Join our monthly pledgers! We’re different to other funds. We’re funded by many people giving what they can, not by a wealthy family or corporation. We fund what others don’t. When you give to Edge Fund you’re supporting dozens of small, grassroots groups demanding justice and equality. Most traditional charity work offers only short-term relief to a problem. Working for justice means addressing why the problem exists in the first place – that’s how we create change. And when we have justice, we don’t need charity.
We have over 100 members who collectively decide where our funding goes. Members include people from the groups and communities we aim to support as well as those working in solidarity with them, providing a wealth of connections and knowledge to ensure we make the right choices. We support those who find it difficult to raise the money they need, often an Edge Fund grant is the only financial support they have.
So far most of our donations have been one-off amounts so we’ve set ourselves a target of reaching 50 regular pledgers by the end of the year. Please support dedicated people challenging the status quo and demanding the change we need – pledge a monthly donation to Edge Fund.
Sign up here: http://edgefund.org.uk/donation/
For an update on how the appeal’s going, visit the DONATE page.
What people say about Edge Fund…
I donate monthly to Edge Fund because I see loads of people giving money to good causes, but most of the money goes into charity rather than justice – charity isn’t a bad thing but for me it should only be a short-term solution. I also support Edge Fund because I’m trans* and some of the social justice stuff affects me/my community personally. I like that you organise promoting it to different groups and sorting out who gets the money – I haven’t really got the time and energy to find lots of groups myself.
I give to Edge Fund because of your commitment to justice, your grassroots groups support and the fact that giving in this way means I don’t have to research the effectiveness of grassroots efforts myself, but can rely on your own decision-making process to make the best choice of whom to fund.
I give £5 per month to Edge Fund because I’ve been a fundraiser for 15 years and this is the most exciting form of fundraising for grassroots organisations I’ve ever seen, shifting power from the donor/ grant maker to the receivers, whilst creating a supportive network of progressive groups.
Edge is very attractive to me as a donor, and as someone who has worked in many small organisations, because you provide modest campaign expenses, without expecting campaigners to jump through bureaucratic hoops.
I believe Edge Fund is an amazing, groundbreaking and urgently needed experiment in radical funding. Being a member means I get to meet and make connections with an incredibly diverse and fascinating group of people.
Sitting down with other applicants and working out with them how to allocate the funds was a unique and fascinating experience. The process enabled me to meet people from many different campaigns and groups. So not only did we come away with some much needed funds but we also strengthened our network of contacts!
Edge Fund is now open for applications. Full details are at: www.edgefund.org.uk/how-to-apply and www.edgefund.org.uk/what-we-fund, including a sample application and tips on what to include. Please also take a look at groups supported in Round 1 and Round 2 to get a better idea of what we’re looking for. Previous applicants can apply again.
Please help us spread the word.
[THIS ROUND HAS NOW CLOSED - WE ARE NOT ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS AT THE MOMENT]
Round 2 of Edge funding came to a close 20 July during a meeting where 37 people came together to distribute £30,000 between 15 groups. Participants included applicants, Edge members and recipients of small grants from this round.
We met at the Stockwell Community Centre, which has a lovely hall with glass doors opening onto a courtyard garden. As is often the way on a Saturday morning, people arrived slowly from 10.30 onwards and the day started later than the 11.00 start we hoped for. After brief introductions and agreeing groundrules our facilitator started the day with an exercise which aimed to identify who’s in the room so that everyone can understand the different backgrounds, cultures, beliefs and other factors which they may need to take into account during the day. It also aims to highlight what people have in common as well as celebrating our differences. The exercise had a mixed response, some welcomed the opportunity to learn about each other as individuals and others found it uncomfortable or questioned its relevance.
We then shared a little of the feedback on applications from assessments submitted before the meeting. We explained that after lunch we would be breaking into Group A and Group B; applicants in Group A would set up a ‘stall’ for their group while Group B and Edge members would visit the stalls to find out more about their work and their application. Then they’d swap. Lunch was an opportunity to talk to those in the same Group as you, who you would not otherwise get a chance to speak with. An amazing spread of Indian food was served by one of our members who had got up at 5am that morning to prepare it, accompanied by an Iraqi dish from another member – it was delicious and very much appreciated!
As last time, the stalls brought the room to life with passionate discussions about issues facing communities in the UK. Groups unable to attend on the day joined us via phone or Skype. In the garden, groups of people huddled around laptops and mobile phones on loud speaker, finding shade under the trees. It was difficult to bring the discussions to an end, with a clear sense that people could have spent all day making new connections and learning about each other’s work.
Once Group A and B swapped around, we came back together in a circle. Our voting systems are still evolving, and after some discussion about the voting system for this round it was decided that 30 chickpeas should be given to each member and each applicant group to distribute between the 15 groups. The maximum number of chickpeas you could allocate to one group was 5 and you could not vote for yourself. These votes were then combined with the scores submitted prior to the meeting (any duplicate scores were removed).
Each group was allocated £1,500 as a minimum, and the 5 groups receiving the highest scores were given an additional £1,500, bringing their total to £3,000.
£3,000 went to:
- Disabled People Against Cuts
- Why Refugee Women
- Tottenham Rights
- Independent Workers Union of Great Britain
- Black Triangle Campaign
£1,500 went to:
- Residents Action on Flyde Fracking
- Space Hijackers
- International Federation of Iraqi Refugees
- Shafted?! HIV Army
- Feminist Webs
- Hands off our Homes
- Quiet Riot
- Alliance for Choice Belfast
- Border Forum
You can find out more about the groups here: http://edgefund.org.uk/what-we-fund/round-2-supported-projects/
The day finished with a go-round, where each person shared their thoughts about the day to the group. The comments were more outspoken than last time and sometimes quite critical, but what was reassuring was that people seemed to understand and appreciate that we are still very much in our early stages – learning and evolving as we go. Several people from applicant groups have now also joined us as members, which we are always very happy about!
Improvements from last time
There were a few things we wanted to correct from the Round 1 meeting. Firstly, we wanted a more diverse group of people. The group was much more diverse than last time, mostly because more groups run by and for communities facing injustice applied and were short-listed in this round. However, as pointed out by a member in the online survey, representatives from Edge Fund were “still mostly white, middle class”. This should continue to improve over time, so long as we can be aware of, and respond to, the factors that affect who joins us.
Applicants who took part in the last meeting said they wanted to know more about the groups ahead of time, so we sent out all the applications three weeks before the meeting to both applicants and Edge members. We also gave people more information about what would happen on the day, including referring people to the notes on the previous meeting on our website. We also asked people about people’s requirements in good time, including any cost reimbursements needed.
The scoring system changed from Round 1. In the last round, as it turned out, the highest grant was only £500 more than the lowest and people commented that this didn’t seem right considering the amount of time spent on assessing and scoring. Before the meeting we had agreed a system which translated the scores into a percentage of the amount requested in the application. However, this was quite a complex calculation and we felt it was important everyone understood how the grants were worked out. Therefore, this time we proposed that each group receive a minimum of £1,500, with the top 5 scored applications receiving an additional £1,500. People seemed to much prefer this system than the one used at the last meeting.
The venue we chose last time was not as accessible as it could have been in terms of central location, public transport options and proximity to the nearest station. This time we chose the Stockwell Community Centre, which is just around the back of the Stockwell tube station, which is well serviced by the Victoria line and several buses. The Stockwell Community Centre also has wi-fi, allowing people to join us via Skype (although the signal was not reliable inside). We ensured cups and plates were provided this time, instead of asking people to bring them along. Again, one of our members cooked lunch.
Areas to improve
One major point from the last meeting was that there wasn’t enough time to talk with each applicant on a one-to-one or small group basis. Sharing applications ahead of time was an attempt to ensure that time spent at the meeting was more meaningful as people would already know who all the groups are. However, people again said that they would have liked more time to talk to other groups, particularly the few who did not have time to read the applications beforehand, and some felt uncomfortable making a judgement with the amount of information they had. Many people suggested that the day start with presentations, which we have been reluctant to do before now since it can be very intimidating to present to a large group, but we will need to reconsider this.
Whilst we had done our best to ensure all groups were able to participate in the day, including letting people know the date two months in advance and covering travel costs, four groups were not able to be with us in person. One of the groups could not even join us remotely and we noted that this affected their score; the scores they received based on their written application before the meeting were higher than the scores submitted on the day.
We need to get the balance right between asking people to be part of a decision-making process, which requires some critical thinking about other groups and their work, and trying to build community and connections as individuals. The two aims seem to be slightly at odds with each other. In this meeting, many people felt strongly the focus should be about the groups, not who we are as people, whereas others wanted to make more personal connections.
It seemed this time that people felt less able to participate compared to last time. This may be a reflection of the greater diversity in the room or perhaps the style of facilitation. Also, last time we paired applicants up with members well ahead of the meeting so they had a main contact person and support to complete the full application. This time we made this optional, so that groups were only paired up if requested. Only one group asked for support from a member and this may have had an impact on how comfortable people felt when they arrived. That said, the comments at the end suggested people were comfortable enough to air some of their honest thoughts.
As a fund with limited resources and many applicants, it is difficult to overcome the sense of competition. This was uncomfortable for some people on the day. There is no obvious solution to this as we will never have enough funds for everyone, but we are exploring other ways of helping groups so that more applicants can benefit from the process even if they don’t receive funding.
We’re very lucky that everyone who took part gave us honest and useful feedback on the day and we’ve already got a clear idea on how the next meeting should be structured. We’re also gathering further feedback ahead of our next members’ meeting to help us address some of these issues.
Feedback shared at the end of the day
Considering this is a work in progress the day went outstandingly well. The intent and the heart of Edge Fund is very clear. Everything is done with sensitivity. It was a positive experience.
We repeated some of the same mistakes as last time. We ended up discussing how to use the scores again. There are always drawbacks whatever you choose to do, it’s hard to please everyone. It would be great if everyone could take responsibility for moving Edge forward.
I would like for everyone to be able to speak for a few minutes to the group as I was not able to meet everyone.
I enjoyed the morning’s exercise. I want to know who the people are behind the organisations otherwise I don’t feel connected. Hiding behind an organisation can be a way of distancing ourselves and that defeats the object of Edge Fund. I agree with the comments about the short presentations and stalls. We should have one voting system at a time. I enjoyed meeting people today.
The morning exercise didn’t work. Each group should have had 2-3 minutes at the beginning to present to everyone. We stumbled a bit at the voting stage and shouldn’t try to change the system on the day. Small groups worked really well. The afternoon was much better.
I enjoyed every moment. I learned a lot from the morning session, it helps you to know who you’re talking to.
I didn’t like the morning exercise. People need time to recover from emotional experiences like that.
I liked the morning, it helped to build trust and allowed us to get to know each other. It was quite moving.
I liked the morning too. I will use it with my group. I felt comfortable talking about my experiences. I liked the voting with chickpeas.
I have mixed feelings about the day. I am not sure how useful the morning was. Activities should be more connected to the aims of Edge – did it help meet the goals of creating change
I am always so impressed by the people I meet through Edge. I wonder, does it take too much time to come along to a day like this? I hope you will join us as members. Regarding the morning, I am not against inner work but it should be a distinct exercise for Edge as a radical organisation.
The morning was good. The projects this time were even better than last time and the voting system was better too.
The afternoon was flawed because you couldn’t talk to everyone. We need to have presentations.
The day was very positive on the whole. The beginning was helpful, as people arrived divided but it made people see what they had in common with others. But the questions need to be carefully considered. It feels like Edge is moving in the right direction.
It’s great to be able to talk about more controversial stuff and to celebrate ‘edginess’! The food was delicious. Perhaps groups could make posters next time, to communicate about their work. I was pleased with the outcome of the scoring, I can see why the top 5 were in the top 5.
I would like to give thanks, Edge is fantastic and refreshing. It is brilliant what Edge is trying to do. The scoring process was enhanced by being here but it could have been better. The structure was poor. I made connections today that immediately justified my time being here. Edge is so young, it’s a wonderful process to be part of.
I was not a massive fan of the morning, it went on for too long. There was not enough time for discussion and we needed more printed copies of applications. The £1,500/ £3,000 split worked really well. I agree we need short presentations.
I love meeting people in person at Edge meetings. I feel very energised. I like the process.
It’s good to have an introductory exercise but it needs to be shorter.
I have seen big companies run less effective meetings! Let’s remember – A lonely whisper, together we shout. Let’s support each other. This is just the start.
The morning session was not necessary. In the application it didn’t ask about our identity. It’s about the organisation, not the individual. The funding process was very good.
Very interesting to meet many people in the flesh who I had not met before. I was not happy about the first session. Individuals are not important, human rights are universal. So happy to see different groups together. Groups need the opportunity for shared experiences.
It’s amazing that Edge exists. I also prefer to have presentations. Maybe people could bring pictures and photos? It is different hearing in person than reading an application. I didn’t like the morning exercise, it made me see our differences. The voting system was good. I met interesting people.
I didn’t mind the morning – I quite liked it. But it needs to be shorter. I like the idea of posters. I would like to hear groups’ visions. What we are for, not just what we’re against. Should we score against set criteria?
It was a beautiful day. Opportunity to meet people. I would definitely like to hear 5-10 minute presentations. I still want to know more, would be nice to listen more. Excited about how Edge can go further. For the morning exercise there should have been a section with questions relating to groups.
I had a great day, feel reaffirmed. People were sensitive even when giving criticisms. Can people who like presentations support others who are less confident? We also need more help in the engine room of Edge.
We should focus on groups not individuals, with more information at the beginning about the campaigns. We missed a trick; should have made time to find ways of helping each other. The voting system was better than last time. Edge is radical. Fantastic organisation.
“We think that it is crucial that as refugee women we are able to speak for ourselves – one of our mottos is ‘Nothing about us without us’. Too often, charities and researchers claim to speak ‘on behalf’ of asylum-seeking and refugee women, and are able to attract grant money in doing so, with little input from these women”.
Group run by and for refugee women
This is a story we hear all too often in the applications that arrive in our inbox: people who have had enough of others speaking for them and making decisions about their lives. Of course, this happens to all of us in many situations, particularly relating to government and places of work, but in the charity and non-profit world it is seldom challenged.
Generally charities are seen as doing good for society, and many of them do. So it can be hard to look critically at them. But it’s our sense that many have become large organisations distanced from the communities they aim to help and run by professional people who come from very different backgrounds from those communities. This is most obvious with large international organisations that often have head quarters in the North, directing the work in the Global South, but applies to many smaller organisations too. Charities often take power away from communities as they impose projects upon them in the name of doing good. Funding bodies often replicate this model, again with decision-makers who are unrepresentative and unanswerable to the communities their decisions affect.
People have the right to make decisions about their own lives, and they’re more likely to come up with solutions that are effective and appropriate for them. No matter how educated on a subject a person is, or how well meaning they are – it doesn’t give them the right to have power over others, and especially those less privileged than themselves. That’s not to say that there isn’t a role for people to help others, we can all be powerful allies, but there’s a big difference between leading and supporting.
We need a new way of organising society where everyone can be in control of their own lives and communities and where we all have an equal say. This needs to apply to every corner of society, including the distribution of money and resources. That’s why we focus our funding on two overlapping types of groups; self-organised groups speaking on their own behalves and taking action against the injustices they face and political groups taking action against the systems of power that affect us all. And that’s why we’re asking UK-based people to join our Advisory Group – so we can make sure that the people with the biggest say about Edge Fund applications affecting disabled people are disabled people, and the same for other communities, whether based on race, class, sexuality, gender, immigration status or other grounds. To make it work we need people to get involved, so please get in touch on edgefund @ riseup.net or 0300 123 1965 / 07767 126 915.
Please also share your stories about how funding has affected your group or community so we can help raise awareness of these issues.
“We want to do things the way we think they need to be done, not how ‘experts’ and certain philanthropists and funding organisations think they should be done”.
Group run by and for disabled people.
We’ve recently set up an Advisory Group, who review applications relating to their own identity and community and provide guidance to members when they are considering applications for funding. We’re looking for more members of the Advisory Group. If you share our passion for justice and equality and would like to take part, please contact us! We’re always looking for new members too, so if you’d like to take part in deciding which groups receive funding, please get in touch. Time commitment is flexible. Please spread the word throughout your networks.
New members signed-up, new projects formed and a belter of a programme took place as Edge Fund launched in Scotland a few weeks ago.
Hosted by The African Carribean Centre, those in attendance heard from long term anti-poverty campaigner Cathy McCormack, comedian and former MSP Rosie Kane, the people behind the new documantary from Dartmouth Films ‘The Spirit Level’, Glasgow based professional filmakers, artists and activists ‘The Camcorder Guerillas’, Galgael, Goldschwanz from the Glasgow Sex Workers Open University, prolific activist and organiser Ann Lynch, Hermine Makangu from Let Freedom Ring and finally AnneSwartz and Jessie Harvey from Scottish Kinship Care Alliance.
The party then continued into the night with music provided by The Woven Tents (Kids in the park) Band and One Love Promotions (Reggae and Soca).
Katharine Round, from ‘The Spirit Level’ commented on the night:
“Thank you for inviting me to be part of the Edge Fund launch night – it’s a fantastic initiative and brilliant to be there with so many inspiring individuals all working for positive change in their communities. The atmosphere was electric and a sign for big things in the future!”
Thank you so much to everyone who came and who performed! Watch this space for the upcoming video. And a big thank you to Larissa Moran for photos and videos and to the one, the only, African Caribbean Network Scotland for hosting the night! More photos of all the performers can be found here.
To get involved in the Scottish developments please email email@example.com.
Almost a year after our very first meeting, Edge members came together to review how it has gone so far. Whilst we still have a way to go to live up to our own expectations, it did feel like an achievement to: find a group of people willing to make this happen, agree on our aims and values, work out some democratic grant-making processes, raise some money, receive and deal with hundreds of applications, give grants to 28 groups, begin sharing our model with others in the field, open round 2 – and start the review process!
The first review – and some quick fixes
From the beginning we discussed the importance of reviewing how we’re doing and committed to keep learning and evolving. After the first round we tried to gather as much feedback as we could from members as well as successful and unsuccessful applicants through online surveys and conversations in person, on the phone or email. In the final funding meeting of Round 1, where applicants and members came together to decide how funding should be distributed, we also commissioned Shilpa Shah, a trainer and facilitator in radical community empowerment, to attend the meeting. Her role was to observe the meeting, have discussions with people before and afterwards and report back with suggestions for improvement. As an independent person, she was able to get some critical feedback that is crucial for the review process.
Some of the points raised during the review process were easier to resolve than others. For example, we have introduced a new rating system, which we feel requires more considered thought and therefore will be fairer. We’ve ensured members give more feedback when scoring applications so we have more information to give applicants. We’ll also make sure we provide more information to applicants in plenty of time before the final meeting, as some felt that knowing who else would be there and having a better idea of the process would help reduce nerves on the day and everyone wanted to know more about each other’s work. We also need to try to slow down sometimes, even though that can be difficult when there’s always such an urgency to address what’s going on around us.
Diversity, inclusivity and participation
To ensure we include and give equal say to people from many different backgrounds, and particularly those most often marginalised by society, we are looking more closely at how we work and how that affects who is able to take part and who holds the power. As an organisation with an aim to create an equal and just world it’s particularly important we get this right. Even with a flat organisational structure that gives everyone an equal say, this often doesn’t happen in reality since higher levels of confidence, experience and knowledge, plus cultural and other factors, can give some people a louder voice.
From our first meeting we’ve struggled to get good representation of people from different communities and backgrounds involved. A participant of the final meeting of Round 1 commented, “the largest group of people there were white, male and university educated”. Low diversity has meant that at times throughout the process some people have felt like lone voices and struggled to be heard – and in some cases been unhappy with decisions made as a consequence. Generally, it also resulted in some lack of understanding of the different models of change of different communities.
Without question the practices of some charities and funders, past and present, make it difficult to gain the trust of communities. It’s not surprising considering often people running charities and funds are from privileged backgrounds, often making decisions about people very different to themselves – and often the wrong ones. This relationship between funder, charities and communities often also reinforces power inequalities in society. Some communities are suspicious about sources of funding: who’s behind the scenes; what’s the real agenda? So it was never going to be straight forward, but we also have to put up our hands and say we’ve made some decisions along the way that have made it more difficult for us to reach out beyond the usual networks. For example, we’ve made some decisions regarding venues for meetings, language used in materials and choice of people to carry out certain roles that may have made people feel unwelcome or that we are not for them. This all needs to be thought through more in future if we’re to effectively break down power structures and become more inclusive.
Taking action on diversity issues
Often when organisations attempt to tackle diversity issues it becomes a tick box exercise. The first step is getting lots of different people involved in your organisation, but that’s just the first step. The harder part is ensuring everyone is actually taking part and being heard. During the review meeting we talked about barriers to participation, which included the points above about diversity and inclusivity but also time, financial considerations, ability and location. Following on from discussions at the meeting we’re looking more closely at these aspects and are starting to develop ways to make it easier for everyone to take part.
A major decision we made at the review meeting was to set up an Advisory Group. The Advisory Group is made up of members with personal experiences of facing discrimination and injustice on the grounds of gender, sexuality, race, class, disability, political views and other grounds. For Round 2 they have the first say about applications with relevance to their own backgrounds and identities and give guidance to the membership. This will hopefully improve the decision-making by ensuring concerns about applications from people of relevant backgrounds are raised before members score them – in round 1 concerns could only be addressed afterwards which made it difficult for us to address them properly. We’re also hoping the Advisory Group members can help to reach out to their communities and networks. We hope this will have a major impact on Edge’s reach and decision-making. It will hopefully ensure voices representing relevant communities have a louder voice and are heard first, as well as allowing us to better support different communities’ strategies for creating change.
Whilst we’re doing our best to be aware of and address areas we need to improve, we should also celebrate what our members have achieved. Now we’re part through Round 2 we’re glad to see a much wider range of applications, and many more from self-organised groups from frontline communities. We have also recently welcomed new members, bringing total membership to 55 and more importantly making it a little more representative of all the different communities in the UK. We’ve started getting people in the same room who would not usually cross paths. We’ve raised around £150,000 so far and we’ve funded some inspiring groups with a real dedication to justice and equality who have virtually no other options for financial support. We’re now being invited to write articles and attend meetings about funding so are starting to get the word out about a different way of working. It feels like the project is starting to build some strong foundations. It’s early days, but we’re making progress.
We set ourselves a challenge a year ago – much of what we’re doing has not been done before and we never expected to get it right straight away. We have chosen to set up a member-run fund which will back grassroots groups, using a simple application process which keeps barriers to funding to a minimum, and which deliberately avoids being a ‘charity’ with all the patronising connotations of that system. We are committed to working in solidarity. We’re hoping others will join us; we’re always looking for new members, donors and applicants.
To create a just and equal world we need to develop new ways of organising ourselves and our resources. That’s going to mean working together, being creative, stepping out of our comfort zones, taking risks, making mistakes, learning and evolving. Edge is committed to playing a small part in this process of reinventing the society we live in.
This is just the beginning of an on-going learning and reflecting process. We’re thankful to everyone who has given time and thought to share feedback openly with us and to all our members for all their work. Feedback is welcome at any time. You might also want to read the full minutes of the review meeting and our first year of expenditure.