An unfortunate trend of applying business principles to giving, described as ‘philanthrocapitalism’, is starting to take a hold. Part of this is a focus on data and measuring the impact (outcomes) of projects. The Measuring and Evaluating Outcomes in Practice annual conference today, organised by New Philanthropy Capital, is focused entirely on how to measure impact to attract funding.
The problem with this is that the ‘outcome’ most worth fighting for, with the longest-term impact, is also the hardest to measure – and that’s social change. The independent, grassroots groups creating the change we need are also less likely to have the resources needed to measure outcomes in the way some funders expect. Another point worth remembering is that you can never fully measure the impact of social change and campaigning work. For example, the campaign to stop the Newbury bypass failed to stop the road being built, but after that other road schemes were fought and one after the other were cancelled. There’s no question that the Newbury bypass campaign’s high media profile, mobilisation of the public and development and testing of strategies played a big part in the success of the campaigns that followed.
Focusing on measurable outcomes can discourage groups from addressing wide-reaching systemic issues and encourages them to play safe rather than engaging in the innovating and risk-taking that’s needed to create long-term change. Cathy Pharoah writes:
Yes, there is an easier way to produce results-based performance. It means tackling problems that are solvable, focusing on outcomes that are achievable and outputs or indicators that can be measured.
But the sector’s role has always been to address precisely those issues that society has found difficult to resolve – issues that require inputs at individual, community, and political levels… where attitudinal or behavioural change involves improvisation, trial and error, and where the best outcome might be three steps forward, two steps back.
The focus on data can also mean concerning yourself with quantity over quality. Training 100 health workers in Pakistan might look great on paper, but if they don’t actually go on to do the work, because no one is willing to fund the salaries, it’s hardly an achievement. If you’ve supplied food to 200 people, but neglected to spend the time and resources to reach people most isolated and marginalised by society, have you really achieved more than a group who did, but as a consequence only fed 150? Is providing intensive therapy to 10 deeply traumatised asylum seekers less worthy of support than helping more – but less traumatised – people?
Philanthrocapitalism also tends to involve huge sums of money, from corporations and wealthy individuals, which can reduce organisations’ independence and ability to challenge the corporate sector. For example, Save the Children have recently partnered with GlaxoSmithKline, which is surprising considering their earlier criticism of the company for pricing their drugs out of reach of people who need them most. It will be interesting to see how that relationship evolves as they work together to develop new products and expand across Africa. There will likely be more partnerships like this as traditional sources of funding continues to dry up.
We all want to know we are having an impact, and it’s important we reflect, learn and evolve, but let’s not become short-sighted and overlook important factors such as inclusivity, innovation, solid ethics and social change, by turning it all into a numbers game.
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.
Edge Fund Round 2 is still open for applications. The deadline is 22 April. Please help us spread the word to small groups working in the UK for social, economic and environmental justice and for an equal world. Find out how to apply, what we fund and who received funding in the first round on our website.
On 16th March around 35 people gathered in a community centre in North Islington, London to collectively decide how the first round of Edge Fund funding should be distributed amongst the final 15 projects. The gathering included representatives of the projects themselves and Edge Fund members. Before the day £10,000 had already been shared out between 13 runners up, leaving £30,000 for the final 15.
At the start of the day people expressed feelings of both anxiety and excitement at being the first to try an entirely new, democratic grant-making process. It is very unusual for applicants to know who else is in the running for the limited funds, let alone to get the chance to spend the day with them and the decision-makers of the fund to decide together which projects should receive funding.
The first to arrive were Edge members who came early to prepare a hearty soup for lunch. As people arrived the table filled with bread and other food to share. It was a rainy morning and the closures on the Northern line meant many people arrived late, delaying the start of the day. But people quickly relaxed in each other’s company through a few exercises to help people to get to know each other. People brought objects with them to help tell their stories of why they do what they do. A bag of freshly picked organic leaves, a Romani flag, photos of protests and other items soon got conversation going.
Ground rules were set collectively; be gentle, honest, respectful, curious, it’s also ok to challenge each other. We then laid out and discussed the funding priorities; groups which cannot get funding elsewhere who are either people facing oppression and are self-organising to challenge this or groups standing beside them to bring about systemic change. Some trial applications, one group of lesbian, gay, transgender and queer people of colour and another working in solidarity with immigration detainees, showed the diversity of opinion in the room. People stood along a line according to their score out of ten for each project and for both people were spread across the room. Questions were raised around what creates social change, what projects cannot get funding elsewhere and the importance of the most affected communities being involved in leading the work.
Welcome 2013 with revolutionary fervour at the EDGE FUND GLASGOW LAUNCH PARTY
Saturday 6th April
African Caribbean Network Centre, 66-68 Osborne Street, Glasgow, G1 5QH
7 – 10pm
ARE YOU A COMMUNITY ACTIVIST, ARTIST OR PERFORMER RAISING YOUR VOICE FOR JUSTICE?
Edge Fund activists are looking for artists, activists, performers and community organisers to make the Glasgow launch night amazing. The Edge Fund is a really good sign of things to come. There are so many amazing people out there who can benefit. We want to showcase the biggest talents from the roaring belly of resistance on our streets and in our communities. Please do email over any links / suggestions ASAP to firstname.lastname@example.org – Check out the Edge Fund launch in London here – more videos and footage here.
Programme on the night
7.00 – 7.30 Performances – why we need to build community power .. the issues alive in Glasgow.
7.30 – 8.00 Small group feedback
8.00 – 8.15 – Q and A
8.15- 8.45 – Soulful music – chillax – connect shout outs to different crews, organisations and groups in the building, in case people wish to make connections and network.
Please RSVP if you would like to contribute and / or reserve a ticket ASAP to email@example.com.
LET FREEDOM RING! POPULAR EDUCATION TRAINING – READING OUR REALITY IN 2013
SATURDAY 6TH APRIL – AFRICAN CARIBBEAN NETWORK CENTRE, 66 – 68 OSBORNE STREET, GLASGOW G1 5QH – 4 – 6pm
Let Freedom Ring! – from South Africa comes the UK launch of Training for Transformation in 2013 – “The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” ― Steve Biko www.theglassishalffull.co.uk
PLEASE NOTE THERE ARE LIMITED SPACES FOR THE TRAINING – MAXIMUM 20 SPACES – please respond ASAP on firstname.lastname@example.org. It Is Free! :)
On 1st March we spoke at the Social Justice Philanthropy Conference in London. Stephen Pittam of the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace kicked off. He talked about social justice philanthropy coming about as a response to the neoliberal agenda and outlined some key themes such as addressing root causes and structural injustices and strengthening marginalised communities to speak for themselves. A good start. But this was swiftly followed by Andrew Barnett of Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation who argued that the ‘mire of lofty ideals’ often resulted in less effective grant-making (read speech in full). It’s hard to understand why someone concerned with social justice would want to perpetuate society’s inequalities through their own processes. He went on to note we should work more with the private sector and bridge the gap between the for-profit and non-profit worlds.
The discussion then went off on a worrying tangent about Corporate Social Responsibility. Apparently corporations are beginning to understand that making unpopular decisions behind closed doors is not being tolerated any longer, especially when the public finds out. Is fear of being found out an indication of ethics? A suggestion was made that perhaps bankers should start up their own charitable funds, each putting in a little of their inflated salaries, presumably to improve public relations.
It’s not just social justice that has different interpretations. Many people throughout the day talked about addressing root causes. One person talked about the importance of ‘teaching a man to fish’, while another talked of giving fishing nets instead of fish. But is this addressing the real root cause of the problem? People are quick to stop asking why. Why can’t people buy their own nets? Why are they no longer making their own nets from natural materials? Why are there no fish in the ocean? Why do communities lose their traditional skills that have been passed on from generation to generation? (more…)
This week Edge is celebrating the beginning of a new stage in the community building process. New Community Outreach positions have begun to help continue supporting communities organising for justice and equality all over the UK. The overarching aim of this development is to ensure the fund reaches out to as many diverse projects covering as many different issues as possible.
Currently our membership and applications are not as representative of all the different people, communities and campaigns in the UK as they need to be. We realise that to reach a wide range of people we need to listen, learn and spend time on the ground with different communities. As a new fund we’ve had limited capacity to do this but are excited to now be putting outreach plans into action.
Luckily we have two people who will be working together in these roles one day a week and so a plan is underway to organise and network within many different communities across the UK. We hope by doing this we make sure word gets out to the right places ahead of our second round of funding which will open soon with a deadline of April 22nd.
Dan who has just started the job said:
“In the face of the most unimaginable horrors of inequality I am honoured to be part of the Edge Fund Community Outreach plans. Through the strengthening of our relationships on the ground the conversations within our communities are changing. Conversations around being victims and continuously marginalised are changing to being fearless interconnected communities for justice whom are questioning power, providing hope and building strong people’s movements for change.
Please get in contact anytime over the coming months with any ideas and questions. There will be launch events across the UK and regular communications of how to organise in our communities, watch this space”
Joe, our other community outreach worker said:
“I truly believe that if Edge Fund is built up in the right way – it could become an extremely powerful place of support for grassroots organisations and movements in the UK. I am looking forward to meeting and linking up with all the great projects that are out there.”
Please contact us to arrange a meeting if you’d like to find out more about funding available, becoming a member or contact point within your community or network, or for any other query. You can contact Joe and Dan at: email@example.com or call 07767 126 915
In the beginning we had 20-30 people come to each meeting. People represented a wide range of issues and communities and commented on how nice it was to be amongst such a diverse group, not least having both donors and activists in the same room. There were lively and less lively discussions about what function Edge should have, what our collective values are, our funding criteria and all sorts of other things. But as meetings passed it became clear there were only a small number of people willing to get involved in the nitty gritty of writing our rules, setting up bank accounts and all the boring but necessary stuff. But that was fine, because the people in the room are the right people, and the job got done!
Our starting point was the aim to put decision-making about funding into the hands of those who don’t usually have that power. It’s not that hard to find people from the usual activist networks to devolve that power to, but it’s much more difficult to get people from the most oppressed communities to take part. We’ve long deliberated over use of language and even put on a special event targeting these communities, which failed to attract any number of the people we wanted to reach. A few people mentioned to us that they knew some groups were wary and wanted to see what happens in the first round before considering getting involved. Discussions with progressive funders like Community Foundation of Northern Ireland and Social Justice Fund North West have confirmed that this process takes time and certainly much more than just inviting people to come to you.
We announced our first round on 1st October without knowing quite what to expect. To keep it simple and accessible the first stage of the application process was just one page. By the end of that month we’d received around 50 applications and were excited at the prospect of receiving a hundred or more by the 1st December deadline. We received 334! People from 118 different countries viewed our website, with 20,440 page views during the application period. Applications covered a wide range of issues including criminal justice, detention centres, LGBTQ, mining, climate change, violence against Travellers, rights for disabled people, mental health and racism.
We’ve had a great response to our launch party tomorrow night, so we’ve doubled the space to get more people in! There’s still room if you’d like to come; please RSVP to edgefund @ riseup.net and we’ll send more details.
End 2012 with a bang and welcome 2013 with revolutionary fervour at EDGE FUND LAUNCH PARTY.
December 15th in London. Venue tbc.
Edge Fund are looking for artists, activists, performers and community organisers to make the launch night amazing. We want to showcase the biggest talents from the roaring belly of resistance on our streets and in our communities. If you’re interested in taking part or have ideas about others who might be, please do email over any links / suggestions ASAP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ve had 70 applications for our first round so far and there’s still plenty of time to apply. Our deadline is 1 December and we initially we just need one page with basic information about your group. Full details on the How to Apply page on our website. We’re particularly looking for applications from communities who are most affected by inequality and injustice, as well as groups working in solidarity with them and working towards systemic change. Please help us spread the word!
The first round is now open! Details on how to apply are on our website: http://edgefund.org.uk/how-to-apply/
Please help us spread the word!
The minutes of the last meeting, on 14 September, are now online.
The good news is, we’re (hopefully) looking at an early October launch!
This month’s Alliance Magazine, a leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide, features an article about Edge Fund. You can read the full article below.
In the last Edge Fund meeting, on 25 July, some major decisions were made about the fund’s values, decision-making and how it will operate. You can now read the minutes of the meeting on the website: http://edgefund.org.uk/get-involved/meetings/25-july-2012-minutes/
If you’d like to get involved please contact edgefund [at] riseup.net.