Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust: Strategy for addressing dynamics of power and privilege

As a funder with a long-standing commitment to supporting those working to address racial injustice in the UK, we’re proud to support the work of organisations and people who are dedicated to identifying and dismantling systemic racism.

At JRCT, we support those who address the root causes of conflict and injustice. With this as our purpose and as an organisation guided by Quaker values, we have a responsibility to critically examine our own practices.  We need to recognise and be open about our own power and privilege as a funder in order to work towards changing inequitable systems.

We are sharing our strategy for addressing dynamics of power and privilege within our organisation, including a framework for action, as part of our ongoing work at the Trust.


Our power and privilege

Within the charitable sector, people of colour have made urgent calls for change, leading conversation on the many ways in which racism continues to operate in charitable organisations.

At JRCT we want make urgent and meaningful change. We know an imbalance of power and privilege within the philanthropic sector can reinforce racial inequality. The power represented by our endowment and accorded to trustees for its use is substantial. We recognise the need to be aware of the potential to exercise our power and its privileges in ways that perpetuate structures of oppression and marginalisation. 

We also recognise that white supremacy and structural racism are embedded in every aspect of our society and in our organisation. If we don’t work to actively dismantle this reality, we facilitate its continuation.


Being accountable

We want to share our ongoing power and privilege work and our framework for action as we’re committed to being accountable. Our whole-organisation approach to questions of power and privilege will initially focus on anti-racism but will seek to develop an intersectional approach. We expect that will lead us to a greater awareness of ways in which we need to make changes to our governance, leadership, investment strategy, grant-making and operations. The work is urgent, but we also expect to commit to it for the long-term.

We are open to the potential that we are being asked to give away agency, and not only resources.


Our vision of change

We have started by considering these dynamics in relation to our governance and leadership, our investment practices, and our grant-making strategy and operations, including grant administration.  We have identified a range of possible actions in respect of each of these areas.

We recognise the need to proceed with great care and attention and the need to test these provisional commitments with people of colour. 


Power & Privilege: priority actions

Dimension Commitment Agreed actions
Governance and leadership    
1 An inclusive Trust board For each of the next two intakes of board members, at least one trustee will be a person of colour
2 Diverse and inclusive Trust staff team Improve the diversity of the staff team and engage consultants to support work on inclusive and equitable practice
3 Ensure culturally diverse committees or panels for grant application reviews Recruit larger number of co-optees from more diverse backgrounds, including those with lived experience of conflict and injustice
4 Deeper whole-organisation understanding of anti-racist and anti-oppressive practice Programme of training and learning for trustees and staff
5 Increased scrutiny of and input into Trust strategy and priorities by civil society actors Establish a sounding board of diverse civil society actors
6 Consider options for giving further powers to grant committees Significantly raise the maximum grant amount awarded by committees
7 Trial practice of participatory grant-making Operationalise recommendations from a report on supporting social movements, which include using collective and movement-centred decision making for a pilot fund


Dimension Commitment Agreed actions
Origins of the endowment    
8 Share information about the origins of the endowment, alongside the other Rowntree Trusts  
9 Work to begin programme of restorative justice

Recruit staff and external advisory group to guide work


Develop process of engagement with communities who have been harmed to identify appropriate restorative actions


Dimension Commitment Agreed actions
11 Work with a culturally diverse group of analysts and fund managers to manage our portfolio Develop a statement of expectations of our fund managers in relation to ethnic diversity in the same way as we have done for gender


Dimension Commitment Agreed actions
12 Increase the proportion of our funding going to racial justice work and to POC-led organisations Adopt a lens of promoting racial justice across all grant-making programmes
13   Identify and address barriers that discourage POC-led groups from applying to JRCT

Explore options to address under-representation of POC-led groups within our grant portfolios, including adjustments to our grant assessment process

15   Applicants requesting a diverse panel of assessors will be able to meet with a JRCT panel that includes at least one person of colour
16   Support the emerging black-led foundation sector
17   Consider approach to data collection on ethnicity and other protected characteristics


Dimension Commitment Agreed actions
18 Make JRCT’s processes more accessible to people from minoritised groups Review language and accessibility of the website as part of the redesign process
19   Review reporting to ensure it is proportionate and include consideration of aligning with other funders
20   Prioritise meeting applicants from minoritised groups at their premises, with default of zoom meetings for other groups