Thursday, April 8, 2010

Organized Labor Relations

Ian Moss lays out a simple analogy:

It's always worthwhile to sit and really understand power relationships (like I tried to in seven parts: I II III IV V VI VII). The question I'm left with at the end is, how can Grantees/Emerging Leaders exercise their power on Bosses/Funders responsibly? After all, what he's basically doing is laying out a Management/Labor relationship. Management has clear tools for dealing with labor, relating to pay and firing powers; but Labor these days also has clear tools for dealing with management, largely through collective bargaining (and also as a voting block, because labor tends to outnumber management when it comes to elections).

So, has anyone come up with models of collectively bargaining with funders? Philanthropy is not my field, so I don't know. Have emerging leaders found ways to get better treatment/to become more valued by their bosses?

1 comment:

Ian David Moss said...

Interesting question. I think the answer kind of depends on the funder (which also is a weakness in my original post, since what I said about them really applies best to private foundations). For public agencies like the NEA or a state arts council, grantees have some indirect ability to exert power through the normal political process (influencing their constituencies to hold views that would lead them to vote a certain way). In practice, however, the more effective way of gaining influence is the old-fashioned kind: cultivating personal relationships with those in power. This works for private foundations, too, especially when board members are involved (since the Board is really the only body that the foundation has to answer to, and the Board doesn't has to answer to anybody unless the foundation gets sued.) Unfortunately, I'm not sure if that counts as a "responsible" exercise of power, nor if it's really power. Unlike in a management situation, where an employee can really make things difficult for a boss by leaving with tasks in the air or poisoning the company's ability to attract new hires by going public, a grantee's ability to inflict pain on a foundation is pretty limited. Pretty much the best they can do is abscond with the money they've been given and disappear to Mexico or something, and that's not exactly the kind of strategy that can work more than once.