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6 May 2014 minutes

Review of membership process
Tuesday 6 May
Present: Elena, Sophie, Patrick, Stuart (via Skype)

The main issue is around how much we want to gate-keep. We don’t want to put people off or to be an ‘exclusive club’. But we don’t want our values to be diluted and to end up funding mainstream groups and projects as a result. Also, we have to appreciate that some people may become radicalised by joining Edge. It is complicated as it has to be case-by-case and we don’t want to have a list of criteria for members, so it will have to be based on a subjective judgement to some extent, about how inline they are with our values.

Affect on scoring
At the moment applications get from around 5-15 scores each. If an application affects many communities/ identities, typically they’ll get more scores since several different Advisory Groups will be involved (e.g. Lesbian Immigration Support Group would be relevant to LGBTQI, women’s and migrant AGs). With fewer scores one very high or low score can make all the difference between an application getting short-listed or not, which is a concern if we were to have many new members who weren’t very well aligned to our values.

As the membership grows each application should get more scores which will lessen this problem. Also, recruiting more Advisory Group members will better ensure that any applications that are not inline with our values are removed from the process at an early stage. In the meantime, it might be worth giving some thought to how we can better ensure every application gets at least 10 scores and trying to be as thorough as possible in the early parts of the process in terms of identifying inappropriate groups.

New membership questions
Some of the new questions suggested are quite complex (eg Q3 and 4 about values and tactics and which groups you would/ wouldn’t fund) and might exclude people who don’t speak English as a first language or people with literacy issues. Information about tactics is not necessarily useful since what is seen as radical for one community is not always the same for another. We need to keep it simple whilst also making it clear what information we’re looking for.

Proposed changes to the current member application process

Proposal 1
We have an added statement, as drafted by the Facilitating Group, which makes our more radical nature clearer and encourages them to look at what we’ve funded in the past. This may result in people deciding for themselves that we are not right for them.

We believe in radical change, in real justice and equality. We value a variety of opinions and approaches, both in the range of groups we fund and in our membership, as we believe that it’s up to communities to determine what radical change means for them. We try to support ideas and activities that have little support elsewhere.

This approach is what makes us different from other organisations, it means that some of the groups we support have radical views such as being against prisons, national borders, the police or military. Some may be openly anarchist or anti­-capitalist. Whilst this does not apply to all the groups we fund, it is very important that members are open to supporting groups that have such radical views. Being radical is what makes us different. Please look through the list of previously funded groups for more information: Round 1, Round 2 and Round 3.

Proposal 2
We keep the questions the same as they were before except for adding “and why” to question 2 which will hopefully bring in more about their values.

To request to join, please send us the following information about yourself. Please try to keep it under 200 words:

    1.    Who you are, where you live and a little about your background

    2.    What projects and issues you’re involved in or interested in
 and why
    3.    Why you would like to join Edge Fund

Proposal 3
We also add a statement to explain why we are asking these questions and to give a guide about what information we’re looking for.

We are asking these questions because we want a diverse membership of people who are broadly on the same page, so we’d like to hear a bit about your values and tactics for creating a better world.

Proposal 4
Since some people may struggle to answer the questions or may not have computer access, we should offer for people to be able to answer the questions over the phone (as we do with funding applications). Calls can be taken by the Facilitating Group or Welcome Group.

Proposal 5
We continue with the current process where all membership applications are sent to the members list to give members the opportunity to raise concerns about any of the applicants. Where concerns are raised a member of the Facilitating Group or Welcome Group will call the individuals to talk more fully about the values of Edge to find out how well aligned they are. The person who called the applicant will report back to the Facilitating Group who will make a decision about if the person can join. However, the aim is that through the discussion the applicants themselves would see if they did not fit so it would be a mutual decision rather than us having to turn people down (NB Social Justice Fund NW in the US take this approach and it seems to work well for them).

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