31 January 2015 – minutes
Present: Nim (facilitator), Yula, Ian, Stuart, Jess, C, Susan, Adam, Oli, John, Patrick, Phoebe, Eva, Rupesh, A’ishah, Phil. In the afternoon: Isis, Joe, Gloria, Wayne, Louise.
Fed in in advance: Peter, Amanda and Andy.
Nim opened the session with a short ice breaker and explained the purpose of the day: to review the proposals that Sophie and the Facilitating Group (FG) had put together and to agree them or propose amendments.
Nim outlined that while the agenda is very full, there are 6 key decisions to focus on for the day:
- Values and how we make decisions
- Systemic change
- Max grant
- Change the wording of the application
The process is that this meeting will happen and the proposal will be sent to the FG, a similar meeting will also take place in Manchester next month and the proposals of that meeting will also be sent to the FG. The proposals will then be compared and compiled and where there are different suggestions they will be sent to the full membership to vote on.
Decision to reduce max grant from £5k to £3k:
Nim explained that this was because many groups apply for £5k but that we rarely ever give more than £3k so it was proposed as fairer to advertise the funds at an achievable rate.
Unanimously agreed – BUT, there was a question about ‘exceptional circumstances’ and whether we were keeping them, and what would fall under them. Concluded that there should still be ‘exceptional circumstances’ in the Edge policy so that we can still support projects up to £5k in genuinely exceptional circumstances, but that it shouldn’t be advertised as part of the funding rounds to keep the message simple and clear.
Decision to change the wording of Q1 in the funding questions:
Short discussion on it not being a matter of ‘how many’ people are involved in the project but ‘how are people from affected communities involved’ in the project.
Discussion on Edge values statement (considering if it is a good guiding statement for who Edge should fund)
We broke up into small groups to discuss 4 hypothetical applications. In the small groups we were to decide how to split a fund of £100 between them using the proposed values statement as well as to apply an analysis of our power and privilege to the process, by asking “who should make decisions about different projects”.
When we got back together there were a few themes that arose from the discussions.
We built on this discussion further in the afternoon open space discussion. A summary of the days discussion on this topic is as follows:
- Does it make things better or create change? Should this be part of the question/values statement: we discussed how to apply this which lead to a discussion on what is change vs ‘being in the system’ e.g. are Lalala (one the the false applications) working towards better conditions for queer people in the system, or working to create an alternative system in counter to the current capitalist model. We ball parked this for the Systemic Change discussion.
- Are the advisory groups working?The general agreement was that the model was a good one but that the way it’s working in practice isn’t ideal because of low participation
- The scoring is very individualised – what can we do about this? The conversation developed into a concern that the advisory groups (and the wider members voting) is so individualised. Members felt that we are missing out on shared learning and understanding by not having group interaction when the AGs do their scoring. Also that the notes on the AG groups scoring weren’t always comprehensive so when it goes to wider membership people don’t quite understand the rationale behind scores. Nim pointed out that one benefit of the AGs scoring individually is that they are more independently and unbiasedly scored without dominant characters leading other group members. The group recognised this but also feel the social and networking aspect of Edge is very important and should be prioritised
- Sentiments versus action (what are the groups actually going to do?) A question was raised about groups who fit within the general framework of what edge does in their sentiment but who it’s not clear what they are actually going to do. What happens then, in practice there’s not always the time or resource to ask for clarification. Concerns were raised that this is especially a concern when English isn’t the first language of the applicant and we are expecting them to be able to communicate in a certain way.
- What does it mean to be a member of Edge: what is your commitment Questions were raised about whether we should be more demanding in membership status e.g. saying that a member has to attend a minimum of one meeting per year, and/or participate in scoring XX number of applicants in at least one funding round per year. What is the benefit of having a large membership of inactive people? A counter point was made that asking members to participate in certain ways might be a barrier to inclusion for people’s voices we really want in the membership. There was a suggestion of a dual membership category; something like ‘Friends of Edge’ and ‘Member of Edge’ to differentiate the expectation. No conclusion was really drawn – but the concern that not enough members are participating was agreed unanimously
- An evolving document: not set in stone – guiding principles. There was a clarification about what the Edge values statement is and it was reiterated that is a guiding document to assist in having a criteria to score against in funding rounds. That it is important to remember it is ever evolving and can change again, but that there needs to be agreement made before each funding round as to what values members are basing their assessment on.
- Time and skills needed to score Finally there was a conversation about the concerns that the time and skills needed to enable members to score are a massive barrier to being able to be involved in this aspect of membership. It privileges the most privileged. It’s very hard to know what to do about that…
- What is the new system we are working towards and what would it look like?
- Global capitalism is this too wide of an umbrella?
- It’s very long and potentially inaccessible – can we have a summarised version? High literacy skill are needed to read it. Lots of questions about people on the frontline understanding the language i.e. ‘radical’ – maybe interviews or survey to our grassroots racialized minority members about language? And/or looking at alternative ways to present the information – audio or video etc.
- On funding from exploitative sources: it is questionable whether we can say that we do not accept money from exploitative sources. But, only that it should have ‘no strings attached’ as all money is exploitative and comes from dubious sources whether via inheritance or a company – the importance is on Edge not needing to promote the donators aims, or have the Edge name used to white/green wash a person/company.
Proposal: Edge values statement
1. Broadly accept the statement
2. It might be worth clarifying what the new system looks like
3. Check for privileged/sub-cultural language like ‘radical’
4. Check for scope of what it talks about i.e. ‘global capitalism’ is a very wide umbrella
5. Create different ways to interact with it. E.g. the website version should be a brief summary with a link to the longer version. Perhaps also an audio or video file to accompany it
6. Review the statement on where we accept funds from – acknowledge that money is inherently exploitative and move our focus away from “exploitative sources” and towards “no strings attached” donations
We broke back into our small groups to discuss the Systemic Change statement. We then got back into a large group to feedback what came out of those conversations.
We built on this discussion further in the afternoon open space discussion. A summary of the days discussion on this topic is as follows:
- Is Systemic Change at its most fundamental about “putting something different in place”
- Both making things better and making things different need to exist – are they both systemic change?
- What is the system, or systems, we want to change? Is it just about capitalism or is it neo-liberalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, heteronormativity and so on? We need to have a shared analysis of what the systems are because changing the system will look different in each case and challenging e.g. white supremacy might look like ‘making things better’ if we are only focussed on capitalism in systemic change. Of course, they are all connected so it’s hard to think in this way, but they can operate without each other e.g. patriarchy exists outside of capitalism.
- Need to be clear that marginalised/disadvantaged groups need to be included even if they are not clearly working towards ‘systemic change’ as some members understand it. Could be argued that marginalised groups are fighting for systemic change just as much as those who express it clearly in lefty liberal terms.
- There is a problem in expecting applicants to be open about the radical nature of their work – the word ‘radical’ is controversial and what about people who don’t communicate within the particular vocabulary of ‘radical’ ‘systemic change’ etc. it doesn’t mean they are not doing radical or doing systemic change just because they don’t articulate it that way
- Is this lengthy paper suitable for our website? Consensus is – no! perhaps one paragraph instead.
- Perhaps the emphasis of the statement should provide more clear guidance on what we fund – mixed feelings on this as it’s a definition document to support the Values statement which acts as the guidance on what we fund.
Proposal: Systemic Change statement
1. Concerns that it is inaccessible: suggest 1 paragraph on the website that links the longer explanation if needed
2. Clarify what is the ‘system’ or ‘systems’ we are changing
3. Do we expect groups to communicate in this way about the work they do – the statement should include some info/discussion on how to know when a group is doing that work, even if they don’t use that language
4. Could explain e.g. that fighting police discrimination may be creating systemic change. It is possible to be working towards systemic change and “making things better” at the same time.
5. Feeling that the 4 lines in bold are not so useful
6. Like the 2 bulletpoints but they need to be expanded on (1. Talking about working from a wider perspective)
Discussion on Edge Staffing
This was discussed in an ‘open space’ and discussion points and proposal were fed back to the wider group – there wasn’t much time for big group discussion on the details. Main points from the discussion:
- We want to hugely thank Sophie for her magnificent work up until now for Edge Fund
- We want to state for the record that without Sophie dreaming up the idea and making it all happen there would be no such thing as Edge Fund
- We recommend a significant time period to pay Sophie to train up and work with new Edge staff in the initial period of new staff joining
- Concerns that the current proposal doesn’t factor in enough support for the new employees.
Proposal: Edge staffing
1. We suggest that Edge Fund employs 2 new members of staff working 3 days a week each and ideally on the same days to encourage crossover
2. One role would be an administrative and funding role
3. The other would be a comms and outreach position which would also include liasing with members. This would include managing the website, organising events and writing articles etc
4. Office space may be needed for the 2 staff to work together: perhaps hot desking with other like minded organisations. This was felt as an important point even if the rest of this proposal isn’t approved.
5. A revised facilitating group is needed to act as an official board to keep tracks of work done by employed staff and also to help out when needed with tasks
Discussion on Edge Scoring
- This was discussed in an ‘open space’ and discussion points and proposal were fed back to the wider group – there wasn’t much time for big group discussion on the details.
- More social/collective scoring: space and time for AGs and members to meet up f2f (or on skype) to discuss applications – the scoring itself could still be individual
- The group investigated whether it could move to “yes, no, maybe, not convinced” ratings rather than scoring. But it was felt this wouldn’t generate a ‘clear’ result
- The proposed weighted scoring system is interesting but complicated – concerns only the person/people running it would actually understand it – challenges Edge’s principles of accessibility and transparency
- The case was then made for the present system – felt that it is a fair system and works – the bit that doesn’t work is the community sharing, no room to learn from each other why we rate projects the way we do
- The point was raised that scoring at all is perpetuating competitiveness
- The suggestion of free scoring 1-10 is risky if there are only 3 or 4 scorers – we could end up penalising areas of work that we know less about therefore groups such as, Roma groups, might get few points. [NB: Facilitator comment from Nim : the group seemed to think that keeping the current system and 1-10 scoring were not compatible, and that to accept 1-10 scoring we had to move to the weighting system. I’m not sure this is the case (though could be wrong) worth considering when reviewing the proposals]
- Feeling that there should be more seeing of each others’ reasons for marking groups up or downs (though adds a burden to the task of scoring apps, that we are already struggling to get members to participate in!)
- More social contact may help people to understand the (existing) scoring system
- Feeling that the problem isn’t the system, but that not enough people are scoring
- Suggested that we could look at how the deadlines function, and if there’s a way to move the deadlines/change the deadline to a system of when we get enough scores, e.g. a rolling programme? Or closing a deadline once we’ve had 150 applicants. Although it was pointed out that it’s the more well-resourced groups that tend to apply in that situation.
- Can we identify areas that we know little about and build our collective understanding/learning in that area?
- Multiple disadvantage gets most funding at the moment – perhaps because they can access less funding elsewhere?
- Can we add a clause to membership that we are required to score groups once a year to maintain membership?
Proposal: Edge scoring
The proposals fell into 3 categories:
- Proposal for the system we should use
- Things to address to improve it
- Things the FG should address longer term to improve the system
1. Proposal is:
a. To keep the current system
2. Improvements to address ASAP:
a. There’s not enough people scoring – how to fix this?
b. More social/collective scoring process, to improve community and develop our community learning. Important for the next funding round.
3. Longer term issues:
a. Review the deadline system – rolling deadlines, deadline closes once X number of applications come in etc. – ways to reduce applications and make it more manageable?
b. Review our membership structure – e.g. incentivise members scoring, make the process more accessible, make scoring a qualifying part of membership etc.