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New Report | Shifting Power to Shift Systems: Insights and Tools for Funders

December 08, 2022

Shifting Power to Shift Systems: Insights and Tools for Funders is a new report from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) that summarizes insights relating to power dynamics from leaders and experts on driving systems change.

Over the course of three months in early 2022, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors’ Shifting Systems Initiative hosted a series of eight workshops focused on power and equity in philanthropy. During these workshops, an invited group of funders and other partners discussed the role of power dynamics in effectuating the systems change needed to address increasingly complex global challenges. Expert speakers for the workshops included:

Kumi Naidoo, Africans Rising and Honorary Fellow, Magdalen College
Mark Cabaj, From Here to There and Tamarack Institute
Pia Infante, Senior Fellow at the Trust Based Philanthropy Project
Stefanie Kimou, Founder and Lead Consultant, PopWorks Africa
Meg Hargreaves, Senior Fellow, NORC at the University of Chicago
Tracy Hilliard, Director, Center for Culturally Responsive Engagement
Chandria Jones, Senior Research Scientist, NORC at the University of
Marion Gee, Co-Executive Director, Climate Justice Alliance
Mateo Nube, Co-Founder, Movement Generation Justice & Ecology
Masego Madzwamuse, Director, Environment Program, Oak

The honest and rich conversations during those workshops surfaced several important themes and insights on how to balance power in a way that drives rather than inhibits change. RPA’s new report, Shifting Power to Shift Systems: Insights and Tools for Funders, distills some of the practical actions that funders can take in order to reduce that power imbalance, including:

  • Shifting internal vision and practices to embrace a vision of society based on global solidarity and distributed leadership.
  • Fostering a culture of learning, growing, and experimenting through exploring new tools and resources, sourcing fresh and emergent perspectives, and funding grantees without restrictions.
  • Embracing equitable evaluation and impact assessment practices by recruiting evaluation teams and consultants who are culturally competent and possess lived experience, and by working with grantees to create relevant metrics of success that define impact on their terms.

The report also contains conceptual frameworks and actionable resources that can enable funders to create equitable processes and practices, and to embed equity as a core principle and building block of systems change. We hope this publication will be a meaningful contribution towards moving the practice of philanthropy away from its inequitable origins and practices, and towards more equitable practices that will ultimately enable it to shift power and systems.

Read the full report here.

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