Philanthropic leadership is not about control

Written by: Kristina ("Yna") C. Moore

Date: October 10, 2018

For Surdna Foundation’s Alison Corwin, it’s about being a part of social movements and the work of long-term systemic change.

“When we talk about ‘building the capacity’ of frontline and grassroots leaders who are changing structures, policies, and systems, what does that really mean for funders?” asks Alison Corwin in “Philanthropic Leadership Means Following the Frontlines” on the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) blog.

Alison, who serves as senior program officer for sustainable environments at Surdna Foundation and board co-chair of Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG), invites funders to forego using  “antiquated and static systems of inquiry” to identify expertise and capacity of communities on the ground – especially communities of color – that are most affected by the problems funders are trying to solve.

“A funder’s role, then, is to build our own individual and institutional skills to receive and incorporate the insight these leaders and communities provide. We must listen to them, follow them, and respond in ways that help us model the systems change – the new rules, norms and equitable power structures – they are creating.”

– Alison Corwin, Surdna Foundation
Philanthropic Leadership Means Following the Frontlines
SSIR Blog

Alison offers 5 ways that funders can recognize and build the power of people and communities on the frontlines.

Philanthropic Leadership Means Following the Frontlines” is part of the new Power in Philanthropy series on the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) blog in collaboration with NCRP. Contributors from NCRP and nonprofit and philanthropic leaders explore popular concepts in philanthropy – such as risk, capacity building, and public leadership – through the lens of power and equitable outcomes.

Power in Philanthropy is based on NCRP’s “Power Moves: Your essential philanthropy assessment guide for equity and justice.”

Related articles:

Power, Privilege, and Effectiveness: Are Funders Connecting the Dots?
by Kathleen Enright, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations

The Power of Families: From Poverty to Agency to Unity
by Luz Vega-Marquis, Marguerite Casey Foundation

Philanthropy’s Ultimate Power-Sharing Opportunity: Governance
by Jim Canales and Barbara Hostetter

Don’t miss forthcoming posts by Ruth Cummings and Sharon Alpert of Nathan Cummings Foundation, Grant Oliphant of Heinz Endowment and others.

Visit Power in Philanthropy on SSIR 

Or stay tuned on NCRP’s blog for links
to the latest articles in the series.

Yna C. Moore is senior director of communications of NCRP. Follow @ynamoore and @ncrp on Twitter. Join the conversation on  #PowerMovesEquity.