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Third time lucky

January 20, 2014

photoOn 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!

blog photo

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:

Edge 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.

Forward planning

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.

Bryony photoProcess

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.

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