by | Oct 21, 2020

Next steps for the Power Sharing Project

It’s been a privilege to be involved in so many diverse conversations over the past few weeks all focused on the question ‘what would it look like if civil society in London was better at sharing power in pursuit of social change, and how would we get there? 

In the first phase of the project, we dug deep into issues of power, lived experience, solidarity and what it means to be a good ally in civil society. We heard personal accounts from people who have experienced poverty, inequality and injustice claiming their power and driving social change. You can read more about our findings in Grace’s blog here.

We’ve identified some of the barriers to building and sharing power, and discovered some brilliant examples of successful power-sharing from London and beyond, that we can learn from and build on. For example, this blog from SMK Trustee Kimberly Garande describes her work at We Belong, the first UK-wide charity set up and run entirely by young migrants. 

We know that people with direct experience of poverty and inequality in London already hold power, and are taking action to create real, sustainable change.  We know too that some organisations working to address poverty and inequality are becoming more aware of the  power  they hold and are looking for ways to share it. And we have learnt that some ‘enabling’ organisations in civil society, like funders, are becoming more interested in these conversations about power, and in understanding what and who – is really driving social change. 

Our task for the next phase of this project is to imagine what ‘good’ power-sharing looks like, to build a clear vision, and develop some practical steps for how we can get there together. Want to be part the conversation? Sign up to our Community of PracticeTogether, we’re asking:  

How can we help individuals and communities to grow their power so they can contribute meaningfully to a more equal society?   

We think this might include exploring the ways that power shapes people’s view of their own expertise, finding opportunities for meaningful involvement in systemic change that reach far beyond sharing reductive stories of hardship, and building supportive networks of shared interest across the sector.

How can we support organisations to become more aware of both the structural and hidden ways that power operates within them, and find practical solutions to help them share their power?  

We’d like to help organisations to find solutions to the barriers they face when it comes to involving people with direct experience of poverty and inequality in their work. We’d also like to have more honest and transparent conversations about the way power operates in hidden as well as more obvious ways in organisations, impacting agenda setting, decision-making, recruitment and more. 

How can we persuade civil society of the need to build trusting relationships and more flexible ways of working, so we can collaborate and build power for social change together?  

Engaging with institutions in civil society isn’t always the first choice for people and communities looking to drive change. We’d like to start engaging the ‘enabling’ organisations in civil society in conversations about the barriers to participation, the need for a flexible approach and for prioritising listening and building trust. 

We’d love to hear from you!  

What are your thoughts? What would be useful for you as we move forward with planning the next phase of this project? Email me on sarah.thomas@smk.org.uk if you’d like to get involved.  

Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas is the Power Sharing Project Lead at SMK

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