by | May 23, 2023

SMK statement in response to articles and blogs about Power Project

Last year, two people involved in the Power Project raised concerns with the SMK Board about our approach to working with those with first-hand (or ‘lived’) experience. One of them was also an SMK Trustee. The Board investigated their concerns over nine-months. Dissatisfied with the outcome, both have now posted blogs, social media comment, and shared their views with Charity Times.

We regret that neither felt able to engage with a process lead by the Board and that our Trustee has now resigned. We are deeply sorry for any hurt caused to either person by their experiences. Although we have a different perspective on what occurred, and stand by our original statement below, we recognise and respect that others will have theirs. The issues are sensitive, complex and often contested – there are not always definitive answers. Our aim is to host conversations that shed light on the interplay between first-hand experience, social change and solidarity. Like every single person involved in a similar endeavour, our learning is continuous.

If you would like to talk to SMK about comments you have seen, or this statement, please get in touch at [email protected].

SMK Public Statement in response to Charity Times article, 9 May 2023

Since early 2020, SMK has hosted The Power Project, an enquiry into first-hand experience and social change, explored through the lens of power. The It’s All About Power guide published in February last year was written to help social sector organisations work in deeper solidarity with those who have personal experience of inequality.

We at SMK are proud of The Power Project, and It’s All About Power has been well received. The work, though, has not been without its difficulties. We have learnt that shifting how we think about power, how we grow it more equitably, and how we can work in deeper solidarity with the communities we are connected to is hard. It requires time, trusting two-way relations and a commitment to honest reflection.

While most participants feel the project was a success, a small number of the Core Learning Group, set up to informally guide the work, felt the project had not lived up to its aims. They took their concerns to our Board in July 2022.

In the nine months since, SMK’s Board has led a process to understand and respond to those concerns. They centred on valuable questions around ownership of knowledge and the opportunities for people with first-hand experience to be involved in SMK’s work. Detailed proposals were shared last November, setting out how an organisation like ours works with different types of knowledge and experience and offering clear ways for those with first-hand experience to be involved.

Other members of the Core Learning Group responded positively, but the Board has yet to hear back from those who raised concerns. New criticisms were made, to which the Board responded in March. It has not received a response to these either. SMK did receive a Subject Access Request (SAR) last month, which we responded to as required. Some of that data has been shared with Charity Times, who have used it as the basis for their story.

We are disappointed to see the Power Project profiled in this way as the article contains factual errors and misrepresentations, and uses quotes out of context and time. It is not our understanding of what happened but we recognise that there will be different – and equally valid – perspectives.

Equitable collaboration in social change is an ongoing process of sharing, mutual understanding, negotiation, support, and learning. We continue to learn, recognising that ‘getting it right’ isn’t a one-size-fits-all template. We have owned our mistakes on the way and will continue to do so. To that end, we are committed to sharing the proposals we developed, with an open call for feedback, as well as a learning review that we will prepare with the help of an external facilitator.

SMK supports those who are driving systemic, structural and cultural change. We remain convinced that learning to work in deeper solidarity – within our own organisations and in the way we work with others – is the key to deeper, longer lasting, and truly transformational change. We are committed to carrying on with this work.

SMK Team



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