The key findings have directed us to articulate the grounding principles of our participatory practice as a feminist fund. These values have always existed, but they are now solidified as part of the structure and principles under which this model operates. In this section, we reflect on the structure that holds those values and allow them to express themselves and shape this process. We share here FRIDA’s principles of participation such as transparency, accountability, intersectionality, shared accountability and how it manifest in our gratnmaking process.

The beginning of FRIDA's participatory
grantmaking journey

Grounding our practice in feminist
values and principles

To transform, dream and envision alternatives to traditional funding practices, we need to be able to name those alternatives, live them and embody them as everyday practices within FRIDA. Global philanthropy might not have a shared interpretation of what community involvement in a participatory decision-making process should look like, and many funders might hesitate to define it at all to avoid limiting its potential to only what we can imagine in the present moment. However, while we leave this concept open for growth, reflection and change, we also need to acknowledge that a lack of clarity and transparency in our processes can lead us as funders to hold onto power over the communities we exist to support. When agreements and definitions around the core values of participatory grantmaking strategies are loose or vague, funders largely still get to decide who is invited to participate in which organizational processes, at what stage and under what kind of conditions.

Without a deep understanding of the ethics of participation, and how privilege and oppression shape our realities and our own relationships to power as funders, participatory processes can become more for optics, without incorporating real decision-making power for the communities involved. This can lead activists to mistrust funder-led participatory processes, and instead of bringing organizers together, it can potentially cause further exclusion of communities, friction in social justice movements and perpetuation of harm towards those whose expertise these processes should amplify and protect.

The participatory grantmaking journey for FRIDA meant simultaneously and continually building new systems and integrating learnings from each grantmaking cycle. In this constant motion, some essential principles and values of our processes could have been overlooked in building the mechanics. We recognize that to fully embrace a movement-directed grantmaking approach that is flexible, creative, and reflective, we need to articulate the guidelines we use to mirror the feminist practices, values, and principles that we aspire for in our work.  

To meet that need, this report articulates the principles that will guide us through all the possibilities of a feminist participatory grantmaking process and help us reflect on where we are at, where we dream to be and what we need to practice on our way there as a fund. As these feminist principles of participation expand and reshape with new learnings and experiences over time, we are grounding our practice in the following commitments:

  • Young feminist activists from the Global South and East are co-designing and directing FRIDA’s grantmaking strategy, grantmaking process and distribution of resources as part of the staff, Board and Advisory Committee, as well as Grantee Partners and the broader young feminist community.
  • FRIDA’s participatory grantmaking model will always evolve to mirror the feminist principles of intersectionality, solidarity building and exchange.
  • The model encourages accountability practiced within movement spaces as well as FRIDA’s accountability toward young feminist movements.
  • FRIDA’s approach to grantmaking is rooted in trust and support for the holistic well-being of young feminist movements.
  • FRIDA’s participatory approach is an ever-expanding universe that reflects, evolves and explores new ways of working together that engage with contradictions and build conditions needed for connections to emerge.
  • FRIDA examines its own power and position in relation to feminist movements and is committed to embodying decolonized practices of resource distribution.
  • FRIDA learns with the community and reports back to the community. Young feminist presence, feedback and guidance is embedded in final decision-making processes across the organization.
  • FRIDA will commit resources and knowledge to co-create and maintain a structure that holds space for generative conflict and expands access and capacity for participation.
  • FRIDA commits to expanding its models of support while examining its own capacity to ensure those models are sustainable.
  • FRIDA will be a space for brave dreaming about what is possible. We will explore different approaches to participatory practices, with the recognition that they might not always work. We stay accountable for the mistakes that uncover new learnings and approaches, as well as for repairing those mistakes.

Building access and conditions for
participation in our processes

Intersectionality at the foundation of
the participatory grantmaking process

Since we adopted a participatory grantmaking model, each grantmaking cycle has posed new questions and reflection for FRIDA about what meaningful participatory decision-making processes look like in each of the contexts where we fund1FRIDA is accountable to review the systems and structure behind the participatory process and to learning with and from the young feminist organizers in FRIDA’s Advisory Committee, grantee partners, applicants in each cycle and broader feminist knowledge production on interlocking systems of oppression in each context.. For participatory grantmaking to be effective in reaching diverse communities, the decision-making needs to be built using an intersectional lens that unveils interlocking systems of oppression and their multilayered manifestations. Intersectional approaches expose inconsistencies within our model and shed light on who is missing from our grantmaking process and what we need to change and refine in our approach. We hold an ongoing commitment to build within our participatory processes a brave space for engaging with complexities and understanding how multiple systems of oppression could obscure dynamics of power and privilege, limit visibility and access, and build up bias, exclusion and discrimination towards one community while benefiting another. As a feminist fund, we need to be transparent about the principles and values in our work that are consistent and non-negotiable. We strive to politically position ourselves against interlocking systems of oppression. As funders, we need to be aware of the power we hold to replicate harmful practices simply by choosing to be unaccountable or to overlook it when our internal systems and practices are not aligned with our values. By applying a critical intersectional lens across our work, we expand our knowledge and capacity to facilitate multiple power dynamics and reimagine how we engage our community in ways that center care and trust.

Practicing feminist solidarity
and accountability

Trust as an outcome, not an
assumption

Meaningful participation can strengthens
movement connections

In FRIDA’s participatory grantmaking process, young feminist collectives get to read and learn about, as well as support, each other’s work. FRIDA’s participatory grantmaking process creates a peer movement space where young feminist collectives can experience a sense of collective agency by informing and directing funding priorities in their context, and by building relationships of mutuality and shared accountability with one another. Young feminist collectives get an opportunity to learn from each other’s realities and strategies and build on each other’s visions of organizing toward freedom and justice. Through this process, young feminist collectives can connect with diverse feminist movement solutions and approaches and deepen their knowledge about realities different from their own. A successful participatory grantmaking process for FRIDA would allow for an abundance of pathways, strategies and transformative feminist approaches to be in conversation with and inspire one another.

If it fosters the right connections and exchange, a participatory grantmaking process can generate a space for young feminist collectives to recognize themselves as part of vibrant, expansive feminist movements where every group, initiative and action is contributing to one another and magnifying collective power. A meaningful participatory grantmaking process allows collectives to be in relationship with the outcome of their participation and witness not only the direct outcomes of their decision-making, but also how this ethos and practice could translate to feminist movement alliance. The movement building and exchange that FRIDA’s participatory decision-making process seeks to support have the potential to expand beyond FRIDA’s grantmaking process and to become embodied practices that young feminist collectives bring into their own communities.

Holding space for the complexities
of participation

Even though we strive to build participatory grantmaking processes that encourage affirming connections and enhance collaboration, we recognize that this does not mean that they will be free of disconnection, competition and friction. Meaningful connections and misalignment can occur simultaneously and interchangeably. Diverse perspectives and strategies about how to get to what collective vision of the future can co-exist in the same movement space. Movements for justice are not homogenous in their organizing, and people arrive to them with different lived experiences and backgrounds. Systems of oppression are deeply present in our lives and can affect us in similar or unique ways, which can manifest in our collaborations, visions and strategies. These complexities and contradictions are present in any participatory decision-making process and need to be facilitated with care.

As a participatory funder, FRIDA has the responsibility to engage with the complexities of our processes with a restorative approach that prevents the perpetuation of harm, without deepening frictions. The intersectional lens increases our capacity for creative intervention and allows us to hold space for generative conflict by helping us understand conflict’s origin, where it wants to move us and what it asks us to grow. An accessible, transparent participatory decision-making model allows us to experience the power of interconnectedness, as well as its complexities. However, it also provides tools of support when violence and abuse, and guides us through the restorative justice process. Therefore, having a structure behind any participatory grantmaking process allows for funders to approach difficult questions with curiosity about what there is to be learned and how to integrate those learnings in the future.

Participatory processes co-created by
and for the communities they serve

FRIDA’s participatory grantmaking process and systems are facilitated and co-developed by young feminist activists from FRIDA’s focus regions. Young feminist movements are abundant in knowledge, experience and ideas, and together we can dream up solutions for a participatory grantmaking system that serves these movements and mirrors feminist values. Young feminist leadership in the design of FRIDA’s participatory grantmaking model has been critical to address diverse perspectives needs and realities. If a participatory decision-making process doesn’t involve the communities it is serving in its strategy and system design, it might not identify and address the needs, dynamics and nuances of those communities’ lived experiences. Funders who inadequately interpret community needs by hiring external expertise can end up perpetuating the same hierarchies of knowledge dominance and production that have long existed within philanthropy. A decision-making process in which young feminists participate must be built and facilitated with their expertise at the center. By following this principle, young feminist visions and experiences are integrated across FRIDA’s organizational structures, and decisions made are always resourced by their knowledge and experiences.

Learning together and reporting back
to young feminist movements

FRIDA’s participatory grantmaking process is an ever-expanding universe for learning and reflection. We listen to and welcome community feedback as a blessing that encourages new ways of thinking and moves our processes, systems and strategies closer to the young feminist movements that we exist to support. We see impact and value in processes that allow us to continuously learn, reflect and change our practice as a fund. 

FRIDA incorporates space for feedback and change at every stage of the process, and applies learnings across our strategies, including stepping away from practices that we have outgrown. After each cycle, we collect our learnings and evaluate the principles that our participatory model seeks to align with. We review where the model needs to change, adapt and expand. Changes in our movements and context can also happen overnight. Therefore, we must ensure our grantmaking systems are dynamic, flexible and ready to adapt. FRIDA commits to being daring and curious about exploring different models of movement participation in our processes, as well as to being accountable to young feminist movements as we change. The data that FRIDA receives from young feminist organizers globally belongs to those movements, and FRIDA commits to using this data responsibly for our collective learning on how best to support young feminist organizing. We then share this collective wisdom and knowledge with movements by reporting learnings back to them.

Process carries the impact

Feminist movements are composed of individual and collective relationships that create a lasting base for our activism. We strive to embody feminist practices that we want to see unfold. If our funding model is values-aligned with our funding strategy, the resources we provide could unlock new possibilities and outcomes. Together with young feminist organizers, we are practicing approaches and setting intentions for what we want to see replicated in the world. We get to test alternative mechanisms around the resources and values on which we hope to build our futures and learn in real time what we need to be mindful of on our way there.

Sustainable systems and practices

Overtime, FRIDA has gathered a lot of knowledge and experience that is hasn’t been always easy to document, share and implemented in each grantmaking cycle when staff members who hold this process transition out of FRIDA. It is a long and overwhelming process for all this knowledge and history to be collectivized and shared from one staff member to another. All the pieces of information that sustain this model are important to share and build into holistic practices that is easy to replicate in each cycle. FRIDA commits to a participatory model that is curious, ever-evolving and adaptive to the young feminist community’s needs. This commitment also implies that we need to evaluate and strengthen our internal capacity to practice the principles behind our participatory model. FRIDA seeks to listen inward while being attentive also to movement needs, so that we can remodel our systems internally to sustain this practice for the long haul