In early 2020, St. David’s Foundation served on an advisory group around the concept of peer-driven change stemming from our work with a grant partner, Family Independence Initiative. What resulted was a powerful piece in the Stanford Social Innovation Review that speaks to the importance of self-determination and mutual support – two vital elements that are more relevant than ever given our current state of community recovery.
Offering a rationale for funders to consider peer-driven approaches, the compelling examples in the article demonstrate how peer-driven change occurs when individuals identify their own goals and lead their own change. This, however, is a shift in how the philanthropic sector thinks about its role. This concept is grounded in a strength-based belief that people are strong, capable, trustworthy, resourceful and resilient. How can we step back and create space for the solutions to emerge from families and communities – watching for what is radically right and seeding those efforts to provide a springboard versus a more traditional safety net approach. It is when we view people not as problems to be solved but rather as the solution, funders can build on strategies that foster constituent engagement for problem-solving, community mobilization, leadership and coalition development that support peer groups to lead their own change and work collectively to advance their lives.
“Nonprofits and philanthropists often think of low-income community members as the last mile of a social impact effort, where adoption and buy-in from community members are vital. With peer-driven change, those same people must be viewed as the first mile, where leadership, autonomy, and tenacity constitute the very engine of their own progress.”
To read the full article, When Peers Work Together to Drive Social Change by Rohit Menezes, Simon Morfit, Willa Seldon & Bill Breen, please click here.