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14 April 2013 – minutes

Edge Fund review meeting – minutes

14 April 2013
11.00-16.00
Grow Heathrow, Sipson

Present (9 – quorum is 9)
JR, JS, MB, IB, SP, CK, AS, IA, SF

1. Process

The main concerns/suggestions about the decision-making process for funding were:

  • Concerns about applications were raised too late in the process;
  • Time-consuming;
  • Other ratings systems might be fairer;
  • Members did not give comments for ratings, which made it difficult to give feedback to groups.

a) Rating systems

Various rating systems were used in the first round

  • Weeding out 334 applications (done by Facilitating Group): 3 votes = group removed
  • Short-listing 171 applications: 0-10 rating = 7 or over short-listed
  • Rating 28 full applications: allocating funds in £
  • Meeting to allocate funds between 15 groups: 0-10 rating (groups were then each given £1,000 starting amount and the rest of the funds then distributed according to average rating)

We discussed whether we should have separate funding streams, perhaps a small grants process, which could be turned around in 6 weeks and then a 3-month turnaround for larger grants. Considering the sums given out, our process is quite long and burdensome compared to some other funders.

Initially we had agreed that we wanted to support groups working to create systemic change and also frontline groups challenging the injustice they are facing, whether or not they were explicitly striving for systemic change.  However, in reality, many frontline groups were assessed on the systemic change criteria. We need to recognise differences in groups’ approaches to creating change if we want a diverse range of groups to apply and be funded. Perhaps separate funding streams would help clarify this.

Throughout the process some members did not give much explanation for their ratings, which meant, in some cases we only had an average score to give them without anything more meaningful.

b) Second application/ Mentoring

People were unclear about this role, in particular whether mentors should also be making an assessment of the project. Through the process of supporting an applicant to apply, mentors gather important information which could be used in an assessment. However, there is a problem with mentors making an assessment as they are in a supportive role and it would feel disloyal.

Concerns were raised that we asked for too much additional information in the second stage, which will need to be discussed at the next meeting.

c) Meeting

A lot of time was spent rating applications which actually only made a few hundred pounds difference in the end. A system which has worked elsewhere is where e.g. there is £10,000 to allocate and a hundred tokens representing £100 each. Participants are then given an equal number of tokens to distribute between applications. There can be a base amount allocated first. This system is very transparent as you can see who allocates tokens where. A system based on this could be used at the meeting, and perhaps also earlier in the process. It will need more discussion.

The only problems with a points allocation system is the risk that people may just allocate all their points to their favourite projects without giving others a fair chance, and also that not everyone will be rating the same number of applications so will need different numbers of points to allocate accordingly.

There was not enough info about the projects for the applicants. A pack should have been sent out in advance for people to read.

Points agreed/ action needed re process:

Rating systems

  • We agreed that we do not have the funds or resources currently to have separate funding streams, and also that many applications don’t fit clearly into one category or the other which would make it difficult to create two streams.
  • At another time we’d like to develop a small grants stream (few hundred pounds), which can be turned around in a few weeks.
  • New rating systems: we agreed to use a rating system that consists of people allocating a set number of points, for later in the process. This can be fairer since it requires more thought. Exact details of how this will work need to be worked out.
  • For long-listing, we’ll use 0-5 rating as this is often easier than rating 0-10.
  • To ensure everyone gives each application proper consideration and to allow us to give feedback, members should give at least a line to explain their rating (whether points allocated or not).
  • We should be realistic and be clear that it will take 3 months for us to come to a decision, although we aim to do it faster in future.
  • More discussion needed on how exactly the points allocation system will work. How many points does each person get? Is there a maximum they can give each project?
  • Are we going to rate the full applications again and then split between small grants (up to £1,000) and then larger grants agreed at the meeting?

Second application/ Mentoring

  • Mentoring is a good idea but time-consuming. It should be offered as an option should groups need it, rather than every group automatically being given a mentor. Mentoring can be offered from an early stage.
  • Assessment should be very separate to mentoring. Perhaps we need to agree certain information that mentors should pass on?
  • More discussion needed about mentoring and assessing full applications. Will this be a job for the Advisory Group (see below)? Same person cannot be mentor and assessor.
  • We need to review the additional 10 questions for the second stage applications – too many questions? Can they be better integrated with the first stage questions?

Meeting

  • We will circulate information about projects to all applicants attending the meeting two weeks beforehand.
  • We’ll use the points allocation rating system.
  • More discussion needed around the practicalities of the final meeting, including process, food, inclusivity issues. Closer look at diversity/ inclusivity report.

See below about time issues and raising concerns earlier in the process.

2. Structure/ roles

a) Current structure

Currently we have a co-ordinator paid up to 4 days a week and two community outreach workers who work 6 hours a week for 3-months (ending April 30). We pay for facilitation of meetings when needed and have paid for someone to look at inclusivity and diversity issues. The membership is the decision-making body. We have a Facilitating Group of around eight to ten people who work with the co-ordinator to do work behind the scenes, such as preparing for meetings.

b) Advisory Groups

We talked about setting up advisory groups, which would consist of people sharing a common identity, as well as covering the environment as an issue.

Advisory groups would cover:

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Asylum/ refugee
  • LGBTQI
  • Ability
  • Class/ socio-economic background
  • Age
  • Environment
  • Radical activists

These groups would:

  • Be contact points for enquiries for their areas/ communities.
  • Help spread the word in their communities and networks and be a more approachable/ trusted face of Edge. This might include rewriting materials as needed.
  • Be the first to look at applications (initial and full?) concerning their own communities, make decisions about eligibility and raise concerns early in the assessment process (i.e. before members rate).

c) Facilitating Group

The time commitment of the Facilitating Group has been quite high over the last few months. This is mostly because of having to set up new processes which have all required a lot of thought, and the fact that we only had 25 members during the last round which meant more work for everyone. The Facilitating Group has also not been very diverse and particularly had more representation from donors than we’d like. We agreed from the beginning that this group should change regularly to prevent a hierarchy forming but that it’s important to have some continuity.  JS and AS would like to step down from the FG. CK and JR will stay. We’re assuming that DG will stand down due to being abroad for next few months and that PB will also step down. We’d like SG to stay is possible, or take part in Advisory Group. This will be reviewed in 3 months.

Points agreed/ action needed re structure and roles:

Advisory Group

  • Due to current capacity, we agreed it would not be feasible at this time to have a separate Advisory Group to cover each of the issues/ identities in the list above. We also feel attempting to ‘categorise’ people is difficult as people can fall into many different ‘categories’.
  • We agreed to have one Advisory Group that will include at least two people representing the issues/ identities listed.
  • We recognise that some people only feel truly comfortable and able to contribute when working with people who share similar backgrounds. People in the advisory groups are welcome to form sub-groups if they want to.
    • Some further clarification of the role needed.

Facilitating Group

  • We agreed it was time for some members of the FG to step down to make space for others and particularly to allow the group to become more diverse.
  • JS and AS will step down. MB happy to stay or be replaced. CK and JR to stay.
  • We need to check with DG, PB and SG about their position in FG.
  • We need to write something about what’s required of FG members.
  • Put a call out to members that we have spaces to fill in the FG and want to create a more diverse group.
  • Existing FG, and other members, should encourage other members to join FG if they feel they would be particularly suitable for the role.

3. Timeline for Round 2

  • Application deadline: 22 April
  • Co-ordinator weeds out applications that clearly don’t meet criteria: April 29 deadline (1 week)
  • Co-ordinator works with Advisory Group to long-list remaining applications using a 0-5 rating system: 13 May deadline (2 weeks)
  • All members short-list using a points allocation system: May 27 (2 weeks)
  • Short-listed applications submit further information: June 17 deadline (3 weeks)
  • Members rate applications (3 weeks)
  • Final decision-making meeting, using points system: July 6

Ideally, any contentious applications will have been removed earlier in the process and therefore we should be able to trust the process more and not need to have long email discussions following the results of ratings. However, we may want to give the Advisory Group the opportunity to review the short-list to ensure it is balanced.

Points agreed/ action needed re timeline:

  • 3-month timeline agreed for Round 2.
  • This will need to be reviewed as we may need to build in more time for assessment and administration.

4. Barriers to participation

Some barriers to participation in Edge are:

  • Location
  • Time
  • Financial
  • Language/ culture
  • Ability

a) Location

Members outside of London have found it more difficult to participate. There are travel and time costs, but also some people don’t like to go to London for other reasons. We have talked about having regional hubs, perhaps starting with Glasgow since we’ve had a launch there. Hubs could have an outreach role. Potentially we could split the membership, North of Manchester and South of Manchester and members in those regions decide on funding for applicants in those regions at the final meeting stage.

We could have meetings in different places. One group told us how they organised meetings in different cities and then had quotas of how many people from each city could attend.

Holding meetings in other places at the moment could become very expensive because of travel costs. We should make sure publicity reaches beyond London, cover travel costs and do what we can to get people outside London to meetings. We should also make more use of Skype conferences and use ‘virtual’ hubs. People can contact members in their area.

We should stress that we not exclusively London-based. Our meetings are held in London for logistical reasons but members and funded groups are nationwide. Our ambition is to be beyond London but it’s early days.

b) Time

The FG has been good for taking pressure off members, however, in the first round it was still quite a heavy workload at some stages. Short-listing was very time consuming (looking at 100+ applications). The weeding out took so long we tried to compensate for it by rushing other parts of the process. Sometimes long papers sent round just a few days before meetings, difficult to have time to read them. We need to cut down on the time commitment.

Time can be related to finances in some cases. We could consider paying people to take part, it may just be for a couple of days work.

People often ask about time commitment of being a member. Activists are often very busy and frontline communities often have financial and other barriers.

c) Financial barriers

We should consider paying for people to come to meetings if they could not afford to otherwise, although concerns were raised about people charging Edge for providing certain skills. We can probably facilitate meetings ourselves now, as we have a number of members with these skills. However, happy to pay people for set projects, like with the diversity work.

Often there is an impact on an organisation if a volunteer or employee spends time coming to an Edge meeting etc, for example, they may have to pay for someone else to come in. Perhaps it’s better to compensate for this by making a donation to the organisation. Basically we should ensure no-one is out of pocket for participating.

Points agreed/ action needed re barriers to participation:

Location barriers

  • Reality is that we don’t have funds or capacity for regional hubs (that allocate funds) yet but we can plan to launch hubs next year.
  • We can trial Glasgow as a first hub, but with an outreach role only initially.
  • We should work on a regional hub proposal to work out how it might work.
  • We should set up a map which shows member and grantee locations and encourage people to contact members in their area – co-ordinator can pass on enquiries.
  • We need to write a statement about members and grantees being nationwide but meetings in London, recognising issues of London-centrism.
  • We need to clarify our position re funding NI but not Southern Ireland.

Time barriers

  • We need to reduce the amount of time needed to take part in Edge. Hopefully less work will be needed in second round than first round due to processes already being worked out, Advisory Group potentially removing more applications and more members to share the workload.
  • We should define what the minimum time commitment is of being a member, since people often want to know this when considering joining.

Financial barriers

  • We agreed to offer to make a donation to an organisation to compensate for lost staff time where needed.
  • For individuals, we will cover travel, respite care, childcare and other costs on case-by-case basis.

Other barriers

  • We should write a statement about the barriers and what we’re doing to try to overcome them.
  • We should carry on with inclusivity work that has started, perhaps ask Disabled People Against Cuts to help out where needed.
  • See below re language/ cultural barriers.

5. Diversity and inclusivity

Much of the discussion was centred around diversity and inclusivity issues, particularly the introduction of the Advisory Group.

It seems most groups hear about Edge through activist circles. Currently we have positioned ourselves as a white, left group. To change this we need to look at the language we use. In particular Black activist groups are likely to be sceptical about the motives of the fund, many groups are used to funders trying to influence them. How we present ourselves is important.

It was suggested that we decide on a couple of communities we particularly want to reach (perhaps because not many have applied) and then focus on reaching them. This might include translating materials.

Points agreed/ action needed re diversity and inclusivity:

  • We need to continue our work to look at language and outreach, with help from Advisory Group.
  • Once the community outreach roles have come to an end we will need to review this and decide on next steps.

6. New members

Initially we agreed people who want to become a member should write a few words about themselves, then someone on the FG would call the person to discuss Edge values and membership. Finally a list would be circulated to members for input.

Points agreed/ action needed re new members:

  • We need standardised questions – who you are/ your background, what you’re involved in/ care about, why you want to join – but in max 100 words.
  • Co-ordinator will look at membership requests and flag those where there might be concerns as to whether they are right for Edge.
  • We set up Google doc with new member info and invite members to indicate with X in column for Yes or No.
  • Comments can be sent confidentially to the co-ordinator.
  • The Facilitating Group will make a judgement based on comments.
  • We should give people who have been turned down the opportunity to respond.
  • Decisions made should be transparent and accessible by membership.
  • We need to review the process for removing people from membership – send this round everyone as a reminder.

7. Fundraising

Update on funds: currently £120,000 in the bank. Few more Round 1 grants yet to go out.

We discussed whether we should pay someone to fundraise for Edge. We could potentially use an agency that takes a commission rather than having to pay a salary. The difficulty is that we will be fundraising from individuals. Much of the fundraising strategy will be related to raising our profile, perhaps through more Edge events and also getting involved in other events, like festivals. Building credibility will also help us to raise funds, for example putting an address and member bios on the website. Member bios will help counter suspicion about who we are and our motives.

We need to think about why people would want to give to Edge. For example, people are becoming frustrated with large charities becoming very close with corporations and government, we are an option for them to support more radical grassroots work.

We should try to get people involved who have some skills in relationship management, crowdfunding etc. A skills audit would be useful to find out the skills of the membership.

There were some concerns about using fundraisers. We have a few new members interested in fundraising, we should have enough to build a fundraising team. We could start with a fundraising strategy day. We have also already discussed arranging fundraising workshops for groups and offering funding advice.

Points agreed/ action needed re fundraising:

  • At this point we won’t pay for a fundraiser and instead form a voluntary fundraising team.
  • JR will pull together fundraising working group, people can share ideas with them.
  • SP to sort out skill audit to include skills relevant to fundraising, and others
  • SP to ask for member bios. 50-100 words. Some to be used for website (people can change their names if they want).
  • SP to add address to website.

8. Next meeting

We need another meeting before 6 July to discuss a few areas in more detail. Ideally in good time before 27 May.

We’d also like a discussion around how we can make the process less competitive. We talked about helping groups find funding elsewhere and running fundraising workshops. What other ways can we think in ways of abundance rather than scarcity?

  • Set up Doodle for next meeting, before end of May
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