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Edge Fund reviews itself

November 6, 2014

edge fund review

While our members are at the final stages of drawing up a short-list from the 335 applications we received in this round, we wanted to update everyone on some important organisational decisions that have recently been made.

Earlier this year we held three review meetings in London, Manchester and Leicester in order to try to include people from all across the country and to break out of the London ghettoisation. The meetings were incredibly valuable and many diverse voices gave their opinions on some key decisions we needed to make as a group moving forward.

We are a democratic and non-hierachichal organisation so we wanted to hear from as many of our members as we could about how they felt Edge is doing. Even though it was tempting to charge on forward with the next funding round we felt as a group that it was important to allow enough time for reflection so that we can continue to grow and assist amazing grassroots action groups across Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.

Below is a summary of some of the more crucial decisions that were made and the reason for them.

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Membership recruitment

As an organisation that is member-run, we need to be careful about who joins Edge Fund. As much as we want to be inclusive, there is a danger our values and aims could change over time if we don’t apply some criteria to who can join, especially as many of our views are not mainstream. We wanted to keep the membership application questions very simple, so these were only changed slightly, but we added a statement to the Become a Member page of the website pointing out that we support groups that ‘have radical views such as being against prisons, national borders, the police or military. Some may be openly anarchist or anti­-capitalist’. The aim of this statement was to make our values clearer, to attract people with similar aims.

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Getting to know members

With 125 members it can be hard to keep track of everyone, but we felt it was important to ask members to complete a survey asking them about their background and identity, what requirements they have for taking part and what they would like to do as an Edge Fund member. This would help us ensure members get what they want out of being a member, and importantly, allow us to be more aware of gaps in representation in the membership so this can be addressed. More about our members.

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Paying members

In an ideal world, Edge would not need to reimburse anyone for assisting Edge on big projects, because there would be no barriers to access by everyone working for free. In a slightly less ideal world, Edge would be able to pay everyone for the work they did for Edge, because we’d be swimming in money. Sadly, we live in neither of those worlds.

Therefore it was agreed that Edge will decide on a case-by-case basis to pay for work that would take substantially more time than is normally expected of members. (Members are not paid for assessing applications). Payment will only be on specific time-limited projects – e.g. organising a big Edge meeting – and will be paid at a fair wage (at the time of writing, £11/hour was paid to previous paid Edge workers).

The main reason for deciding to pay members was to decentralise the work by sharing it out amongst the membership, but with a particular emphasis on diversifying the voice of Edge by prioritising those who are often under-represented and may face particular barriers to taking part.

Scrutiny will rest in the hands of the Facilitating Group who will co-ordinate the work and ensure that the right person/people carry out the work that is needed to be done.

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Criteria on faith-based groups

We amended our funding criteria to include the following:

Individuals and groups who have a religious purpose are welcome to apply but we don’t provide financial support for any activity, initiative or project where the primary aim is to promote religion.

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Forum for Radical Sharing

We agreed to pilot a new initiative that we’re calling “Forum for Radical Sharing”. These will be set up over the next year for groups (including those we’ve funded) to share what they’ve learned, explore collaborations, share skills etc. The first Forum for Radical Sharing is set for Manchester in November. More info.

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New Reporting Requirements

Reporting back won’t be mandatory, but we will request that grantees provide a report and suggest the following formats (questions will also be offered as a guide):

5 -10 minute video
Half a page to a page written report
5 -10 minute presentation at the Forum for Radical Sharing
5 – 10 minute audio podcast (which could involve a member asking the questions over the phone or during a visit/ meeting and recording it)

More info about reporting.

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Changes to funding application questions

It was felt by some members that our previous application questions weren’t bringing out applicant’s values and it was hard to get an understanding of how they see the world and how they aim to tackle the root causes of injustice and inequality. To address this we have reworked the application questions slightly. Question 4 now reads as:

What in your view is the root cause (or causes) of the issues you’re working on and how do you address it?

The reason we ask this is because Edge Fund does not want to fund groups that are only addressing the symptoms of a problem/issue. For example, a disability organisation that only provides support to disabled people or a homeless organisation that only provides support to homeless people.

Edge Fund seeks to fund those groups who are addressing the root causes of issues. For example, a disability organisation taking direct action against government cuts affecting disabled people or a housing organisation that is campaigning for a more socially just housing system.

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Changes to process of assessing applications

This was a small change in policy. Previously the 15 applications with the highest average score from members were asked to send in additional information about their projects so that members had more information to help decide who gets how much money. However, at the final funding day each of the 15 groups receive a minimum of £1,500, therefore we decided that if the group had requested £1,500 or under they would not need to submit additional information.

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Some other things we talked about were; how we can work with other funders to support and encourage democratic processes and grassroots funding, how much we should have in the bank before announcing a funding round, fundraising and communications, how we can work effectively across regions, supporting applicants, building members skills (facilitation, how change happens, power and privilege), reviewing the co-ordinator role and supporting new members.

If you’re reading this paragraph that means you have made it to the end of this blog post. Thank you! This blog was written just to provide a basic update on the most key aspects that came out of the 3 review sessions. If you would like to find out more then the full minutes of each of the 3 meetings can be found on our website here: https://edgefund.org.uk/get-involved/meetings/

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