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25 July 2012 – minutes

Present:

  1. Sophie Pritchard (Edge Fund co-ordinator)
  2. AR (economic justice, funder)
  3. AS (refuges solidarity, funder)
  4. John Stewart (aviation)
  5. James Sevitt (Occupy)
  6. JR (aviation, squatting)
  7. CK (corporate accountability, climate change)
  8. SF (housing co-ops, funder)
  9. Ronnie Hall (Critical Information Collective)

New to meeting

  1. Joseph Zacune (Critical Information Collective)
  2. IB (funder)
  3. PB (social and environmental justice, funder)
  4. Suzanne Dhaliwal (UK Tar Sands Network)
  5. Dan Glass (So We Stand/ Glass is Half Full)

Facilitated by PW.

On 25 July 14 donors/ activists, five of which new to Edge Fund meetings, came together to make some fundamental decisions about the future of the fund. The following agreements were made.

Fare pooling for meetings
From now on people will be asked to write down how much they’d like to claim to cover travel costs to get to the meeting. The total will be declared at the end of the meeting and people asked to contribute, with Edge Fund covering the balance.

Values document
People were on the whole happy with the values statement with some fairly minor amendments. However, there were concerns about accessibility of the statement to communities facing injustice around length, use of language and tone which may be alienating. It was agreed that we would make the suggested minor amendments and circulate it on the Edge Fund email list, giving 2 weeks for further amendments (only clarifications of previous amendments, no new comments) but at the same time work on another version more targeted at communities.

Structure
Model E from the diagrams was agreed: we will have a large base of donors (with no decision-making rights) with a smaller membership who will all make decisions collectively. All members must also be donors, even if giving a very small amount. For the first 3 months all those who have attended an Edge Fund meeting will be invited to become members. We first need to define what being a member involves. As the membership grows we may use panels.

Engaging communities facing injustice/ diversity of Edge Fund membership
During the next 3 months a concerted effort will be made to reach communities experiencing injustice and bring them on board to aid accessibility to funding but also to help increase diversity and expertise within the membership.

Who can donate to Edge Fund
We will not rule out donations from companies, but will make clear in values document about not accepting funds from exploitative industries. We will not set a threshold above which we will make further checks about the source of funding. Donations will be considered on a case-by-case basis taking into account source of funds, how the donor might be able to use the donation to influence us or others and reputational risk.

Allocation of funds
All funds will go in to a central pot, rather than being allocated to certain themes. Where Edge Fund is not able to provide the level of funding requested we will help crowd fund for the balance by linking to and promoting appeals on crowd funding websites.

Paid administration
1 day per week wages will be paid to the Edge Fund co-ordinator.

Conflict of interest policy
Since groups and individuals working on social justice and systemic change are quite closely linked, we’ll need a conflict of interest policy which will allow potential grantees to also take part in decision-making. Social Justice Fund NorthWest have a long-standing policy that works very well, it was agreed that we would also use this. In this policy there are two levels of interest which are handled differently:-

  • Level 1 interest (potential personal/ family benefit) must leave room at time of discussion;
  • Level 2 interest (connection to organisation, such as donor, friend/ family member works there), member declares interest and decides for themselves if they can participate in discussion or not (cannot vote).

Letter to grantees
When cheques are sent to grantees a letter will be sent with it which defines how the funds can be used. Cashing cheque is acceptance and acknowledgement of those conditions. Funds may be given for operational costs only (to check).

Review
We will initially review how Edge Fund is operating in 3 months time, and then again in another 6 months.

Next steps
Several areas needing further work were identified with volunteers to act as sounding boards for the co-ordinator and carrying out work needed as necessary. Those areas are:

  1. Budgeting
  2. Drafting documents (such as values doc, constitution, membership criteria, process for adding new members)
  3. Outreach/ networking:-
  • Criteria for funding/ application procedure/ filtering applications
  • External communication/ media/ finding other funders
  • Engaging communities

Other discussions included how we could facilitate people becoming and continuing to be engaged with Edge Fund, such as covering travel, internet, phone calls and time needed to take part (potentially also costs involved in travelling to internet café for people who don’t have a computer). Covering all these costs would potentially mean that around 30% of funds would be allocated to this, but this should be considered as much more than an administrative cost as it’s helping groups to come together, build alliances and capacity as well as participating in Edge Fund. This would also be a challenge to the current expectation that activists and community organisers should work for free, which often results in poverty and burn out.

Diversity, accessibility and networking was an important subject during the meeting. The current group engaged in Edge Fund is not representative of the groups we want to support and this needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. It’s important we reach out in meaningful ways, including going to other organisations’ meetings rather than expecting them to come to ours and covering their costs of engaging in Edge Fund (as above). Further along the line we could potentially ask successful applicants to nominate someone to become a member.

We discussed the need to move away from defining what groups could apply for, instead allowing them simply to apply for what they need, and onerous reporting requirements. A suggestion was that each member could commit to keeping in contact with one grantee group and receive funds to enable them to do this where needed so there would be less pressure on the group to report back.

We also discussed the best and most democratic ways for Edge Fund to make decisions, going beyond consensus versus majority voting. We agreed that we all want the widest number of members agreeing on who to fund. The Crowdwise system was one of several ideas we wanted to explore.

Whilst long meetings have been necessary to get things going, we will now try to have shorter meetings (eg 2 hours) for organisational discussions potentially at weekends and evenings. This should also allow more people to attend.

At the end of the meeting people expressed a sense of accomplishment, progress and excitement about the potential for the fund.

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