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31 August 2013 – minutes

Thirteen members and grantees came together in Manchester to give feedback and suggest ideas for the future of Edge Fund. This is to feed into the main members meeting in London 7 September.

Priorities for London meeting 

The main topics discussed are described in more detail below, in summary, the main priorities from the Manchester meeting are:

  1. We need to discuss the role of the Advisory Group – more work is needed to educate all members (about different struggles, privilege and power etc) and improving diversity of membership so we can move away from having members as spokespeople for communities.
  2. Regionalisation – can decisions be made outside of London? Can we explore the idea of working groups so work and decision-making can be decentralised?
  3. Can we organise a mini-conference to learn from each other, support each other and bring together a diverse group to discuss next steps for the movement?
  4. Can we have a confidential members area on the website where we share members information, so we all know who each other are? Also can we have a way to allow more communication between members between meetings?
  5. Exploring possible relationship with unions.
  6. Supporting applicants earlier in the application process, particularly those who narrowly missed out previously, and indicating where already funded by Edge in a previous round.

Supporting more groups – developing a less competitive process

So far we have received 546 applications and of those around 10% (58) have received funds, ranging from £500 to £3,000. How can we support more groups and make the process less competitive?

We should try to move away from the scarcity model, towards an approach that assumes there is enough for everyone. We could try to ensure that all groups who share our vision and aims get something out of applying to Edge – whilst we can’t support everyone, we can support those most aligned to our aims really well. One way we could do this is to offer mentoring, skill-sharing and networking between these groups; a mutual aid approach to helping each other with fundraising, media and other skills and resources needed.

Most applications ask for funds for printing leaflets, venue hire and travel costs. Can we make use of radical printers co-ops such as Footprint, who offer discounts to like-minded groups? Some members have access to venues, could we build up a list of spaces available?

We have a responsibility to be clear about our values and what we fund, particularly what we mean by systemic change. We should look at the assessment guide and see how it applies to groups that were turned down but we thought perhaps should have been short-listed. Some applications might be turned down because they have missed out certain information, particularly information on their politics and values. Can we get more information on applications if they are not clear? Can members offer support to groups earlier in process, i.e. at stage 1? This could be particularly focused on applications that narrowly missed out in a previous round. Can we try to make up ‘gaps’ in next funding round, if in last round certain communities or issues were under-represented? We should also indicate clearly in the spreadsheet where applications have been successful in previous rounds.

Could we have a closed round open only to previous applicants, successful or not, where we ask what they did with the funds or how the result of their Edge application affected them (did the group fold?)

Everyone has particular issues that are more meaningful to them so the scoring is always going to be subjective to some extent. It seems often that groups with multiple disadvantage tend to be more successful. We need to do work as a group to ensure members are educated about different struggles and communities.

Conference

Could we have a mini-conference? We could bring different groups and communities together to support each other and discuss the next steps for building a movement. We could potentially try to get some high profile support for the event. Manchester Metropolitan University holds a Alternative Futures and Popular Protest conference every year, could we tag on a day at the end of this?

Fundraising

In the 1980s One Fund for All raised money from people through their payroll (deducted before taxes paid). This was often just around 20p per week and went to support unemployed resource centres. They had thousands of supporters. Could we develop a similar model? Merseyside and Cheshire One Fund for All is still running (perhaps others?), raising around £75,000 a year. (NB Payroll Giving is only available to registered charities, but we could do something similar with direct debit).

Facilitating Group

The existing Facilitating Group have been part of the group for a long time and we need to elect new members. Cilla, Elena and Rose have offered to join.

Unions

Local union branches have funds to support local community groups. Can we work with them? Perhaps they can top up Edge grants? There was some concern expressed about having a relationship with large top-down structures, but perhaps we have a place to encourage them to be more grassroots-led.

Regionalisation

We should have more meetings outside of London – and not just to feed in to the London meeting but where decisions are made. Decision-making meetings could rotate around different cities. What happens next with the Manchester group?

Advisory Group

The Advisory Group came about because members are asked to score all kinds of applications, and often end up making judgements on those from communities they don’t identify with or don’t know very much about. Where there aren’t many scores for an application one low score, which may be based on ignorance, can have a huge impact. The Advisory Group currently look at applications relating to their own community/ background first to ensure those making the decisions are those from the communities affected by them.

Concerns were raised about putting people in ‘boxes’. How can you determine which identity is most important for e.g. an African woman? People define/ identify themselves in different ways. How do you categorise an application which relates to multiple identities? What if we don’t have someone in the Advisory Group representative of a community affected by an application? What makes a ‘minority’/ oppressed community? Generally the feeling was that we need to be very careful of identity politics, and cautious of having a small number of people being spokespeople for an entire community as within that community individuals will all have very different views and theories of change.

Two major points raised were that we need to help educate members about power, privilege, theories of change, different struggles etc and that we need to continue to recruit members from different backgrounds and increase the diversity of the membership. Also, some felt that having a wider group scoring encourages cross-issue discussions, but this could also happen within the Advisory Group.

In terms of the process, there were several suggestions:

  1. If there is a massive disparity in scores (perhaps 5 points between top and bottom scores) that the application is discussed again. This could be done by the Advisory Group so they look at applications after the member score – and only the problematic ones rather than them all. Therefore, those who don’t know about an issue can be guided by those who do.
  2. We could encourage people not to score if they don’t feel qualified in doing so.
  3. If we take out the top and bottom scores, this would reduce the impact of extreme scores (eg if the scores are 10, 8, 8, 7, 7, 7, 6, 6, 4, 2 we would take out the 10 and 2).
  4. We could ask for clearer comments from people, e.g. what do you like best about the application, what did you like least, are there any issues that need to be discussed?
  5. Could we ask people outside the membership to give guidance on specific groups/ communities, particularly where we don’t have people with relevant knowledge or backgrounds to guide us.
  6. Could we ask members to look at applications with a group of others? Previous self-organised grantees could look at applications in a focus group, it could be tagged on to a meeting.
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