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March 22, 2022

How do we feel about power?

Interesting new report just out from the Sheila McKechnie Foundation. After a 2 year inquiry into the relationship between social change, power and inequalities, the report It’s All About Power,​ suggests that the voluntary sector is facing an existential threat. The report argues that the sector needs a fundamental reappraisal of how it thinks about power and how it works in partnership with others. The report suggests that parts of the sector have become complacent and lack the culture, and perhaps even the will, to achieve the sort of social change that they claim to want. This might make for some uncomfortable reading.

Andy Ricketts, Third Sector Jornal

The social sector faces an “existential threat” if it does not rethink its approach to power and partnership working, according to a new report.

It’s All About Power, published today by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation, has been produced as part of a two-year inquiry into civil society, social change and people’s experience of poverty and inequality.

The foundation said the social sector must “embrace a new way of thinking about power if it wants to create deeper solidarity for social change”.

The report says the inquiry found a genuine desire among the social sector to create better, more equitable ways of working with people, but too often they lack the culture, finance or strategies to build equitable relationships.

It says that as a result, partnerships can be “tokenistic, or even exploitative”.

The report says that many people do not find the social sector – which it defines as formally constituted organisations including charities, faith groups and campaigning groups – a welcoming or useful place and are therefore choosing to work apart from each other.

“It reduces our collective potential to create change because it misses the opportunity to combine people’s first-hand knowledge with the resource, capabilities and reach of social sector organisations,” says the report.

Sue Tibballs, chief executive of the Sheila McKechnie Foundation, said: “Without a change, we believe that social sector organisations face an existential threat – alienated from the people they were created to support, they risk losing legitimacy and even perpetuating the very inequalities they work to tackle.

“So, we are issuing a challenge but also an invitation. It’s time to move on from outmoded ideas of charity and philanthropy and reshape how we work for social change.

“By starting a new conversation about power at the very heart of social sector organisations, we believe that wider civil society can become far more than the sum of its parts – and unleash our collective power to create change.”

The foundation said it would spend the next two years helping social sector organisations and individuals to explore the ideas in the report and what it means to put them into practice.

Organisations interested in taking part are invited to email