Power Dynamics

Making sure all voices are heard and that power is not abused.

Our sages teach us that we have to pay close attention to power dynamics.  When deciding capital cases, the rabbis teach that we must first hear opinions from the judges with the least authority before we turn to hear the opinions of the greatest judges, or those with most authority.  

Why do we open the conversation by beginning with those who have the least power when it comes to matters of life and death?  Because the rabbis knew that if we began with the judge with the most authority, other judges of less stature wouldn’t be able to disagree with him. The rabbis cared that all opinions are heard, so they mandated a system that ensures that all voices are brought into the judicial process.  

Both grantseekers and grantmakers hold power; whether that power comes from their knowledge and access to information, their money, or their connections. How well grantseekers and grantmakers share power is a critical factor in the success of their partnership. In our relationships between grantmakers and grantseekers, we must be sensitive to power dynamics and take active measures to ensure that there’s the opportunity for all voices to be heard and that power is never abused.

The guided source sheet “Speaking Up or Remaining Quiet” dives deeper into the question of power dynamics and explores how our own position of power affects when we should step forward and when we might step back to make space for others.  

This section provides context and how-to’s for balancing power in the grantmaker and grantseeker relationship, as well as resources on equity and tools to help grantmakers and grantseekers approach their relationship with an eye to analyzing and addressing systemic disparities. Specific resources include a guide to funding with a gender lens; an article on strategies that can make your grantmaking more equitable; and Jewish Funders Network’s Funders and Power principles and discussion guide. 

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