How can we influence when on the fringes of power?

How can we influence when on the fringes of power?

Guest Bloggers | 7 August 2019

Last month the Institute of Fundraising and charity brap, which aims to transform the way we think about equality, delivered the first Change Collective workshop. Mickella Lewis-Purvis, Programme Manager at Teenage Cancer Trust, who attended the workshop, explains what she got out of the experience.

Political speeches don’t often stick with me but the We are the change we seek’ speech by Barack Obama in 2008 is one I will always remember. I remember it especially when I’m grumbling about something that bothers me that I could influence if I were to put in the time to do something about it.

I was reflecting on this when I decided to complete the Change Collective survey to help gather data on equality, diversity and inclusion in the fundraising sector. When the data came out and further reinforced what I thought I knew about the lack of diversity in fundraising, I decided it was time for me to get involved somehow.

The Change Collective summer workshop in July 2019 was the avenue I was looking for – an opportunity for me as a black female fundraiser, with numerous years’ experience in the sector, to be involved in co-designing a more inclusive future for fundraising. I jumped at this chance.

Dynamic exercises and conversations

The workshop, organised by the Institute of Fundraising and facilitated by brap, was brilliant. It was a medley of dynamic exercises, conversations and interactions that really got people thinking and talking about practical actions to deliver on.

One of the exercises that really stuck with me and got my mind working in overdrive was ‘Power Circles’. We each had to place ourselves within a circle of power (or outside of it) according to how powerful we felt in our respective organisations. There were three circles. If you were a leader, CEO, director etc. you placed yourself in the centre of circle one. Most of us were in circles two and three. However, quite a few were sat outside of these circles.

As an operational line-manager, but not a senior manager or director, I often see my influence as being on the fringes. I’m reasonably influential in my team, and to some extent with the peers I work closely with or support. However, I don’t see myself as having that great a ‘bigger picture’ influence or power. That is something that has frustrated me at times, hence I placed myself in the outer circle – circle three. I didn’t place myself outside the circles because I knew if I organised myself and took responsibility for being the change I was seeking I could affect some change.

Doing that exercise made me realise that I’ve let the fact that I’m on the fringes of power be the excuse for not doing much to change the status quo. Yes, I’ve noticed that there are very few people like me in the sector, but I’ve been too concerned with just blending in and not making a fuss. The truth of the matter is, if a lack of diversity is something you notice and something that bothers you, don’t just pass the baton on and hope that someone else will sort it out. It is your responsibility to help bring the change we seek.

So, the point of this article is this, don’t be afraid to be an activist. Don’t be afraid to put your name forward. Don’t feel that being on the fringes of power is an excuse for doing nothing. If you say something, someone might hear and even agree with you. If you do something, something might change for the better. Lend your voice to the cause. Put your hat in the ring. Be the change you are seeking. This article is one of my steps, but there will be more…

Mickella Lewis-Purvis is Programme Manager – Trust and Foundations at Teenage Cancer Trust.

Read about the IoF's Change Collective work here. 

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