widespread resistance — that is, the central role that low-income communities and communities of color can and must have in achieving equity and justice. Recognizing that achieving systemic change requires diverse partnerships and sustained resources, this report also directly addresses the role that philanthropy can and must play in supporting community power building to advance racial justice and equity.”