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20 February 2013 – minutes

Attending: AR, JR, DG, CG, AS, MM, SP (28% membership (quorum is 25%), mostly FG)

1. Under what circumstances, if any, should we support individuals?

We had a long discussion about how we should support individuals and some of the implications of this. We realise there are some people who have chosen to live an ‘activist lifestyle’ but who aren’t necessarily involved with many projects, and others who are very active. There are also activists from more privileged backgrounds who perhaps don’t need the financial support as much as others. We feel our remit is to help redress inequalities in the wider movement, allowing those to participate who would not normally be able to because of financial or other barriers. We felt it may be necessary to limit funds to specific costs.

We need to be sensitive to a number of factors:

  • Individuals are likely to feel much more disheartened than groups if they are turned down.
  • Local knowledge is important, we need to expand membership and regionalise as much as possible.
  • There’s ongoing concern about the professionalisation of activists, providing salaries might play in to this.
  • With individuals, there’s not the accountability as there is with groups as they are solely in control of their own spending rather than having a group agree it.
  • There can be tensions if one person in a group is paid and others are not.
  • Not all individuals are willing or suited to working with others, but there may be a place for Edge to help link them up with local campaigns.
  • Giving funding to individuals can cause hierarchies and inequalities within movements and communities.

It’s important that we recognise these issues publicly, explain that this is a learning process and be clear about our aims with offering support to individuals.

We agreed:

  1. We will be clear that our remit is specifically to redress imbalances within the movement and include this as criteria for individual support
  2. We will limit funds for individuals to £1,000 (at least for the first grant)
  3. We’ll have a separate pot for individuals, perhaps £5,000 per round or a percentage of the total
  4. We’ll write about issues openly and ask for contributions from frontline activists about this
  5. Members can ask for references as part of the 2nd application if they feel it is appropriate but aim to keep it informal, for example, ask people if there is someone who can vouch for them via a chat on the phone.
  6. We have written a draft statement below to explain our aims and acknowledge concerns etc to be agreed by the membership in principle (editing needed to simplify!)

Many people have great ideas and perspectives and a real passion for justice, but face enormous challenges in taking action. This is because we live in an unequal society where some people are held back because of their personal circumstances and backgrounds. These challenges result in further inequality within the social justice movement, as individuals from more privileged backgrounds are more likely to have advantage over others, such as the time and resources that enable them to take part. This presents a barrier to building a diverse, inclusive movement which is representative of all the different people and communities in the UK, and also reflects the society we strive towards. As a small step in addressing this we would like to offer grants of up to £1,000 to individuals who are faced with these challenges and have a genuine commitment to taking action. 

We recognise that this is a complex issue and that there are a number of factors we need to keep in mind. In social movements around the world there is a concern about the ‘professionalisation’ of activists, where salaries from large charities and other organisations have diluted people’s politics and often distanced them from the grassroots. Giving funding to individuals can in itself create inequalities. Individuals are also much more likely to feel disheartened on being turned down for funding. 

However, we feel that providing funds to people whose circumstances prevent them from being active in social change could help to widen the movement and to ensure the voices of those most directly affected by inequality and injustice are heard. We feel it’s worth taking the risk and are committed to seeking feedback, reflecting, learning and reviewing this programme as long as we need to. We’d love to hear from you if you have any comments or ideas.

2. Exclusions

We agreed:

  1. We will not fund groups that promote specific religious views, though we will not discriminate against individuals on grounds of their religion (check with SG on this)
  2. We will not support UK political parties
  3. After a wide ranging discussion on the issue, we agreed that for the next round (and probably the rest of the year) we need to continue with UK groups working on UK projects (which may or may not have international significance). Many people felt funding internationally was a priority and should happen within the next year, although we lack capacity to make this happen at the moment.
  4. We should make clear earlier in the process how much funding is available for the round.

We also talked about the possibility of organising an event next year to invite people to discuss how we can involve people internationally in our overseas funding and other issues concerning international funding. In the meantime, we should bear in mind that there are other funds that support international projects and to refer groups to them where we can.

3. Which additional questions should we ask in the initial application form?

We agreed:

  1. We will ask groups roughly what the funding is for and how much they need
  2. We should ask groups to aim for 1 page, with maximum of 2
  3. We’ll provide a sample application as a guide on the level of detail needed (see end of minutes)
  4. We’ll ask all 334 applicants for honest feedback on the process this round by setting up a Google survey
  5. JR will look at all the questions we want to ask and how we might split them between the initial application and full application

4. How many groups will go through to the meeting 16 March?

We agreed:

  1. Contact person for each applicant is encouraged to send a few lines about their personal take on the group/ application when sending in full applications.
  2. We will rate the 30 full applications via a Google survey, each person giving how much they feel Edge should donate, any comments and a clear indication if they object to the group receiving any money at all. Any critical comments or concerns raised at this point can be brought up sensitively at the meeting without being attributed to an individual, rather than people having to raise it in person, which may be difficult.
  3. We will then narrow the applications down to around 15 to go through to the meeting.
  4. Those that are not part of the final 15 will be given small grants, guided by the online comments and up to £1,000 (unless there are any serious concerns raised).
  5. All 30 short-listed groups will be invited to come to the meeting.

5. Preparation/ planning for 16 March meeting

Tone of the day

It’s important for us to make the day rewarding and fun and run with an open and co-operative nature, whilst not trivialising the important issues being discussed. We need to put time aside to get to know each other and should schedule in a couple of breaks for people to get to know each other and give opportunity to people to raise concerns outside the group setting. Perry will be facilitating on the day and will be able to give ideas about how to do this, but will also need some direction from us.

AS has tissues that look like money, which might come in handy! Also a ‘Co-opoly’ game, which could be a prize or used in another way.

We will put up a calendar on the wall so people can add upcoming events. Also would be useful to do a skills audit so members and grantees can more easily share skills and support each other.

It would be good to document the day, perhaps by filming. Some people may not want to be filmed. We could have voluntary vox pops; set up a camera in the corner. Reflection on the day also important.

Distributing the funds

When decisions are made on funding, we should always allocate what we feel groups need and deserve. If at the end of the day if we have allocated £80,000 but only have £40,000, each grant will be scaled down accordingly.

There is a grant-making system that has been tried recently in the US called Shared Gifting. The process is as follows: 1) a pool of money is granted to a selected group of grantees; 2) they are all guaranteed a small set amount; 3) the grantees review one another’s proposals and needs; 4) grantees discuss each other’s plans and proposals; 5) each group is allocated a further amount to give to the other groups; 6) grantees give sums to other groups, each time giving the reason why. This way grantees collectively determine how the funds should be distributed.

We could try a process like Shared Gifting, using counters to represent money perhaps. Members could also have funds to give away. This could make the day more fun and light-hearted whilst engaging the groups more in decision-making and encouraging appreciation of each other’s projects. By this stage we have short-listed down to around 15 so should be happy with them all receiving funds.

However, we did previously agree that only members should make decisions and this would put more power into the hands of applicants. There were concerns that if applicants also make decisions then those who are better at making the case in a meeting situation may be likely to get more money. However, there were also concerns about the power dynamic between members and applicants and the fact that applicants may be more competitive if they are only appealing to members, rather than working together. There was no decision on this.

It’ll be hard to be honest about more critical feelings. We can overcome this by raising the issues on the online form, they can then be raised as general comments rather than having to be raised by an individual.

We agreed:

  1. We need a small team to focus on the structure of the day and to work with PW (facilitator).
  2. Members should continue their role with the groups they’ve been working with during the application process by welcoming and supporting them during the day.
  3. AR and JR cannot make the meeting, so should pass their groups on to others who will be there.

We have provisionally booked Chadswell Healthy Living Centre, Lower Ground Floor, Chadswell, Harrison Street WC1H 8LD, very near Kings Cross. It is £25ph. Suresh will feed back about venue following his visit. We need to help from London people to set up the venue. Dan will be around a couple of days beforehand.

We’d like to have a social event afterwards to end on a high note. A shared meal would be nice. There is a pub called McGlynn’s round the corner, they have a dinning room that won’t be used on Saturday night that we could use that could accommodate 40 people. They also said they are usually really quiet on Saturday evening anyway.

In future, we should try to rotate around cities rather than being London focused. Groups that are very far away (for e.g. Ireland) could potentially join by Skype.

6. Social Justice Philanthropy Conference (1 March). What should we present in our 20 min slot and who should do it?

AS and SP are attending. SP doesn’t feel confident public speaking, but it should only be a relatively small audience and more of a workshop than a presentation. Some people have read what SP has proposed as the main points for the presentation and no concerns raised as yet. There will be around 60 people at the conference, although they’ll have a choice of two panels to attend in the afternoon when we have our slot.

7. Reporting requirements for funded groups

There was some disagreement about whether we should have any reporting requirements or not, although everyone agreed that if we do, it should not be an onerous task. Ideally, grantees will become members and there will be an on-going relationship, which means we will know some information about how the project is going anyway. Members should continue their relationship with the groups they’ve worked with during the application process but will need support to do that, practically, financially and/or emotionally.

Some felt it was important for our credibility to get reports on the funding and that it would also inspire others to give if they know the outcome of the grants. Reporting information could also help Edge improve. Potentially we could give options for reporting back the same as for the application process; video, phone call etc. We should ask applicants at the meeting what they suggest about reporting and take it from there. At the moment, there is not consensus on whether we should ask for reports back or not.

8. Fundraising

We need to develop a proper fundraising strategy. We have some people who have come forward to help who are experienced fundraisers. We’re not likely to employ typical fundraising techniques, but it would be good to have a team of people with an interest in this area to work out some strategies. Basically we want all those people who give £10pm to larger NGOs who are increasingly cosying up to government and corporations, to give to us instead!

Editorial, or advertising, in magazines like New Internationalist and Red Pepper is worth considering. Also Guardian and Independent. Polly Toynbee has written about philanthropy. Fundraising and communications very linked.

For credibility we also need to have short bios of members, even if just with pseudonyms, to give an idea of who we are and why we are members.

Perhaps at some point we need to think about hiring someone on a temporary basis to focus on fundraising.

9. Update on community outreach

Six hours a week each for JR and DG is not much. But they have built up a database of contacts and have been meeting groups and planning launches in Glasgow and either Manchester or Birmingham. They are also building a Edge media team.

We need to have a better idea of what the travel and other expenses of the community outreach work are before making any decisions about launches etc. Generally people seem supportive of the launches. JR and DG will send budget this week and ask Facilitating Group to raise any concerns ASAP.

10. Possible collaborations with Resource Generation and XminY

Resource Generation, which mobilises young people with wealth in the US to give to radical social change projects, is keen to work together to mobilise people in the UK.  They are still focused on the US but we have resources they’d be happy to share if there are several young wealthy UK people interested in being involved. They have peer support groups, called Praxis Groups, that discuss ideas and challenges and help each other out. They have a guide to setting up one of these groups if we had say 2-8 people interested.

XminY Solidarity Fund are keen to explore working with us. They have some regions internationally they would like to receive more projects come from and are interested in what contacts we might have there, and also happy to share their contacts. They are also interested in potentially funding projects together.

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