On 11 January 68 people attended the final meeting of Round 3. Whilst most people came from the London area, people also travelled in, including from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, Bristol and Derby. We covered travel costs to make this possible. One of the participants, DIY Space for London, wrote a lovely blog about the day, which you can read below or on their website.
It feels like the process is becoming clearer and that people really got a lot out of meeting each other and hearing about each other’s work. The meeting seemed a definite improvement to our first and second attempts. However, there are always improvements to be made, see the end of the page for some thoughts on that.
You can also now read the full list of groups funded in Round 3.
Grant-making with a difference – notes from the Edge (Fund) …
Posted on 14/01/2014 by DIY Space for London
On Saturday 11th January 2014 we were awarded a £1500 grant from Edge Fund!
This is our first non-donated/fundraised income and it means a lot to us for it to come from a funding org run by and for radical groups working on social change. Two representatives from DIY Space for London attended an interactive, democratic funding decision making session which lasted the whole day. It was a really special one for a lot of reasons. Here’s a little bit about what went down..
We arrived at 10.30am to a community centre in Finsbury Park. We were a bit nervous to meet so many new people at once but abundant tea and biscuits and a plunge into Ye Olde Icebreaker, which soon put paid to our worries.
Migrant and refugee organising was well-represented across a range of campaigns including Lesbian Immigration Support (from Manchester) Anti-Raids Network and UK Chagos Refugee Support. Some projects, like Reel News and Green and Black Cross were looking for funding to buy new equipment or redesign their website, while others like Brighton Anti-Fascists were looking for help with budgeting for community outreach projects. The space-based projects like ours and Common House, a meeting space for radical groups based in Bethnal Green (excited to visit soon!) Regardless of their focus, every single person who spoke showed their passion and commitment clearly in the two- minute speech we all gave as an intro.
After this we split into two groups and created stalls where everyone in attendance, including shortlisted orgs, previously funded orgs and Edge Fund members, could quiz each other about their projects, based on previously disseminated info from the simple application form Edge ask for. DIY Space for London as a project was something a lot of people felt interested in, and were keen to offer their thoughts about how to make the space as accessible as possible, how to genuinely connect with the area in which the space will be, how to create a robust but workable system around safer spaces concerns, how to find an affordable commercial lease and how to balance realism with what can sometimes feel like a utopian demand (!). To be bombarded with such productive and informed positive and support was genuinely brilliant, a little overwhelming at times, but very exciting. We had to ask ourselves some tough questions and worked on the answers together with our new friends.
Then, after a break for delicious soups, breads and salads, we sat down to begin assigning scores. This is grant-making with a radical difference – everyone in the room was given a cup of chickpeas (uncooked!) and offered the chance to assign each group up to five chickpeas. The lowest amount a group would receive would be £1,500 (no small fry in itself!) with the maximum being up to £4,500 for one group. Together through chickpeas it was decided that the vital work of Lesbian Immigration Support would be the group to receive this amount. The whoop that went up (not just from that group!) when this was announced, and the sense of positive encouragement was great to see. I left with a to-read and to-do list as long as my arm, and a real sense of having make connections with people who care about the same things as we do, a pool of resources we can build together.
Overall, the day was an inspiring example of building an alternative funding model that really works. they are looking to grow their pot of money, this was round three and while the initial gift that the fund was founded on has got them this far, and enabled one of their members to be a part-time employee of the Fund, they need donations to continue the model and keep it moving forward. Check out their site here for more info about supporting and joining in for £1!
As for DSFL, £1500 is going to make a huge difference, bringing our fundraising total to just over £11,000! We’re about to announce the date of our next OPEN MEETING. It’s been a year since the first one, now it’s time to make this happen!
Improvements from last time
At the end of the meeting we asked people to say one thing positive about the day (noting that critical feedback also welcome via the online survey and review meeting). What really came through was how much people appreciated meeting and learning from other groups and particularly people they don’t normally cross paths with. Here are a few comments and tweets:
I was having so many good conversations that at one point I forgot I’d come for funding!
The process was really transparent and honest.
I was moved by people’s courage, grateful to people speaking openly about their experiences.
I was worried about it feeling very tense between all the groups but it wasn’t like that at all. People asked critical questions but in a positive way.
Funding is brutal and alienating, makes you rivals. This is the complete opposite as you vote for each other and then you’re happy when people get more than you. That’s not supposed to happen!
Often you have to lie in applications and tell funders what they want to hear. Here you don’t have to. Can answer questions honestly.
We came for the funding but stayed to meet others.
It was a real eye-opener. Thanks to everyone for educating me about what the media doesn’t tell us.
Overwhelmed by the power in this room. Amazing to see people from previous rounds part of the process.
One big improvement was the number of people who took part. In Round 1 and 2 around 40 people came, this time we had 68! All the final 14 groups came, plus 13 people from groups that received small grants came (2 of which members). The 2-minute presentations worked well, even though they were brief, it helped to put names to faces and to get an overview of all the groups. Generally the day seemed to run much smoother than previously and felt less rushed, partly because of it being the third time and being clearer on what we were doing, but people also commented that the facilitation was good. People also seemed more comfortable participating than last time.
It felt like there was more time to get to know other groups, perhaps because of the 2-minute presentations or the extra half hour before lunch (presentations ended early). We also had more printed applications for people to read on the day, but could probably have done with more still.
The venue was more convenient for those travelling into London from Manchester etc since it was just 3 stops on the tube from Euston, but by bus it was much longer.
Areas to improve
We’re still waiting for some more feedback to come in and will be reviewing the process thoroughly during the annual review, but some thoughts so far include:
Making people welcome
In this meeting, as previously, we put people on the door to welcome people as they arrived, but they always seem to then end up with another task to do so we don’t always do a good job of welcoming people as they come in. We need to have a bigger team of helpers and to make sure there is always someone on the door. We also need to work on the idea of pairing up members with groups, especially where only one representative of a group attends the meeting, to give support where needed.
We should have let people know in advance which of the groups who received small grants were going to be there so people could make the most of the networking opportunity – we should also make it clearer on the day and give those groups some recognition.
A few things should have been organised further in advance. The venue was booked late, and then we had last minute problems relating to equipment needed to cook and serve food. It also resulted in us buying plastic cups (which were washed and will be reused). The venue was also a little small for us.
Responding to people’s needs
Although the venue was fully DDA compliant, there was a wheelchair lift to take people down just 2 steps to the main area, which was not ideal. It would be better to start a little later in the day for people travelling from outside London and for people who cannot use the tube and therefore rely on buses, which can take longer. We need to be more aware of people’s needs around food, in particular, whether people are happy to eat food from shared pots. We do ask for this information, but should be more aware of cultural factors.
Preparation for participants
There’s still a lot of reading to do for people before the meeting. All the final applications totalled 60 pages. Even with two or three weeks to read it, it’s a lot. We could give people longer to read the applications, but this would then make the process longer.
The main glitch in the process was that groups that had applied for less than £1,500 didn’t need to be there since the minimum grant is £1,500. At the moment, short-listed groups that have requested £1,000 or less get their grant without having to answer the additional 5 questions or come to the meeting. So groups that have applied for over £1,000 (and less than £1,500) end up at the final meeting when they don’t need to be.
For the 2-minute presentation it would be good to give a visual sign for 30 seconds left, rather than verbal (otherwise you have to interrupt people), we should be stricter on time keeping (one group went over) and let them know which order they’ll be presenting in. Facilitators should try to keep a check on jargon during the presentations and throughout the day.
Some people still feel uncomfortable about the competitive element.
With just a few more days to go before the end of the year, we’ve nearly reached our target of 50 monthly donors. We only need six more people! Could you, or someone you know, be one of them? All amounts are very welcome and appreciated, as are one-off donations.
Who do we fund?
You can find out about all the groups we’ve given grants to in our first year here:
Groups include Disabled People Against Cuts, Why Refugee Women, Tottenham Rights, Brighton and Hove Unemployed Worker’s Centre, Coal Action Network, Foil Vedanta, Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association, Million Women Rise, Stop G8, 8 April Movement, Black Triangle Campaign, International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, Space Hijackers, Shafted?!, Hands off our Homes, Border Forum, War On Welfare (WOW) Petition and many more…
What might the money be used for?
We support groups that bring people together, build community, campaign for change… Since they don’t provide services, such as food and shelter, their needs are quite simple, they include:
- a place to meet
- a place to run public events, such as fundraisers
- printing of leaflets and posters
- funds for travelling to events and meeting with other groups
- use of phones and internet
Larger organisations take these resources for granted, but when you’re working on the ground, on your own time and using your own money, a few hundred pounds to cover these costs can make a huge difference.
Edge Fund’s running costs are very low. All our members work as volunteers. We have one part-time paid member of staff who works from home. Our costs, other than grants, are: hiring rooms for meetings, covering travel costs for members where needed, co-ordinator part-time salary, providing food at meetings and printing materials.
How do we decide who receives funding?
Edge Fund is member-run, so our 109 members decide together how we operate and who we fund. Most of our members come from the very groups we fund. Everyone has an equal say, regardless of whether they’ve made a financial contribution or not, or how much. We have a decision-making process that aims to be democratic, transparent and accountable. It’s an evolving process which we review after every round.
For each application, the first members to have a say about whether the applicant should be funded are those who share the same community/ identity with the people the applicant aims to help. For example, when we receive applications from groups that are run by migrants or aim to support migrants, our members from migrant backgrounds have the first say. After this, other members also take part, with guidance from those with relevant backgrounds. The process involves giving scores and feedback from home, and then meeting with applicants to make the final decisions (applicants take part in deciding too).
How much have we raised so far?
We’ve raised around £200,000 in our first year, and after this round will have given out £120,000. All our funds have come from individuals, most from a handful of people who kindly gave us enough to get us on our feet. But now we need lots of individuals to commit to giving a small amount every month so that we can be funded in a way that is more inline with our aims to be democratic and grassroots. It’s also more sustainable and allows us to plan ahead. We receive monthly donations ranging from £3 to £150, it all adds up! Larger one-off donations are also welcome.
Why give to Edge Fund?
The majority of the groups we support literally have nowhere else to go for funds. Many are not recognised as being ‘charitable’ as they exist to push for radical social change rather than providing support and services. Many are more informal in structure, as they don’t have the capacity to formally register and keep up with the necessary paperwork (it’s also not a great use of their time). These two factors mean that they can’t apply to the vast majority of foundations. We specifically look for groups that are run on passion, resourcefulness and a determination to bring about justice. Groups of people who are no longer prepared to put up with the status quo. They don’t have teams of paid staff (or any at all in most cases) or access to the resources of larger organisations, but they are independent and therefore free to tell it like it is.
Besides what we fund, Edge Fund in itself creates change by bringing diverse communities together to learn from each other and support each other’s struggles.
Please support grassroots action for real change
Please sign up for monthly donations to Edge Fund. If you’d like to directly support any of the groups we’re previously funded please let us know and we can help organise that. Please also get in touch if you can provide any of the resources listed above or can share skills such as fundraising, legal expertise or communications (PR, media etc). As a new fund, what we need most is more awareness of who we are and what we’re doing, so please do help us spread the word.
We wish all our members, groups and supporters a wonderful break; we’ll need it for 2014 – times are a changing!
**** UPDATE 31 December 2013 ****
We welcome all donations of any sizes and both one-off and regular contributions. The more we raise, the more we can pass on to all the amazing groups who come to us for some financial support. Please give if you can: make a donation here.
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.