Empower the people

Last week we had a terrific article, “Language Matters,” presented by Marco Montenegro, Senior Associate of La Piana Consulting, who discussed the notion of language usage and how it’s become imperative to check your definitions at the door when working with vastly different constituents in the community. Be they funders, recipients, stakeholders or bystanders, individuals and organizations must respect perspective when collaborating with one another.

Montenegro says, “As the gap between rich and poor widens and the ability to connect in an ever shrinking world increases, today’s nonprofit leaders need to be the conscience for our varied definitions for the social issues we are working to improve. How would someone raised in the U.S. define educated and unemployed or government corruption in contrast to a recently arrived Egyptian immigrant? How would a woman from the U.S. define women’s rights in contrast to a woman from Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia?

I couldn’t help but think about Montenegro’s article in light of our upcoming Page to Practice feature, Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World by Leslie Crutchfield, John Kania, and Mark Kramer. In Do More, “Practice 4: Empower the People” refers to the fact that systemwide change cannot be attributed to a single organization or donor. In reality, it is the “collective action” of many individuals and entities that create transformative change.

Donors who want to catalyze change must acknowledge that our collective communities don’t view philanthropy in the same way. For example, the authors explain that what a white American might call philanthropy, a black American might call self-help. A Latina might say the most important service she provides is filling out her Census form so her people can be counted. The reason this discussion is so important is that donors who want to make the biggest change in their communities or globally must empower and mobilize people at the individual level. The people most affected by a problem aren’t always closely affiliated with the organizations that support their issue.

According to the authors, specifically engaging and empowering individuals helps funders and collaborators to:

Generate new and better solutions to pressing problems.

Build collective will to solve problems on a wider scale.

Bridge divides of class, race and place.

Watch for more Do More Than Give highlights during the month of April. You can also visit DoMoreThanGiveBook.com. For more information on this book and other features, visit our Page to Practice library or follow us at Twitter and Facebook.

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