Ways to engage with entrenched power with subversive joy and integrity

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Ways to engage with entrenched power with subversive joy and integrity Notes Name, why did you show up here?

  • A - www.uhelp.net - University Scholarship in Haiti and M&E - here to find ways to have open communication without feeling defensive or diminished and still be heard...
  • S - Empower - it's a lot easier to engage with something when you can find joy in it!
  • W - Commitchange.com, I'm here with CommitChange and our open source project The Houdini Project, we make nonprofit fundraising tools. I'm here because I spend a lot of time with tech "leadership", nonprofit fundraisers, and philanthropists who come from a very different culture that I would prefer to engage with
  • A - I am curious to see how people think about subversion within intstitutions they already occupy and examples. Also curious to hear about people's goals. What subversion means, etc. I am with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit newsroom covering criminal justice and immigration.
  • J - Looking to improve at holding to principles in a foreign space, especially when the other parties may hold more power than you (funding, connections, etc.)
  • M - OpenStreetMap US - lots of influence in the OSM space by corporations that may not act for the benfit of the greater OSM commuinity and in my role I would benefit from engaging with those stakeholders with a bit more joy
  • S: Bits.Coop - DevSummit is a conference favorite. I am interested in how to better challenge instead of dropping a nuclear bomb.
  • R: I'm looking for better/healthier ways to address deeply entrenched problematic behavior at an organizational level.
  • J - John Kenyon Consulting, Nonprofit Stategist and Educator, focus on tech and communications. Always interested in learning about joy and power and the intersection with equity, balance, inclusion and accessiblity
  • C - Want to learn ways to be effective at making a better world

What rooms are we talking about?

  • Leadership conferences, Association of Fundraising Professionals meetings, city and state governmental offices and governmental meetings/committee spaces, calls with clients, liminal spaces within these conferences and meeting spaces where the agenda is no longer set by facilitators
  • Senior management+
  • The rooms of clients, a variety of orgnizations from Catholic communities of women religious to activist orgs to Head Start Programs to services that suport the famlies of children with disabilities, all of whom are clients I work with. Also spaces dominated by straight white men
  • Newsroom (nonprofit in particular, but also includes for profit)
  • Classroom/academic institution
  • Media +
  • Fundraising
  • Donors
  • Institutions
  • Partnering with "establishment" nonprofits+
  • open ecosystems.. from the general to the 1 on 1/ broad to specific
  • data commons - resources to move faster in tech dev and data creation
  • Board rooms Ditto
  • Dinner tables +
  • Male dominated meetings+
  • Grassroots orgs filled with "privileged people politics"
  • City and state governments, local business groups

What do we need from these rooms? Why would we be engaging? Why would we be there?

  • We need resources
  • Recognition and social capital, business relationships, community building+
  • I want to change the way journalism is done in my newsroom, while also exemplifying other, viable models and paradigms for journalism. (Elevating marginalized communities, eliminating extractive journalism and putting POCs and other minorities in leadership roles in the newsroom.)
  • share ideas and get buy-in or constructive feedback+1
  • need to feel included, valued; why engaging - to model the values and behaviors that I'd like to see from others in the rooms and in the liminal (sp?) spaces, also showing understanding of others, where they are and what they are open to learning
  • shared ideals over vested interests? + +
  • Educating people about issues
  • Shared goals - unlikely allies+ + +
  • We want to change hearts and minds of people we don't already agree with
  • Create a climate of friendship - teamwork

Where would you draw the line? What behaviours merit leaving or challenging the rooms?

  • When there is physical, emotional or any other sort of harm involved or when people attempt to disrupt harm that's being addressed
  • Dismissive and perpetual interruption of others
  • When you are not being paid enough for the work you are doing.+
  • When your ideas are not valued, even when the org says they want those kinds of ideas.
  • When there is not a diversity of voices in the room
  • When you think the disagreements or behaviors will mean that you won't get what you want out of the relationship even if you keep putting up with the frustrating behavior +
  • When you would need to compromise your mission too substantially
  • When people are acting in bad faith and "moving the goal posts" (countering every point with something not related to the original discussion or changing the rules/expectations of the discussion when a new point is brought up)
  • When it is crystal clear that "the juice ain't worth the squeeze" - someone makes theirs or their companies motives very clear and the compromise is not worth their resources

What forms of awkwardness / misalignment / insult are in bounds? Worth tolerating?

  • Understanding that if I'm triggered by words or behavior it is not going to serve my goal of educating or persuading others to come at the situation with my emotional response. Responding with anger often makes folks defensive and they only hear the anger, not the message, and then they are not as open to learning or modifying beahvior as when I am able to speak respectfully in the way I'd want folks to respond to me if I was to unintentionally use a triger word or act in a way to make someone feel uncomfortable/awkward/not included. recongizing human-ness means making mistakes
  • When there are misunderstandings but people are still listening, when everyone is assuming that all members are acting within good faith ++
  • When they accept gentle pushback
  • When you can have a more privileged person handle those conversations to insulate more vulnerable people at the organization
  • Someone being a bit abrasive or rude is fine, so long as goals and values align.
  • Confusions or ignorance about what you have in mind for change bc of lack of exprience. needing to explain things that perhaps you think shouldn't need to be explained.+
  • When rude/dismissive/offensive comments are made, but you haven't yet expressed a boundary/requested they speak differently
  • Coats of paint - whem i can circle back and fix it in a future
  • When you feel you are making progress towards that goal ... like shifting culture

What are some of the ways this power shows up? Behaviours? Words? Intellectal context? Physical context?

  • Not having to "make an effort" in the ways others might (like being able to wear a tshirt and jeans to a business meeting), being able to control the environment of a meeting (for example only accepting meetings if the other person is willing or able to attend a walking meeting)
  • Attempts to shut down conversations
  • Domination of discussion, control of agenda
  • Having the resources to take community based ideas and grow them quickly/fork them
  • Fashion. Furnishings. Trappings of wealth.
  • Unacknowledged privilege.
  • Acronyms, jargon specific to that organization
  • Giving you what you want
  • Lack of investment (resources, money)
  • Being told that your ideas at worthwhile, but seeing no effort to organize aorund them.
  • Org pays lip service to funders, gets money and then doesn't make good on promises.
  • Saying you want to work for a community, while none of your work actually benefits that community or involves it.
  • Not getting a raise you requested and being told you need to work harder.
  • Travel/consumption choices (hotels, private cars, etc)
  • Event invitations
  • Having to defend perspective more than others based on gender, race or heirarchy
  • Cancels/reschedules meetings last minute and expects you to be flexible, but would not reciprocate that response
  • Name dropping+
  • subgroups / cliques
  • Coded language


  • Shifting the power dynamic.
  • Having them explain themselves and their reasoning.
  • Knowing that there are other opportunities in other rooms that likely serve your purpose.
  • What do I have control over in this situation? Analyzing your own power.
  • Helping to set the boundaries in advance.
  • Establishing the norms of the conversation before they do.
  • Prioritize your physical well-being/personal health and know those limitations/needs.
  • Reflection and learning. Inviting people to speak to the challenges they're experiencing.
  • Taking advantage of existing mechanisms for dealing with inappropriate behavior (HR dpt for intraorganization situations)
  • Not apologizing for where you are at in your professional journey+
  • Finding allies and a community. Reengaging.
  • Finding a member of that 'group' who can have your back.
  • Withdrawing to experience your reaction then reengaging.
  • Stopping, resetting, and starting again.
  • Establishing clear guidelines off the top.
  • Stepping back and giving marginalized voices your support and your "spot"+
  • Giving your spot to someone from a marginalized group; widening participation
  • Putting forward a statement of values and principles
  • Open the rooms. Talk about what happened inside them.