New conversations: grantees in the driver’s seat


Nicky McIntyre


On the first day of the EFC 2015 AGA I’ve heard more and more funders in different contexts say we need to listen to those who are the most affected by injustice and inequality because they know best what solutions will work.

Ellen Dorsey asked us in the opening plenary if we, foundations, are listening to the people we’re supporting and allowing their priorities and agendas to shape our own. For her, transformational philanthropy must include this approach.

Similarly, in the ‘art’ of philanthropy session moderated by the European Cultural Foundation later that afternoon, all of the speakers spoke about how art can be a tool supporting people to articulate their visions and solutions – often doing that in community with others.

This focus on listening to the voices of people facing injustice and inequality was something that, frankly, I haven’t heard articulated strongly at the EFC before. It was refreshing to hear this. It was something I’ve heard more often in other community funding spaces. At some points I actually had to shake myself to realize that I was at the EFC, and I was so pleased.

What does it mean for a foundation to be influenced by its grantees? Does this mean giving up control and power? Can we get to a point where we truly think that the people we support are expert and can play a major role in setting the priorities and design of our programmes?

I couldn’t agree more with Ellen’s closing remarks: it’s time to get uncomfortable.

Nicky McIntyre, Mama Cash

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