Mapping the different power dynamics, identify the bottlenecks. Make explicit what the conditions are to build a space for a dialogue.
Power dynamics are a central concept within human rights thinking, since inequalities are always a fact in any relationship.
The more aware one is of the nature, causes and impacts of those power differentials, the better the chance of mitigating them to create more inclusive, empowering interactions that respect and nurture rather than pressure or coerce.
The same is true for those who are engaged in the struggle for human rights: power is a central issue to consider even in interactions among like minded people and organizations. Different roles, gender, perspectives, status or backgrounds imply different forms of power, be it bureaucratic, social, political or financial.
This may be a particularly pertinent consideration for funders, since their power to decide on financial support and its condition means a particular kind of power - one which comes with responsibility.
When it comes to responsible data policies there are a number of issues in specific that funders should think of: what is their duty of care towards their grantees (and the people's lives those grantees' work will impact)? How can the balance be struck between creating space for grantees to learn about and engage in responsible data practices and, on the other hand, avoiding the perception of imposing additional conditions arbitrarily? How can funders lead by example and what does a responsible data practice look like when it comes to grantees' data (e.g. those which are gathered in the framework of funding decisions and M&E requirements)?
In addition, also within funding organizations, there are significant power differentials, which impact on agenda-setting and priorities internally. So, for example, what someone in a 'field' office might identify as priority issue may not always jive with the broader policies or priorities at head office. An important pat of the discussion thus also related to the ways in which responsible data issues and practices can be/are being inserted also within funding organizations' own systems, discourses and decision-maing structures.
Identify the power dynamics that exist:
Internal Power Dynamics:
Pressure from senior management for project outcomes as evidenced in data. Documentation of outcomes for grant renewal.
Strategic framing of grantees’ projects: Including information on internal write-ups about an organization that the organization doesn’t use to describe itself. Strategic framing/spin inside the organization to get the grant accepted. Culturally different assumptions of data validity/methodologies of data gathering (what is a valid/helpful measurement for a particular project--output, M&E, impact studies, etc. Example: police violence indicator. Example of cultural imperialist critique. Lack of on-the-ground input in program design. Responsibility vs. paternalism (Example: pulling data on Ugandan LGBTI groups). (also internal).
External Power Dynamics: Grantees don’t feel comfortable disclosing the complete data ramifications of their projects. They can not/should not overemphasize potential risks if they want a grant. Difference in proximity to the situation; personal understanding/commitment; accountability to particular location/context. pressure created by specific follow-up question Assumption of what people claim to be knowledge Imbalance in protocols/requirements to provide data and to explain data use (e.g. intellectual property rights) between grantees and funders Ex: grantee must fill out a cover sheet, but there are no protocols for funders to get free, prior, and informed consent. Imbalance in knowledge in what data will be important for grant decision Ex: “optional” questions on grant applications that everyone answers anyway Financial/budgeting: how do certain things get added to budgets? Grantee does not have autonomy over what to include--they would not include “responsible data” or anything else, unless the funder indicates that it’s worth including. Culturally different assumptions of data validity/methodologies of data gathering (what is a valid/helpful measurement for a particular project--output, M&E, impact studies, etc. Example: police violence indicator. Example of cultural imperialist critique. Lack of on-the-ground input in program design. Responsibility vs. paternalism (Example: pulling data on Ugandan LGBTI groups). (also internal). Duty of Care: What are you responsible for as a funder?
What would need to change to address these? What can we do within our spheres of control as funders?
Unless you recognize a problem/power dynamic, you can’t fix it or make it more equitable. Participatory strategy development (local engagement where impact is felt) Workload reduction for program officers to do it and budget for it Sharing powers and increase trust of program officers on the ground (e.g. by US board) “pooling sovereignty” with local stakeholders Re-positioning framing: What does it mean to be a “strategic philanthropist”? Move away from impact/outcomes orientation toward valuing collaboration, valuing local knowledge and expertise, acknowledging that you don’t have all the answers. Data ownership and management: make it more equitable, toward a true partnership. What change would this entail? Principles in grant agreements, establish rules Funders should assess what information is necessary For themselves and their assessments If you can’t articulate why you need a certain piece of data, you shouldn’t be asking for it. Communicate this to grantees Explain data management and sharing policies Break “more is better” ‘NSA approach’ to data collection. Advocate for longer grant cycle Makes it easier to address tough issues Build negotiation process into application with open communication line
We may systematize things that are only useful to the grantee. A radical way of doing things better would be to only systematize the information that grantees need. Orient the monitoring and evaluation process around this. M&E should really be about how to make a bigger impact. Let the grantees decide what they want to systematize.