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20 June 2012 – minutes

Present:

  1. SP (Edge Fund co-ordinator)
  2. AS (mining, Trinidad)
  3. SD (mining, India)
  4. AR (economic justice, funder)
  5. MB (grants admin for human rights, environment)
  6. MB (environment, funder)
  7. DM (anti-poverty)
  8. DO (Palestine)
  9. RH (corporate globalisation, economic justice)
  10. MR (peace)
  11. JS (aviation)
  12. JR (aviation, squatting)
  13. CK (corporate accountability, climate)
  14. AS (refugee solidarity, funder)
  15. NR (environmental, social and racial justice)

New to meeting

  1. DS (migrant solidarity)
  2. ZS (mining)
  3. KP (environment, social change philanthropy)
  4. CA (environment, social change)
  5. SF (housing co-ops, funder)
  6. GM (environment, social change)
  7. RL (aviation, Palestine)
  8. SS (environment, women)
  9. JC (funder, asylum seekers)

Facilitated by PW.

Summary

Twenty-four activists and donors came together for a third time to take the next steps towards setting up the Edge Fund. In total, we’ve now had 38 people come to one, two or three of the main meetings; with around 40 more consulted in various other ways, including side-meetings and Skype calls.

The meeting started with a clarification of what the Edge Fund is.

  1. A fund;
  2. A campaigning body to influence other funders;
  3. Support of systemic social and ecological change;
  4. Support of both activists and marginalised communities;
  5. Devolving donor power through collaborative decision-making processes.

Before the meeting a draft document was circulated which described the values of the fund as well as potential models to consider for decision-making. The group split in to smaller groups to discuss the stated values. There was general agreement with the values, bar a few suggested amendments and clarifications. In particular, there was discussion around including much clearer language around challenging capitalism, neoliberalism and corporate globalisation and organising horizontally but also concern about how accessible this language might be to marginalised communities who may not use these terms or see themselves as having these same aims or values. Some people felt it might be better to talk about power dynamics rather than using these terms. There was also a suggestion about using different language in different places, or talking about the banking crisis, austerity and other issues people are broadly familiar with without using complex terminology (as it is important that we don’t avoid talking about these issues altogether simply because they are complex).

Two proposals were put forward in the draft outline for structures and decision-making processes. Proposal 1 included having four decision-making bodies, including one activist body and one donor body, with different decision-making powers. Proposal 2 was a membership model which aimed to have a membership body of thousands as the governing body, with panels elected by the membership to make decisions. Through small group discussions these proposals were discussed and then the main points brought back to the whole meeting.

There were some differing opinions about the two models, but broadly whilst many people liked the values of the membership model, some people initially felt it was unrealistic to have so many people making decisions, at least in the initial stages, and that perhaps this would be something to try later as an experiment. People were generally supportive of the fund being experimental, and agreed that it could be difficult to launch the fund as a membership model and then have to reverse it and remove decision-making powers from people.

However, as the discussion developed, fears about the large membership model were allayed for some, by a proposal to have both ‘supporters’, who are not involved beyond giving money, and ‘members’, who would need to agree to values and be ‘vetted’ in some way to avoid infiltration/ manipulation of the process. There was discussion about whether all members should have to pay to join, although it was agreed that payment should not be a barrier to joining. Panels would be elected from the membership to make decisions on funding and other areas. These panels would rotate.

There was agreement on several points:-

  1. Donors and activists should work together, not be separated in to different bodies;
  2. We need to find a way to resolve conflicts of interest such as people on panels making decisions about friends’ applications; perhaps individuals should not be involved in making decisions on their own applications or that of friends’ (NB many activists know each other);
  3. All members will have equal rights regardless of how much they’re able to contribute;
  4. Members should share the values of the fund;
  5. We need to guard against possible infiltration from people who may want to change the direction of the fund, possibly developing a process for expulsion as well;
  6. It’s important to keep up the excitement, not get bogged down with bureaucracy (let’s also not create too much work);
  7. Gatherings are useful for cross over (participation should be optional) but not practical for decision-making at this stage;
  8. Transparency is important;
  9. We need a travel pool for meetings to help cover costs of getting there where needed.

An instigating group of 6 people was set up to take forward several areas:-

  1. Rewriting the values giving consideration to suggested changes and clarifications and the discussions about language;
  2. Proposing options for decision-making processes, ideally in flow charts, to circulate via email and agree at the next meeting;
  3. Set up bank account and legal structure;
  4. Develop communication strategy;
  5. Organise the next meeting;
  6. Find ways to include marginalised communities in setting up process.

The instigating group will exist to facilitate the setting up of the fund only.

The Edge Fund currently has an email list of around 45 people (those whose first meeting was 19 June will also be added).  These people will be invited to a fourth meeting where solid proposals will be presented and agreed.

Throughout the day concern and confusion was expressed about what was meant specifically by ‘marginalised communities’ (who have not been well represented in the meetings) and how can we reach them and include them in this process and make funds available to them, what language would be appropriate to use and what kind of projects might be funded. It was agreed a concerted effort would be made to consult and include marginalised communities in the setting up process to ensure accessibility in language and process.

Some people felt we needed to clarify who the final group of people would be to agree on the values, structures and processes; if we keep adding people to the group there may be people who want to turnaround decisions already made. It was agreed we’d allow 2 weeks to include those missing from the meetings and then not add any others.

Types of funding to be offered by Edge Fund was not discussed; postponed to the next meeting.

The instigating group will set the next meeting date.

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