ICYMI: People Are Talking About Participatory Grantmaking

Participatory grantmaking continues to gain traction with grantmakers and grantseekers alike, as more are looking at the value and outcomes of grantmaking that includes all stakeholders in the full process and the ways that participatory grantmaking can improve funder/grantee power dynamics, build stronger alliances, help achieve DEI-related goals, and have a deeper impact on the issues at hand. GrantCraft’s Deciding Together field guide explores this movement in great detail, complete with case studies and helpful tips, and companion templates in the Mechanics section of our website. Since the publication of this guide, we are always on the hunt for new knowledge about how participatory grantmaking is being implemented. Here are three recent compelling reads exploring the impact of participatory grantmaking.

 

Two beautiful black women stand together. Strong African American girls side by side. Sisterhood and females friendship.

Telling My Truth as a Black Woman Made Me a Better Grant Maker

(Jasmine Sudarkasa, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, February 9, 2021) This first-person account of participatory grantmaking (PGM) at work at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation demonstrates that PGM can also effectively be used within large foundations as a means to lift up under-represented voices and lived experience.

In the face of a people-led movement, philanthropic institutions were woefully ill equipped. By this point, I was, too. I sat in my apartment, looking at facilitation plans for “equitable learning,” and felt like an idiot. Enough was enough. I couldn’t separate my Blackness from my responsibilities as a grant maker. I needed to tell my truth.

And so, I started talking. I cried, too. And surprisingly, people at Hewlett started listening. Those people included Larry Kramer, our president. He heard me, as fearful and enraged as I was. Then he invited me to stand in that fear and do something about it.

Read more>>

A diverse group of unrecognizable people stand in line to vote. A woman at the end of the line holds an American flag.

To Support Democracy, Foundations Must Practice Democracy

(Josh Lerner, Nonprofit Quarterly, February 9, 2021) Democracy in America (and around the world) depends largely on where the funding goes. Josh Lerner asserts that, “It’s an inconvenient truth, but foundations are one of the most durable bastions of oligarchy. They are generally governed by a small group of benefactors and professionals, who are disproportionately white, wealthy, and male.” Want more democracy? We need more democratic distribution of philanthropic dollars.

Democracy is under attack around the world, and many foundations are rallying to its defense. Yet at the same time, many foundations in their mode of operations are practicing and reinforcing the anti-democratic ideology of the attackers. By preaching democracy externally but practicing oligarchy internally, funders undermine their investments and our democracy.

To confront the crisis of democracy, directing external funding to pro-democracy groups and causes is not enough. Funders must also undo their internal anti-democratic practices. This means ending top-down decision-making by a small ruling elite. It also requires shifting power to communities. Fortunately, we already have models for how to do this.

Read more>>

Teamwork concept with building puzzle. People working together with giant puzzle elements. Symbol of partnership and collaboration. Flat vector illustration isolated on white background.

Shifting Power to Communities in Grant Funding

(Rodney Foxworth and Marcus Haymon, Stanford Social Innovation Review, January 20, 2021) Foundations are being called to examine how institutional practices deepen inequality instead of dismantling it: from arduous application processes to repetitive reporting requirements, business as usual in the funding world feels more about maintaining control than sharing it. “To address this painful history, and implement policies based on trust and equity, philanthropists must give up power in decisions around funding deployment. Inclusive decision making can have more inclusive and powerful results.”

So, funders must ask themselves: Where in our processes might we share decision making? How might we create space for grantees to tell us about their impact, in their own words, to shape our thinking? How might we be equitable in all aspects of our work, including our investment? The urgency of this moment is calling on us to look across our systems and center those who are building the world we so desperately need.

Read more>>

 

Read a recent article about participatory grantmaking that you’d like to share? Email us at [email protected].

 

About the author(s)

Content Development Associate
Candid

In 2020 We’re Thinking about Philanthropy, Politics, & Advocacy

Welcome to 2020! It’s election season! Or should I say impeachment season? Or presidential debate season? And let’s not forget Census season. While we all work for mission-driven organizations that are usually non-partisan in nature, policy strategies that the current administration and the presidential hopefuls are developing have the potential to significantly impact the communities and issues we support.

As a result, you may be wondering whether or how philanthropy is responding to shifting political winds. Candid was wondering the same thing, so last year we conducted a survey asking 645 of the largest U.S. foundations whether they had changed their giving priorities as a result of the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. A recent PhilanTopic blog post from Candid’s own Larry McGill, VP of knowledge services, shares a detailed summary of the survey results and key highlights.

We learned that though the vast majority of grantmakers, 88 percent, reported making no changes, 12 percent reported making some “notable changes.” Among those who did feel it important to make changes, most did so in connection with five specific causes: immigration; civic engagement/democracy; equity/social justice/intolerance; the environment; and health care. And, in some cases, foundations also established "rapid response" funds to help grantee organizations that might be facing new or urgent challenges in carrying out their work. (This begs the question of why there is not always “rapid response” funding if that is a more efficient means of getting money out the door, but I digress.)

Grantmakers who did change their giving also mentioned an increased interest in policy and advocacy work, particularly in regards to healthcare, the environment, and DACA-related efforts. If your foundation is curious about or already supporting advocacy, we just published a new GrantCraft guide that’s a compendium of our best grantmaker peer advice on this issue.

The guide, Teaming Up for Advocacy, focuses on the power of partnerships to bring about change, and how to effectively make progress with donor and advocacy collaboratives. This “best of GrantCraft” approach makes our curated content more accessible and flexible for you and your peers to use. Looking at why advocacy funding has historically been the “philanthropic road not taken,” this timely resource is a helpful roadmap for those who might now find that path more tempting or desire to try a “safety in numbers” approach to the work. Topics covered in the guide include the benefits of participating in an advocacy collaborative, elements of success, staffing, strategy setting, and overcoming fears and roadblocks.

Whether 2020 means you are setting off on the path not taken or staying the course, we hope that you learn a lot on your journeys and that you consider sharing those lessons with us on GrantCraft.

This letter originally appeared in GrantCraft's newsletter. To stay updated with our newsletter and special alerts, sign up here.

About the author(s)

Director of Candid Learning
Candid

Deciding Together Shifting Power and Resources Through Participatory Grantmaking

Funders are increasingly looking to engage the communities they serve in the grantmaking process, but there are few resources about how to do so. In this guide, we explore how funders can engage in participatory grantmaking and cede decision-making power about funding decisions to the very communities they aim to serve. Deciding Together: Shifting Power and Resources Through Participatory Grantmaking illustrates why and how funders around the world are engaging in this practice that is shifting traditional power dynamics in philanthropy. Created with input from a number of participatory grantmakers, the guide shares challenges, lessons learned, and best practices for engaging in inclusive grantmaking.

Funding for this guide was generously provided by the Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundations. This guide is part of GrantCraft's content series on participatory grantmaking. Help us get the word out on Twitter and beyond, and follow the conversation using the hashtag #ShiftThePower. You can also read our press release here.

Download a Word version of the guide here.

What's in the guide?

  • Nothing About Us Without Us. This vignette shares an example of why and how participatory grantmaking became the approach for an international effort to fund persons with disabilities.
  • Participatory Grantmaking: What Is It? There is no formal definition for participatory grantmaking, but there are agreed-upon tenets that distinguish this approach. We begin this guide by providing context about the practice and defining the underlying values.
  • The Core Elements of Participatory Grantmaking. This section outlines the core elements of participatory grantmaking and describes the ethos and values that support this approach.
  • The Benefits of Participatory Grantmaking. Here, we explore the rationale leading funders to embrace this practice. For many, the values and core elements are a part of the benefits.
  • The Challenges of Participatory Grantmaking. All philanthropic approaches have challenges, and participatory grantmaking is no exception. Recognizing and iterating on these challenges is part of the approach itself.
  • Who Decides and How? This section presents the decisions that are made along the way and shares how different participatory grantmakers assign roles and determine who has power over what.
  • The Mechanics. No two foundations look exactly the same—take a look at a few models of participatory grantmaking and review questions to guide conversation about structure.
  • Evaluation. Participatory grantmaking is process-oriented, iterative, and difficult to codify. Yet, participatory grantmakers seek to achieve and evaluate outcomes. This section outlines the hurdles and approaches that exist.
  • Walking the Talk: Embedding Participation Internally. This section explains why a participatory ethos should be embedded in processes beyond just grantmaking decisions.
  • Getting Started. Funders can begin their journey to embracing the values and practice of participatory grantmaking through a variety of strategies, touched on here.
  • Appendix and Endnotes. These resources support information found throughout the guide and can be used to explore in greater depth.

About the author(s)

Principal
Cynthesis Consulting

Director of Stakeholder Engagement
Candid

About the author(s)

Principal
Cynthesis Consulting

Director of Stakeholder Engagement
Candid

Funders are increasingly looking to engage the communities they serve in the grantmaking process, but there are few resources about how to do so. In this guide, we explore how funders can engage in participatory grantmaking and cede decision-making power about funding decisions to the very communities they aim to serve. Deciding Together: Shifting Power and Resources Through Participatory Grantmaking illustrates why and how funders around the world are engaging in this practice that is shifting traditional power dynamics in philanthropy. Created with input from a number of participatory grantmakers, the guide shares challenges, lessons learned, and best practices for engaging in inclusive grantmaking.

Funding for this guide was generously provided by the Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundations. This guide is part of GrantCraft's content series on participatory grantmaking. Help us get the word out on Twitter and beyond, and follow the conversation using the hashtag #ShiftThePower. You can also read our press release here.

Download a Word version of the guide here.

What's in the guide?

  • Nothing About Us Without Us. This vignette shares an example of why and how participatory grantmaking became the approach for an international effort to fund persons with disabilities.
  • Participatory Grantmaking: What Is It? There is no formal definition for participatory grantmaking, but there are agreed-upon tenets that distinguish this approach. We begin this guide by providing context about the practice and defining the underlying values.
  • The Core Elements of Participatory Grantmaking. This section outlines the core elements of participatory grantmaking and describes the ethos and values that support this approach.
  • The Benefits of Participatory Grantmaking. Here, we explore the rationale leading funders to embrace this practice. For many, the values and core elements are a part of the benefits.
  • The Challenges of Participatory Grantmaking. All philanthropic approaches have challenges, and participatory grantmaking is no exception. Recognizing and iterating on these challenges is part of the approach itself.
  • Who Decides and How? This section presents the decisions that are made along the way and shares how different participatory grantmakers assign roles and determine who has power over what.
  • The Mechanics. No two foundations look exactly the same—take a look at a few models of participatory grantmaking and review questions to guide conversation about structure.
  • Evaluation. Participatory grantmaking is process-oriented, iterative, and difficult to codify. Yet, participatory grantmakers seek to achieve and evaluate outcomes. This section outlines the hurdles and approaches that exist.
  • Walking the Talk: Embedding Participation Internally. This section explains why a participatory ethos should be embedded in processes beyond just grantmaking decisions.
  • Getting Started. Funders can begin their journey to embracing the values and practice of participatory grantmaking through a variety of strategies, touched on here.
  • Appendix and Endnotes. These resources support information found throughout the guide and can be used to explore in greater depth.
 

About the author(s)

Principal
Cynthesis Consulting

Director of Stakeholder Engagement
Candid

Decidiendo Juntos Transferencia de poder y recursos mediante el proceso participativo de otorgamiento de donativos

En este documento titulado “Decidiendo juntos: Transferencia de poder y recursos mediante el proceso participativo de otorgamiento de donativos”, examinamos por qué y cómo implementan los donantes la asignación participativa de donativos y transfieren el poder a las comunidades que reciben el impacto de sus decisiones de financiamiento. Con ejemplos y reflexiones de un grupo diverso de donantes, exploramos los beneficios, los desafíos y los modelos del enfoque participativo de financiamiento.

El financiamiento para esta guía fue otorgado generosamente por la Fundación Ford y la Iniciativa Open Society para Europa. Twitter: #ShiftThePower.

  • ¿En qué consiste el proceso participativo de otorgamiento de donativos? No existe una definición formal de asignación participativa de donativos, pero sí algunos principios consensuados que distinguen dicho enfoque. La guía empieza por presentar el contexto de la práctica y por definir los valores subyacentes.
  • Elementos medulares del otorgamiento participativo de donativos. En esta sección se plantean los elementos centrales del proceso participativo de entrega de donativos y se describen el espíritu y los valores que fundamentan el enfoque.
  • Beneficios del proceso participativo de otorgamiento de donativos. En esta sección exploramos la lógica que lleva a los donantes a adoptar esta práctica. Para muchos de ellos, los valores y los elementos medulares forman parte de los beneficios.
  • Desafíos del proceso participativo de otorgamiento de donativos. Todo enfoque filantrópico plantea retos y el proceso participativo de financiamiento no es la excepción. Reconocer los desafíos y efectuar los ajustes correspondientes forma parte del proceso en sí.
  • ¿Quién decide y de qué manera? Esta sección presenta las decisiones que se toman durante el proceso y ofrece detalles sobre la manera en que los distintos donantes participativos asignan roles y determinan quién tiene poder y sobre qué.
  • La mecánica. Ninguna fundación es exactamente igual a otra. Analice los modelos de financiamiento participativo aquí presentados y revise las preguntas dirigidas a orientar la conversación en materia de estructuras.
  • Evaluación. La entrega participativa de donativos se basa en un proceso, es iterativa y difícil de codificar. Sin embargo, los donantes que utilizan dicho enfoque desean lograr resultados y evaluarlos. En esta sección describimos los obstáculos y perspectivas existentes.
  • Pasar del dicho al hecho: Incorporar la participación a nivel interno. Esta sección explica por qué se debe incorporar un espíritu participativo a los procesos, no solamente a las decisiones sobre entrega de financiamiento.
  • Cómo empezar​. Los donantes pueden iniciar el proceso de adopción de valores y prácticas de un enfoque participativo de asignación de donativos por medio de las distintas estrategias aquí mencionadas.
  • Apéndice y notas al final. Los recursos presentados en estas secciones refuerzan la información presentada a lo largo de toda la guía y se pueden emplear para explorar los temas con mayor profundidad.

En este documento titulado “Decidiendo juntos: Transferencia de poder y recursos mediante el proceso participativo de otorgamiento de donativos”, examinamos por qué y cómo implementan los donantes la asignación participativa de donativos y transfieren el poder a las comunidades que reciben el impacto de sus decisiones de financiamiento. Con ejemplos y reflexiones de un grupo diverso de donantes, exploramos los beneficios, los desafíos y los modelos del enfoque participativo de financiamiento.

El financiamiento para esta guía fue otorgado generosamente por la Fundación Ford y la Iniciativa Open Society para Europa. Twitter: #ShiftThePower.

  • ¿En qué consiste el proceso participativo de otorgamiento de donativos? No existe una definición formal de asignación participativa de donativos, pero sí algunos principios consensuados que distinguen dicho enfoque. La guía empieza por presentar el contexto de la práctica y por definir los valores subyacentes.
  • Elementos medulares del otorgamiento participativo de donativos. En esta sección se plantean los elementos centrales del proceso participativo de entrega de donativos y se describen el espíritu y los valores que fundamentan el enfoque.
  • Beneficios del proceso participativo de otorgamiento de donativos. En esta sección exploramos la lógica que lleva a los donantes a adoptar esta práctica. Para muchos de ellos, los valores y los elementos medulares forman parte de los beneficios.
  • Desafíos del proceso participativo de otorgamiento de donativos. Todo enfoque filantrópico plantea retos y el proceso participativo de financiamiento no es la excepción. Reconocer los desafíos y efectuar los ajustes correspondientes forma parte del proceso en sí.
  • ¿Quién decide y de qué manera? Esta sección presenta las decisiones que se toman durante el proceso y ofrece detalles sobre la manera en que los distintos donantes participativos asignan roles y determinan quién tiene poder y sobre qué.
  • La mecánica. Ninguna fundación es exactamente igual a otra. Analice los modelos de financiamiento participativo aquí presentados y revise las preguntas dirigidas a orientar la conversación en materia de estructuras.
  • Evaluación. La entrega participativa de donativos se basa en un proceso, es iterativa y difícil de codificar. Sin embargo, los donantes que utilizan dicho enfoque desean lograr resultados y evaluarlos. En esta sección describimos los obstáculos y perspectivas existentes.
  • Pasar del dicho al hecho: Incorporar la participación a nivel interno. Esta sección explica por qué se debe incorporar un espíritu participativo a los procesos, no solamente a las decisiones sobre entrega de financiamiento.
  • Cómo empezar​. Los donantes pueden iniciar el proceso de adopción de valores y prácticas de un enfoque participativo de asignación de donativos por medio de las distintas estrategias aquí mencionadas.
  • Apéndice y notas al final. Los recursos presentados en estas secciones refuerzan la información presentada a lo largo de toda la guía y se pueden emplear para explorar los temas con mayor profundidad.
 

Insight on Participatory Grantmaking: Aisha Mansour, Dalia Association

Aisha Mansour talks about what participatory grantmaking means for the Dalia Association and how it has been used to bring back an active civil society in Palestine.

Shifting Grantmaking and Evaluation Practices in the Pursuit of Equity

When deciding to co-host a panel discussion on culturally responsive grantmaking and evaluation last year in Milwaukee, Wisconsin we had to confront some ugly truths. Too often grantmakers, decision-makers, and program evaluators do not understand the day-to-day realities of people living in the communities with unrelenting social, political, racial, and economic inequity—those they seek to impact.

When engaging the conversation of “racial equity” and all things “evidence-based,” for example, philanthropy and program evaluators have at their disposal a new set of scholarly topics to explore, terms to master, and tools to use. But, these topics require we ask some hard questions before jumping into action: Has the sector fundamentally and structurally balanced power with our grantee partners and the communities they represent? Where equity goals are at stake, is philanthropy as a sector, willing to shift real control of agenda-setting, program content, and the use of resources to the communities themselves? Is the sector supporting evaluation teams that can effectively address legacies of white supremacy and other historic institutions of power in their quest for credible evidence? And, are they supporting teams with evaluators who come from, live near, or have daily personal contact with the target population of grant-funded interventions?  As it relates to the philanthropic sector, meaningful impact can come from Culturally Responsive Evaluation (CRE) as part of sound grant-making when pursuing equity goals. 

To shift our community toward practices that would unwind systems of oppression rather than perpetuate them, ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Inc., the Wisconsin statewide American Evaluation Association affiliate, and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, held a moderated conversation titled Achieving Racial Equity by Changing the Dynamic Between Residents and Decision-makers: A Look at Culturally Responsive Grantmaking Practice and Evaluation. Our panelists of community leaders and funders were Sharlen Moore, coalition member of Youth Justice Milwaukee and director of Urban Underground, Caronina Grimble, program officer at Woods Fund, and Paul Elam president of Public Policy Associates. The event was attended by community members, nonprofit leaders, community stakeholders, and funders. Panelists speaking

We recognized our resident leaders by beginning and ending the event with their voice and perspective. We also recognized them as knowers (experts) and compensated them equally for sharing their knowledge as panelists. In return, we requested that they hold nothing back—they were entrusted to be truthtellers and agitators. We did this to prevent what feminist scholar Dr. Kristie Dotson calls “testimonial quieting,” or holding back because you feel the audience hasn’t demonstrated enough cultural competence to truly hear and understand you.

Infographic about culturally responsive grantmaking

Sharlen highlighted the amazing and challenging work that grassroots, black- and women-led organizations do, and also laid bare the challenges experienced with funder expectations citing, “We have had funders grant $10,000 and expect revolutionary change in one year. It doesn’t happen that way.” She added that “We want to be in the room when the strategic decisions are made. Don’t ask us what we think after the decision is made.” When sharing about the Woods Fund grant-making strategy that exclusively supports community organizing as a core approach for creating impact, Caronina Grimble pointed out that this is about more than just supporting rallies and marches, and rather “it’s focused on relationship building and developing resident influence on policy decisions.” Our moderators Michelle Robinson from Kids Forward and Melissa Pettis, an undergraduate student, shared examples of how residents are left out of key discussions, viewed as outsiders to the established network of resource-brokers, and are often shamed for wanting to be included. Hearing these points made it explicit to grantmakers that supporting communities requires more than just program funding, but a concerted effort to build relationships and an infrastructure where community voices are brought to the table.

Paul Elam, a specialist in conducting large-scale Culturally Responsive Evaluations, reminded us to be courageous even in our evaluations, “It’s my explicit responsibility to bring my full-self, my experiences, my worldview, and the voices of those that have been silenced.” During the Q&A, he was asked about how he dealt with “white fragility” in the context of evaluations. He illuminated the need to address privileges like these in order to truly have productive conversations and reminded grantmakers of the need to familiarize themselves with how their identities can affect evaluation reporting and use, because we come to our work with our individual worldviews.  

There was plenty of sweet discomfort by the end of the conversation and we know we have more hard work to do. Danell Cross, grassroots-leader-turned-executive director of Metcalf Park Community Bridges, added in post-event discussions how consequential current dynamics are that don’t always make space to understand the capacity and needs of the organizations funded. “My capacity is what it is. It won't get better without financial support for paid organizing staff. I am constantly at tables where my words have to be validated by someone white, by a researcher, or by someone else. If I say something, someone else has to say it for the room to react or even hear it.” Audience at a workshop sitting at tables listening to a speaker.

Mrs. Cross’ reflections sum up the challenge faced by many in truly reaching equity goals in partnership with the communities we intend to help.  We hope funders were able to take away both community insight on how to build responsive evaluative practices, as well as an understanding of the deep-set impacts of power imbalances. For other funders, we hope this conversation can provide a model for engaging in your own communities to be more culturally responsive. We leave you with a few questions to reflect on: Is the language you use regarding evaluations accessible to your grantees? Are the people closest to the issues involved in the process of coming up with solutions to those issues? How may your identity and worldview impact the conversations you have with grantees, and how can you enable an environment for open dialogue? What stories may be hidden or unacknowledged that you can help shed more light on? To learn more about the panel, check out this video.

Questions for Greater Milwaukee Foundation can be sent to Jeremy Podolski, Marketing and Communications Manager at [email protected] and questions for ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Inc. can be sent to  [email protected]  

About the author(s)

Associate Officer,
Greater Milwaukee Foundation

Founder
¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Inc.

Founder,
¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Inc.

Blueprint 2018 – Predictions

Cover of Blueprint 2018

The year that’s passed turned out to be quite a ride for philanthropy both big and small. Billions in new philanthropic dollars from a handful of donors at one end of the spectrum, plus billions more in crowdfunding across the globe. Regulatory provocations on dark money and charity. Global migration and natural disasters provide ample opportunity for civil society and philanthropy to take action. What’s in store for the year ahead? Here are a few predictions for 2018 – the full list is available in Philanthropy and Digital Civil Society: Blueprint 2018.

Global

  • FinTech (financial technology) will be a shiny new interest area for philanthropy in 2018.
  • Voice-activated giving (“Alexa, donate $10 to the Community Disaster Fund”) will make headlines.
  • The European Union will become the global standard bearer for digital privacy policy. Nonprofits everywhere will examine their privacy practices to abide by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

United States

  • Transparency advocates will demand regulation of political advertising on the Web and social media networks. They won’t get it.
  • Tech companies will increase their philanthropy and political giving as their reputations suffer.
  • Team communications tools that are slowly replacing internal corporate e-mail will be hacked, drawing as much attention as e-mail dumps did in 2016.

2018 Wild Cards (Surprising, unlikely things that just might happen)

  • Britain won’t Brexit.
  • The rate of growth in global carbon production will slow significantly.
  • Countries will begin competing to take in and take care of millions of refugees. 

P.S. If you didn't catch Predict-a-Palooza on January 11, watch a recording of this virtual roundtable of experts, scholars, and practitioners as they identify key trends and share predictions for 2018, including insights from Blueprint!

Editor’s Note: We were delighted to partner with Lucy on publishing the Blueprint for the past several years, and are still avid followers of her predictions! Explore past editions on GrantCraft here.

About the author(s)

Stronger Together: An Activist-Funder Dialogue on Resourcing Young Feminist Organizing

In July, 2017, FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund and Mama Cash hosted an activist-funder dialogue on resourcing young feminists at the Center for Social Innovation in New York City. This dialogue offered a space for reflection on the gaps between funders and activists, and the opportunities to cultivate more honest engagements, shared accountability, and build collective power.

The power of honest conversation

We decided to hold this event with three main objectives:

  • to create spaces to explore how to increase accountability in our communities;
  • to think about agreed mechanisms to share honest feedback on what is working and what is not; and
  • to understand the steps we need to take to really trust each other, name power dynamics, and collectively work for solutions.

Taking the time and creating space for activists and funders to be heard, allowed tensions to be held and the people in the room to exchange experience and see synergy in their work.

We began the day hearing from a panel of activists and funders: Akudo Oguaghamba, Women’s Health and Equal Rights (WHER) Nigeria, Carla Lopez, Central American Women’s Fund, Jody Myrum, Novo and Viva Tatawaqa, diverse voices and action for equality fiji and Resurj. They shared their experiences in from different contexts and ideas on how to cultivate more relationships of trust between funders and activists.

After the panel we spent the rest of the time charting out key themes and good practices, and unpacking power dynamics to open a pathway for meaningful collaboration. Recognising as private funders, as public funders, as activists, as collectives, as International Non Government Organisations, that we all had different spheres of influence and opportunity to take these ideas forward.

Sustainability and survival

Activists in the room talked through the importance of safe spaces, and inclusion of diverse activists, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex people, and for the next generation of teenage activists in feminist organizing in conversations like these. People shared the need to talk about sustainability in its many dimensions (organizational, personal, emotional, physical) and the need for activists and funders to be talking about access to salaries/resources/income and a living wage.

While we found that sustainability and self-care are becoming more of a focus in our work, many activists still feel like there is limited space to discuss topics of what it means to have a living wage. We asked ourselves how accountability and care could be seeded within movements and within the philanthropic field and between them.

Some activists also raised the uncomfortable contradiction they often face in movements, between being autonomous feminist collectives rejecting capitalist models, but still needing basic resources for their work and their survival. As well as talking about the violence or toxicity that sometimes is present in movements. This highlighted the need for space for self-reflection as well as dialogue within feminist movements, to discuss these tensions and to look at the political nature of resources, and explore self-generated income models.

Vision for Movement centric Funding copy.jpg

 

Looking inward to really change outward

If we seek to transform power in philanthropy and address the injustices around us, to challenge and rectify the inequity we see, it is necessary to look internally at how our own structures in philanthropy, in development, and in the aid sector, could be reinforcing inequality.

This means asking difficult questions about how not to recreate unequal relationships of abuse and power in our funding relationships and in movements. If we are not naming power dynamics and honestly telling each other how we are experiencing things, as funders, or as grantees, and as allies to our movements, how can we ever get to a place where we are unraveling the broken systems and economic models that oppress and discriminate?

The important conversations about closing space, about collective and individual security and self care, and about how to reach grassroots groups, cannot take place with only funders in the room. The conversation about how to ensure funder practices are not harmful to activists cannot happen only between activists. Only through meaningful dialogue will we see some of those complex realities start to be unbound, and only then will we hopefully begin to see ripples in the field and in how we collectively work together for good.

It will take systemic changes and reforms, but it also starts with committed people who respect each other and can directly communicate about their experiences with using these systems, including those related to resourcing the work. From this event we saw this healing starts with opening space to talk about how we cultivate trust and kindness, and encourage real analysis of power dynamics and build collective accountability.

Some of the takeaways that emerged

  • Stronger, more powerful values-based conversations between activists and funders where we are all empowered and equipped to ask each other the hard questions are critical.

  • More attention needs to be paid to meeting grantees’ basic needs, ensure that activists are paid a living wage and have access to basic benefits, and support for grantees to become more financially independent.

Continuing the conversation

The event generated a shared sense of commitment and enthusiasm to explore how funders and activists can work together across philanthropic and movement ecosystems.While this was just one space, one conversation, the model of bringing together activists and funders and trying to better leverage our different perspectives and ideas is one we felt worked well towards shifting power dynamics.

 

About the author(s)

Co-Director
FRIDA, The Young Feminist Fund

Advocacy Officer
FRIDA, The Young Feminist Fund

Tracking Vital Signs for the Communal and Global Good

A healthy community is an informed community. Using local knowledge, community foundations identify civic priorities and support action that improves quality of life. At Community Foundations of Canada, our greatest asset is our network of local leaders and the knowledge they hold around issues in their communities like food security, healthy living, affordability and more. Using these local insights, foundations help direct resources to where they will have the greatest impact.

Our flagship national program, Vital Signs, aims to achieve this by measuring the vitality of our communities, inspiring civic engagement, and providing focus for public conversation. When we connect the dots between existing data to thoroughly examine issues such as poverty and unemployment, we can put that knowledge to work for people interested in giving.

Vital Signs was first created by the Toronto Foundation in 2001. Today, it’s a program that engages more than 85 communities around the world to mobilize the power of on-the-ground knowledge for greater civic impact. Community foundations in Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, United States, Bermuda, and New Zealand, to name a few, are all involved in the Vital Signs program. By gathering data, hosting conversations, and publishing reports on social and economic trends, Vital Signs participants can tell the story of how their communities are faring within a broad view of well-being.

One example of a community foundation using Vital Signs to make more informed decisions about the kinds of initiatives they fund and open up conversations about community priorities can be found in Montreal. In 2014, Mayor Denis Codere launched a census of homeless people living in the city that revealed an increasing number, particularly among women and single parent families. After the figures came in the following year, the Foundation of Greater Montreal (FGM) released its Vital Signs report and organized a panel. Inviting industry experts, media, and citizens to attend, the panel discussed the challenges faced by the homeless community, using data from the Vital Signs report to help guide the conversation. The result was improved communication between groups that regularly engage in collective work (like the local shelters, police force, and hospitals), and a renewed commitment to improving the quality of life for the homeless community in Montreal.

The impact of Vital Signs and other public-spirited initiatives can also be connected to a global agenda for action. In 2015, United Nations member countries adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that target important areas of development with the intent of ending poverty and protecting the planet. As part of an international philanthropic movement, community foundations have an opportunity to further leverage our knowledge, partners, and activities to connect our local efforts to reduce inequality, build sustainable communities, end hunger, and more.

Already some are using Vital Signs to connect local priorities to global action. On Vancouver Island, the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, one of 191 community foundations across Canada, is promoting sustainable development by mapping local data and community knowledge to SDG targets through their Vital Signs report. In doing so, the Trust is able to benchmark progress against a set of global targets and better understand the community’s contribution to an international agenda.

How are you leveraging the knowledge in your community? Get in touch with us to learn more about the Vital Signs program and how it can be adapted to your community. http://communityfoundations.ca/vitalsigns

About the author(s)

Director of Member Services
Community Foundations of Canada

What is Civic Engagement Anyway? A Primer from PACE

A new conversation about civic engagement is emerging. Against the backdrop of rapidly changing social and political upheaval, Americans are feeling a call to take a more active role in their democracy. This swelling interest and urgency has been increasingly felt among the constellation of organizations devoted to the public good. And at Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE), a network of funders committed to civic engagement and democracy, we’ve felt this shift firsthand.

As funders examine the most effective means to heal the nation’s civic fabric, many of them have found their way to square one: meaningfully engaging citizenry in America’s democratic process. As far as first steps go, we couldn’t agree more. But civic engagement is a multifaceted, amorphous idea--a field with as many definitions as diverse participants. And while many funders are considering investing in civic engagement for the first time, even experienced funders are finding themselves asking: what does civic engagement really look like? How might it relate to my work? And, how do I get started?

To be clear: we don’t have all the answers. This political moment is nuanced and complex in ways many of us are only beginning to understand. But with the depth of experience in civic engagement and philanthropy in our network, we do know a few important things--and it’s with this expertise that we created a tool to support funders in focusing on utilizing civic engagement to heal the fractures in our communities and in our democracy. It’s called the Civic Engagement Primer, or #PACEprimer for short.

We begin by offering our working definition of civic engagement, which takes a wide-angle lens on the vast spectrum of activities our field encompasses. For us, civic engagement is “the process of helping people be active participants in building and strengthening their communities, whether you define “community” as a place or a shared identity or interest.” This definition comprises the spectrum of ways people can participate in self-governance: from interactions with government to voluntary associations and everything in between.

Associated with this work as well is a core set of values, such as community, trust, transparency, and participation. There is also power in the pragmatic approaches civic engagement can foster, which have the ability to bridge many of the deep fractures that have brought us to this crucial moment. We included these values in the primer because PACE believes that civic engagement is, at its core, about helping Americans--all Americans--be a part of America.  And that is a vision that can, and should, take many forms, as long as they are led with and informed by a key set of values driving toward the common good.                                                                                                          

The primer goes on to outline the various ways funders can approach civic engagement work--whether as a means to achieve broader programmatic goals, or as a means unto itself. Finally, the tool outlines the multitude of activities we consider to be part of the diverse civic engagement portfolio--from volunteering to advocacy to charitable giving to civic learning.

After making your way through the primer, we hope you will have a foundational understanding of civic engagement philanthropy and a sense of whether pursuing an investment in this area might be right for you and your organization.

As part of the primer, we’ve also created three downloadable handouts, illustrating the variety of activities on the civic engagement spectrum, the various approaches funders can take in investing in this work, and even the definition of civic engagement, which we hope you can use to continue these important conversations with your colleagues.

This tool--and our work--is inspired by a primary idea: that our democracy will be healthier, more successful, more resilient, and more productive, if the office of citizen is treated as central to how it functions. We hope this primer serves to support you in taking the next step on your civic engagement journey--and we look forward to working alongside you as it continues.

This article orginally appeared on Medium; to view the original article please click here.

Categories

About the author(s)

Executive Director
Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement