Power. It’s hard to build, and it’s easy to lose. And for those seeking to impact change for their communities, it can make all the difference.
Much of our work at Radical Partners is about power building, to ensure that all locals are able to help shape the future of their own city. So often, decision-making rights, access, and funding are reserved for an elite few. These old power sources feed off of exclusivity, hierarchy, and prior access.
In turn, a new power source is emerging that is redefining our modern world. This new power is stronger when it is spread, shared, and diffused. Consider #metoo, Black Lives Matter, Airbnb. and Blockchain. They are powerful, not because of one magnetic leader at the top, but because they are decentralized and allow millions of people to work together and share in the mission. In fact, the more people that join in, the more powerful they are.
This humble leadership style is all about raising the voices of others - and we find ourselves surrounded by "new power" leaders in South Florida, doing great things to strengthen their communities from within. For our most recent Leadership Lab cohort, we selected eleven such leaders who are elevating their communities, not to benefit their own power, but to strengthen those around them. We invested in these “neighborhood heroes” not only because their work matters but because we believe they can still find themselves hitting “old power” walls as they work to scale their impact.
Within the social change space, old power rules still dominate. Grant funding processes still favor large, established organizations that have the staff bandwidth, reporting history, and connections required. Many government grants pay in "reimbursements," requiring organizations to front all costs for a year before they receive any funds. Even if a grassroots organization could navigate the application process, they likely couldn't afford to front the money required to run the program. In addition, investments largely still go to those that remind funders of themselves, which leads to many grassroots and community-based leaders paying a heavy price for not already having access to traditional power.
Taking these dynamics into account (and many others), we endeavor to help “new power” leaders to recognize their strength, and learn to navigate traditional power spaces with comfort. These leaders have tremendous superpowers at their fingertips, including trust from locals, political influence, voter turnout, manpower, access to information, context, wisdom, ability to garner an audience, authenticity, and humility. We love helping new power leaders learn how to leverage these assets while also expanding their portfolio of traditional tools (like having strong theory of change, impact evaluation, project planning tools, etc).
We invite you to learn more about the 11 leaders we selected into Leadership Lab cohort 2. By watching their videos you'll see what we mean. Their power is well-earned, and they deserve our support as they work to lift others. And we know, in the end, that true change won't come from old power or new power alone, it will come from all of us, taking responsibility for the future of our region together as a community of changemakers who care for one another, who respect one another, and who learn from each other constantly.
Thank you to JPMorgan Chase & Co. for joining us in this pursuit by supporting this program and investing in our communities.
Love this topic? We strongly recommend reading New Power by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms. It inspired this article and our work more broadly. We hope it will inspire you too.