Beyond the rhetoric: Provocations on power, voice and listening

Blagrave Trust and Lankelly Chase joined forces to curate a set of blogs discussing power, privilege and voice in our sector. Philippa Knott, Policy Manager at the Blagrave Trust introduces the series.

Talk of diversity, lived experience, citizen voice, and power imbalances is now ubiquitous in the charity and social sectors . What potentially links them is an awareness that, as professionals in those sectors, we are still too being too complacent in hoping that good intentions and ‘thinking hard’ are sufficient when working to achieve social change. As a result, we’re not doing enough to share platforms and meaningfully redistribute resource and privilege.

Blagrave Trust and Lankelly Chase have commissioned a series of written pieces to unpick some of these issues. We want to move beyond them being conversation topics. We need to face up to barriers to change; include, listen and respond to different or dissenting voices; and improve our own practice, as we support others to do the same. We particularly want to know how funders can do better at this, creating space and supporting new and different perspectives at every level of the work we’re involved in. We believe that doing so is more likely to lead to sustained and systemic change.

As we’ve been working on the series, we directly encountered many of the issues inherent in the conversations around power more broadly.

It was tempting to contact people we know, and who we were confident would ‘write well’ on the issues we were interested in. It’s been harder to reach beyond our immediate networks to people who speak differently, and we know we’re not hearing enough from practitioners and people with personal experience of the issues we’re working on.

Regardless, the pieces we’ve received vary in tone, style and message. It’s been a challenge to balance curating a series that is coherent and ‘makes sense’, in our eyes, with handing over the pen to people with a range of different voices, perspectives and approaches.

It’s also difficult, even writing this, to use language that speaks to real world issues and suggests actual change, rather than falling back on words that are aspirational, or trite.

So far, we’ve received eight contributions on, among other themes:

– How it feels and what it means to give up space, power and privilege
– How policy can be better influenced from grassroots and lived experience
– Why governance does not do enough to reflect the diversity in power we aspire to
– Whether co-production genuinely empowers people, or too often acts as a distraction from the more important issues.

We want these pieces to spark a conversation. We’ll be publishing one per week over the next few months, and we’re open as to where this goes next.

You can read the pieces here, beginning this week with Raji Hunjan, Chief Executive of anti-poverty charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, as she considers how people in positions of power can learn to share more of their space, resource and control to increase equality and fairness.

Let us know what you think, what else we need to address, and whose voice is missing from this conversation, on Twitter @blagravetrust @lankellychase #beyondrhetoric or by emailing Philippa.knott@blagravetrust.org.