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Thursday, December 15th, 2022

Nonprofit Spotlight: Right Use of Power Institute

Founded in 2011, the Right Use of Power Institute (RUPI) is a resource for individuals and organizations to understand their relationship to power dynamics. As they share on their website, “Right Use of Power is a dynamic way to explore issues of ethics and power, both personal and professional. This approach brings heart and soul to ethics and builds sensitivity and awareness to the use of power and influence.”

The seed of Right Use of Power was planted thirty years ago when Dr. Cedar Barstow was asked to create an ethics training for Hakomi (a method of psychotherapy) students in their training program. When she was looking at existing ethical systems, all she found were lists of do’s and don’ts. She wanted to create a more conscious learning around ethics. It took several years to develop Right Use of Power, and then 11 years ago the nonprofit organization Right use of Power Institute (RUPI) was launched. As Co- Executive Director Dr. Amanda Aguilera shares these trainings teach individuals and organizations, “to use their power wisely and well. [This knowledge] is very attractive to spiritually based organizations and mission driven organizations and supports them in living ethically and in alignment with their values. We help people do that through workshops, trainings, consulting, and coaching.”

Co-Executive Director Dr. Amanda Aguilera has been in Boulder since 2005. “I moved here to get my masters at Naropa, and then I stayed. I started working with Cedar at the point where she decided to create a nonprofit and so I came on to help do that.” Dr. Aguilera was immediately attracted to the project and knew that it had something to do with what her life’s work could be. “I was doing my doctorate at the time and my dissertation was focused on these same issues.” Dr. Aguilera just became the Co-Executive Director in August 2022, sharing that role with Dr. Barstow, and will be transitioning into the Executive Director role in 2023. “What Dr. Barstow has built is needed in the world and I’ve always been really interested in ethics and social justice. Cedar really focused more on personal and role power, and we have been building on that language and framework to expand it into the further realms of collective and systemic power.”

RUPI just finished their first global conference that included hundreds of participants from eight different countries. This will be an annual gathering of those who are trained in the methodology and have participated in the courses. Dr. Aguilera is most excited about including the next phase of study around power sharing with regard to systemic power. “It is such an important aspect of the development that we understand the expression of collective and systemic power.” Shares Dr. Aguilera. “We are also trying to update some of the curriculum, so it has more of an equity focus and updating the material to be more relevant and inclusive.”

RUPI also reveals that we don’t have a language for talking about power especially in the nonprofit space. As Dr. Aguilera shares, “In the nonprofit space we see a lot of nonprofits have their biggest challenges with communication. Having those difficult conversations can be challenging.”

Currently Social Venture Partners is supporting RUPI with our Development Resource Team and helping them to build out a fundraising strategy. “We feel so fortunate to be partnered with SVP because it’s making a huge difference,” shares Dr. Aguilera. “We needed help with the fundraising piece and to also diversify our revenue sources.”

For those who are interested in engaging with RUPI, they provide online workshops and webinars and are continually adding new courses. Individuals and organizations are encouraged to try a free introduction course as well.

Understanding power dynamics and what part we play will allow us to communicate better and be more supportive in how we work together. As Dr. Aguilera shared, “I feel like in general we as humans need to celebrate more.” And RUPI is a key part in helping us to do that.

To Get Involved:

Dr. Barstow and Dr. Aguilera


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