Transforming power for

social change

The Power Sharing Project asked: What would it look like if civil society was better at sharing power in pursuit of social change?

But we’ve heard that people aren’t waiting for others to share power, they’re growing their own power – though not always with the organisations in the social sector.

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Transformative social change happens when people with different strengths, insights and experiences work together effectively. If civil society wants to drive change, it needs to embrace greater and more equitable collaboration, especially with people most affected. The Power Sharing Project focuses on people tackling poverty and inequality in London – one of England’s most unequal cities. 

It’s time for a new conversation about power. 

We need a new conversation about power in civil society – one that seeks to understand how power affects all our interactions and genuinely helps people to grow their power to shape their world. 

What have we learned so far? 

For eighteen months, we have explored how people with lived experience of poverty and inequality are driving change. We have asked change-makers and activists from across civil society about the barriers they face, and how their power can be grown.

We see civil society whenever two or more people organise for social change. We’ve spoken to people working in the formal social sector (charities, community groups and others) and to people pursuing change outside those groups, individually and as part of informal campaigns and social movements.

Organisations in the formal social sector have been asking similar questions for some time. How do we work better alongside people who bring ‘lived experience’? Can we speak on behalf of others? How do we work with social movements? Can we share the power we have?

Through our conversations we’ve heard very clearly that:

Many  people do not find the social sector a welcoming or useful place through which to seek change.

 

 

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Many choose to operate outside the social sector, not waiting for others to share power with them. 

 

 

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Much of the most impactful change is being driven by and with people who have experience of poverty and inequality.

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Despite concern in the social sector about better engagement, examples of genuine partnership with people with experience of poverty and inequality are rare.

 

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Even where the will exists, common approaches to engagement often create as many problems as they solve.

 

 

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Failing to work meaningfully alongside the people affected makes it harder for social sector organisations to work on the very problems they were set up to address. 

 

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How might we unleash civil society’s social power? 

All inequality is an inequality of power, so we think exploring these issues through a lens of power offers a new perspective. How is power at play in civil society? How does power enable people with lived experience of poverty or inequality to drive social change, or prevent them from doing so?

We know we face an imbalance of power in society. If people within civil society can harness the power of their lived experience, and the social sector can better use its own power to support them, the potential for change is enormous.

We think it’s time for a new conversation about power in civil society – one that seeks to understand what it is, how it works, and how we can transform it – so more people have more power to drive more transformative social change.  

We already have ideas. Want to join us?  Find out more here > 

Who's involved?

Find out who’s already in the conversation.
We welcome anyone with an interest in social change and civil society, and we’ll share what we learn more widely.

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Resource Pinboard

A place to share interesting resources.
Find out what our community is reading, listening to and watching as it considers power, change and inequality.

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Power Sharing Project blogs and articles

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