30,000 pounds and 600 chickpeas
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.