Shifting Power to Local People: Experimenting with Participatory Methods in Barking and Dagenham

Over a year ago Ruth Robertson from Kingsley Hall, and Lisa Clarke working as an Associate of Lankelly Chase started out on a journey to explore the role of participatory grantmaking in promoting power sharing and devolved decision making. We were keen to understand the voices and perspectives of those with lived experience of multiple disadvantages and severe marginalisation in order to see power shifted from those traditionally holding this power. Our experience has shown us that those who often need services are traditionally not brought into lead their own change and as a result their perspectives are often not recognised. However we have seen that through devolving decision making around small pots of grant money can have much wider impact than just those engaged with the conversation.


The case study and journey map shown in the attachment forms part of a much larger piece of participatory and systemic place-based change work in Barking and Dagenham, where the theme of power runs through a wider learning conversation surfacing the structural issues of inequitable power in the borough. However our experiences over the past year suggest that Participatory Grantmaking is a helpful philanthropic tool alongside other participatory methods in bringing social justice to bear. We have seen that it enables the conditions to see power shift and communities to be given the space to take back control of their own lives and those around them. 

It is great that there is an established and growing Participatory Grant making community (, who have much wider and deeper learning to share, so we humbly add to these materials and views below hoping that this may be helpful for those wishing to support participatory grant making as part of a wider process of positive social change. 


Final reflections – having started this particular experimental journey exploring what helps some of us to give up power and others to take up power, what we have found is that it is not a binary position and linear line but an ongoing personal and collective rollercoaster ride to build healthy power for the benefit of all. 

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