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19 May 2012 – minutes

Occupy Philanthropy: how can we devolve the philanthropic power of the 1% to the 99% to create the social change we need?

Second session

19 May 2012, 11.00 – 16.00
Seven Dials Club, Covent Garden, London

Attended by:-

From session 1

  1. Sophie Pritchard (Edge Fund co-ordinator)
  2. SD (mining, India)
  3. MB (funder)
  4. Suresh Grover (The Monitoring Group,
  5. Liz Beech (Occupy and
  6. Hannah Lewis (Seeds for Change)

New participants

  1. MR (peace)
  2. DM (London Coalition Against Poverty, Haringey Solidarity Group, Boycott Workfare)
  3. RP (researcher radical philanthropy)
  4. TB (trustee of women’s fund)
  5. Ronnie Hall (Critical Information Collective)
  6. JR (aviation, squatting)
  7. Josh Moos (Plane Stupid, cuts, unemployment, climate change)
  8. TG (aviation, GM, farmers movement India)
  9. DO (Jordan Valley Solidarity Campaign)
  10. CG (corporate accountability)
  11. BF (arts activism)
  12. G (Green and Black Cross)
  13. AS (mining, Trinidad)

Nineteen activists and funders attended the second Edge Fund session, six of whom were also at the first meeting. The main topics discussed were accessibility and what the fund is for.

There are many blocks to accessibility to funding sources. These include groups not knowing that the fund exists, not believing the funding is for them, language and literacy issues, the politics of the group, prejudice of decision-makers, limited capacity to deal with applications, limited funds and therefore high competition, skills to complete applications and that many of the most vulnerable groups are not organised enough to fundraise. There is also a need to bypass the ‘gate-keepers’ of information and to avoid funding being driven by who you know.

Some suggestions for overcoming these issues included:-

  • Don’t know fund exists: breaking down hierarchies of knowledge, reaching out to communities through events, an Edge Fund caravan, listing other funding sources on the website, liaising with other funders so that they can potentially pass on applications from groups they can’t fund, an event to launch the fund.
  • Not thinking it’s for you; being careful about how the fund is being communicated since different tones/voices will attract different people, consider having multiple ‘brands’, diversity in both decision-making and admin teams, emphasising this is a mould-breaking fund.
  • Language/literacy; allow people to talk about their projects rather than relying on written forms, have funding officers who can give training to groups on fundraising who then pass that knowledge on to other groups, breaching the digital divide whilst also ensuring there is not centralisation.
  • Politics of group; position the fund as funder of grassroots, keep evaluating and changing to make more dynamic/ radical, allow groups to determine their own work, understand the politics of the group, consider a rule that groups funded by government sources cannot apply, being clear on values, politics and social change definitions, move beyond terms such as ‘equality’ and ‘human rights’ and use instead ‘emancipation’ and write clear statement, be clear meaning of ‘Edge’ – funding marginalised communities on the edge?

A saving/ funding model in Trinidad called sou sou inspired many of the group. A sou sou is a group of people who come together and make regular contributions to a fund, which is then disbursed as a lump sum to one member in each cycle. For example, say 10 people join and each puts in £100 a week. Each week for 10 weeks, one of those 10 people will receive the whole £1,000, until each person has had a turn. This is a way of helping people to save up a lump sum and could be a way to help groups and activists be less reliant on grant funding.

The group listed many possible roles for Edge Fund. The most popular, in order, of these were:-

  • Funding those with few other options;
  • Being genuinely experimental;
  • Influencing other funders on their models of social change;
  • Systemic change;
  • Dismantling power structures that keep the 1% in place, such as militarism, corporate power, economic systems (actually same point as above);
  • Support where people are claiming back power/ control of workplace, community etc;
  • Being an alternative fund.

Other roles included linking up communities ‘on the edge’, proactively funding to move the ‘edge’ of society to the centre and the centre to the edge, channelling mainstream funding to more radical groups, funding small groups, supporting groups preparing for a post-crash culture and providing an alternative to people wanting to create change who currently give monthly donations to large NGOs.

The role of lobbying was discussed and some of the group felt that lobbying alone was not effective at creating social change, but that it often forms part of a group’s tactics and therefore groups engaging in lobbying should not be excluded from applying for funds.

A common trend in philanthropy is for the donor to expect recognition in return for the funds. A suggestion was made that perhaps donors should give anonymously to avoid this but this was contrary to being transparent about funding sources.

Some felt there is also a need to change the perception of how activists are seen publicly and to give them visibility. Also it was mentioned that funders seldom talk about the role of politics and capitalism and these debates need to be out in the open.

The next meeting will be in around a month’s time, date and venue to be confirmed. During that month we aim to take several areas further:-

  • Research on other models
  • Decision-making on grant-making and other areas of operation
  • Transparency, anonymity and accountability
  • Identify areas that need more discussion
  • Draft aims and objectives
  • Types of funding to be offered
  • Involving more funders and inviting them to the next meeting (or at least their opinions)

Anyone interested in getting involved in any of these areas are welcome to email edgefund [at] riseup [dot] net.


Edge Fund meeting agenda 19 May 2012

Occupy Philanthropy: how can we devolve the philanthropic power of the 1% to the 99% to create the social change we need?

Time: 11am – 4pm
Location: TBC

Light lunch provided (vegetarian/vegan) – feel free to bring food to share

11.00 – 11.30 Introductions and quick summary of previous meeting (please read minutes beforehand:

11.30 – 11.45 Agree agenda and aims of session

11.45 – 13.00 Values of the fund

What are the shared values of social and political change and how does this apply to philanthropy?
What are the goals of the Fund; what are we trying to achieve?

13.00 – 13.30 Lunch

13.30 – 14.45 Split in to groups to discuss the following:-

Funding priorities
What are the most urgent funding needs in the UK and globally and which are struggling most to receive the funding they need?

Types of funding
What kinds of funding are most useful and needed; core costs, project costs, unrestricted funding, support for individuals, fast track funding, supporting fundraising initiatives (gigs, match funding etc) others?

What does ‘transparency’ mean in practice?
How can we give potential applicants enough information about where the funds originate from whilst protecting the identities of donors when this is requested?

Who should make decisions about funding?
What processes should be followed?
What would the role of the steering committee be and who should it consist of?
How can the decision making process facilitate alliance building and learning for all parties?

14.45 – 15.00 Break
15.00 – 15.45 Come together to summarise discussions above.
15.45 – 16.00 Next steps.
16.00 Close

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