The Ethos of Being Trust-Based Session 4: Confronting and Correcting Historical Power Imbalances

About the Series

The Ethos of Being Trust-Based, developed by Trust-Based Philanthropy Project, Philanthropy CA, and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, is a webinar series dedicated to exploring the fundamental values and dispositions central to a trust-based approach. At the heart of this work is a deep focus on building trust and relationships at every level, both internally and externally. This requires constant self-examination, a cultivation of interpersonal skills, a willingness to reimagine and adjust organizational practices, and an understanding of the greater systemic factors that have given way to the institution of philanthropy as a whole. It requires that we see and name how racial inequities have been perpetuated in our institutions, behaviors, and practices, even as we strive to alleviate them. Trust-based philanthropy invites us to understand and take action on these ideas at the personal, interpersonal, organizational, and systemic levels in order to interrupt the perpetuation of power imbalances in our sector.

Between the global pandemic and this country’s racial reckoning, our interconnectedness, and inequalities, have never been clearer. From this reality, how can we cultivate trust-based dispositions that support mutuality throughout crisis response, and beyond? 

  • How can we seize the potential for redistribution of power, especially to benefit communities that have been systematically oppressed? 
  • How might we fully embody partnership in a spirit of service? 
  • What context is essential for us to understand? 
  • What behaviors do we need to un-learn? 
  • And can we embrace and sustain self-reflection and generative listening as must-have tools for transformation? 

Join the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project, Philanthropy California, and GEO as we explore these questions and examine the aspects of trust-building essential for a strong and healthy ecosystem at all levels: individually, interpersonally, inter-organizationally, and systemically. Each webinar will: 1) feature seasoned perspectives on some of the overarching concepts related to trust-based values and dispositions; 2) include stories and lessons from funders who try to live and breathe relational values; and, 3) offer space for small group reflection on how to cultivate what’s required to embed a trust-based ethos in our philanthropic practice.

Session 4: Confronting and Correcting Historical Power Imbalance

Trust-based philanthropy is anchored in an understanding of power and privilege, historical and systemic racism and structural oppression, and how these shape people’s realities in profoundly different ways. As grantmakers, we have a responsibility to confront the reality that philanthropy originated from and has often contributed to systemic inequities, both in the ways wealth is accumulated and its dissemination is controlled. While these discussions may be challenging and difficult, this type of self-reflection is fundamental to the work of trust-based philanthropy. As individuals and institutions, we must be willing to recognize historical trauma and systemic power, examine our own relationship to power and money, and be willing to give up some of that power and control in a spirit of service and collaboration with those who are closer to the issues at hand. In this session, we will:

  • Review some of the salient historical and systemic factors that have contributed to inequity in philanthropy
  • Learn how trauma – including and especially systemic oppression, racism, and other isms – affects the soma (body, perception, internalized narratives, patterns & habits of responding)
  • Learn techniques for noticing our own typical response patterns, our relationships to power, and how we might work more skillfully with these in order to respond with dignity, care, and the intention to connect


Akilah Massey, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations




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