Often, philanthropy is centered on a conversation around money, creating the illusion that money is power. At GIH, we discussed power a lot, and money never came up. What was discussed when it came to power was community. The community has the power, and it is our job, those of us who work in philanthropy, to listen. But, how can we listen effectively? This is the key. Too often, in philanthropy, there are big whats but little hows. Sometimes, we have to focus on the how to achieve the what.
"We must create a safe space for the community to gather, on their time, on their turf, and shift the power to them." Juana Rosa Cavero. This rids us of the power dynamic and allows everyone involved to talk openly, listen, co-collaborate, and, most importantly, co-own that safe space.
At the GIH conference, they added a session on reproductive health in response to the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade. As a young woman passionate about women's reproductive health, I went. I half expected it to be a session of outrage and a place where it would be hard to get a word in. However, Osula Evadne Rushing, the Vice President for Program and Strategy at GIH, created a safe space for all of us to co-own and have an engaging conversation. Halfway through, it really set in for me that this was our power — people with different experiences, backgrounds, and passions coming together to have an honest conversation on a hard topic to start to move the needle forward.
This type of conversation is what brings change. I am grateful to GIH for recognizing the need to create that safe space for those of us who were hurting and needed to talk about Roe v Wade. But, I am even more grateful that The Patterson Foundation already demonstrates that the community has the power and strives to create safe spaces for people to be who they are and find out where they are coming from on any issue. Rather than giving grants (the money), TPF strengthens people and communities through meaningful collaboration because money is not its power. When we take the first step to create that safe space with the community, we build trust. That is powerful.