Examining Power Dynamics in Systems Change

Date Published: September 27, 2019 Author: Collective Impact Forum, FSG, and New Profit

Last month in September, the Collective Impact Forum (FSG), in partnership with New Profit, held a 60-minute webinar discussion on Examining Power Dynamics in Systems Change to interrogate Power Dynamics and the unique role it plays within the framework of systems change. The discussion featured four panelists – Adam Foss of Prosecutor Impact; Chekemma Fulmore- Townsend of the Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN); Tulaine Montgomery from New Profit; and Simran Sidhu from The HIVE – who elaborated on how power impacts their work and how they navigate these structures to achieve their aims.

Systems Change is about tackling the roots and shifting the conditions that hold a problem in place.

The panelists discussed that one way power is perceived and/or defined is through financial capital that an institution or person has access to and control over. This is one reason to regularly reflect on personal or organizational actions and relationships among different actors, for example between international NGOs and national/local NGOs, when implementing programs. The webinar discussion reinforced the idea that interrogating the various modes through which power disparities operate and take shape is fundamental to advancing equity at the institutional level.

…[it’s] critical to building relationships with the community and that includes being honest about the power or the lack of voice, or where you do have control and we don’t have control, and recognizing that different roles have to be played.