Application Screening Stage: FRIDA Advisory and Grantee Partner Peer Review Panel
In every open call for proposals, FRIDA receives over 1,000 applications. Once the call for proposals is closed, FRIDA grantmaking staff assigns proposals to the Peer Review Panel for initial screening. The Peer Review Panel is composed of young feminist activists from FRIDA’s advisory community and current grantee partners who have elected to participate in reviewing the eligibility of applications received in their region4. The Peer Review Panel is organized regionally, and the review process is held in English and Spanish.
The Peer Review Panel members are assigned proposals through a secure online platform. Through this platform, they can see all applications assigned to them and communicate with other members of the Panel.
We assign proposals to panel members based on the region/country/thematic of the group and the affiliations of advisors. Each application is reviewed by two members of the Peer Review Panel. They only evaluate whether applications fit our basic eligibility criteria. There is a brief review form that they can complete about each of the groups they review. The form consists of brief checklists for easier data analyses about the application process and for easier allocation of proposals to the next stage (Voting Groups)–in this stage, reviewers evaluate and record, for instance, whether a group is self-led, working on underfunded issues, an informal group or a larger organization, etc.
In the review form, The Peer Review Panel can share more information about the group, their members and their work if they are familiar with it. This information is available only to the Peer Review Panel and FRIDA grantmaking staff to support the organizing of the voting groups and the due diligence process. When we receive a large number of proposals from one country and not all can go to the voting process, the Peer Review Panel helps us prioritize those that are most aligned with the criteria and have little or no access to funding.
Advisors and grantee partners that are participating in the Peer Review Panel for the first time receive training from FRIDA grantmaking staff and advisors on FRIDA’s participatory grantmaking practice, FRIDA’s grantmaking process and FRIDA’s values and ethos.
Transparency and Confidentiality
Before entering this process, Peer Review Panelists sign a confidentiality agreement where they commit to discuss the proposals reviewed only within the Peer Review Panel.
Before reviewing applications, we ask Peer Review Panelists to share with FRIDA if they are part of any group or if they closely collaborate with any group that has applied for funding in that cycle. In general, if a panelist is part of a group that has applied, they can’t be part of the screening process. Therefore, they must share this information with FRIDA staff before applications are assigned. We do this to protect the anonymity of all groups in the second stage of the process, where groups review each other’s proposals and vote on each other.
If panelists are not part of a group, but are affiliated with it, we ask that they share that with FRIDA so we can ensure that the group’s proposal is assigned to someone else to screen for eligibility. The panelist can still screen other applications. If they know of a group or their work but are not closely affiliated with them, they can still screen their proposal. Each proposal is screened by at least two Peer Review Panelists and/or a panelist and a staff member, so that a group’s application doesn’t rely only on one panelist’s feedback.
Applicant Peer Review Stage: Young Feminist Collectives Voting Process
Once an applicant’s eligibility has been confirmed by the Peer Review Panel, FRIDA grantmaking staff designs the voting process. This process is designed differently in each region, based on feedback from previous cycles, advisory comments and regional strategies the FRIDA community has created to deepen our understanding of the young feminist organizing in each context. Depending on the number of proposals, geopolitics, language and difference in funding access across the regions, FRIDA staff create Voting Groups.
All groups that are aligned with FRIDA’s criteria are part of the voting process. Generally, every cycle up to 500 of the approximately 1,000 proposals we receive fit the criteria and pass into the voting process.
The eligible groups are again reminded that they are participating in a peer review process where their proposal summary will be shared with other young feminist organizations in their region. They get an opportunity to communicate with FRIDA any concerns they might have about the process or to let us know if they won’t be able to take part for any reason.
FRIDA grantmaking staff create Voting Groups within the online platform. After the voting groups are designed, the application summaries are automatically assigned to their respective Voting Group in each region. The voting summaries are anonymized and consist of responses to the following questions:
- Why and how was your group founded?
- What is your group’s mission?
- Share the main activities your group has carried out in the past. If you are just starting, what are the main activities you have planned?
- How will your group use the FRIDA grant?
The groups receive an email with a timeline, Voting Guidelines and a video guide in the language they used to apply on how to review proposals on the online platform. We prepare a Voting Guide in 7 languages that explains the process, and we encourage groups to have language access in mind when voting–not every group can present their work with the same language proficiency, so groups should more strongly consider the work and communities that they feel are important to be supported in their context, rather than eloquence of language.
In the Voting Stage, applicants read proposal summaries assigned in their Voting Groups and can choose to vote for five groups. The voting is not hierarchical and the applicants can’t vote for their own group. When voting, the young feminist groups share a brief rationale for their selections and why they would prioritize funding for the work of the groups they vote for. They can also share any questions, concerns or comments about any of the proposals in their Voting Group to add to the due diligence process in case that specific group receives a high number of votes and is considered for funding. The applicants can also express interest in connecting with any of the groups that have been part of their Voting Group. We also ask the groups if they would like to be connected to other donors in case their proposal is not selected.
The Voting Process is organized differently in each of the regions. We embrace the complexities, the coexisting pathways of solidarity and the power dynamics in the feminist movement. FRIDA strives for a process that mirrors the nature of organizing in different contexts so that we can respond to the challenges of those contexts. For instance, the voting in Latin America has been organized sub-regionally in Spanish and Portuguese, and also takes into consideration thematics, geopolitics, language justice and access. West, East, Central and South Africa voting is done thematically in French, English and Portuguese, with contextual lenses applied to the process as well. We also consider the fact that some groups have more experience and access to submit their proposal to FRIDA, so we take this into consideration when creating Voting Groups so that proposals with similar experience levels go into the same Voting Group with each other.
FRIDA shares with the community the number of young feminist groups that are in the voting process in their region, the number of Voting Groups and the number of grants that are allocated to each region and sub-region. We ensure that there is a regional balance in grant and budget allocation. Understanding the imbalance in philanthropic giving and funding commitments across different regions, FRIDA’s regional strategy points out the gaps and underfunded contexts and thematics in individual regions. In some cases, FRIDA can allocate a higher number of grants for these groups, especially if they are underfunded. Usually in each region there are about 10 Voting Groups, each receiving up to 15 proposals to review. Depending on the number of Voting Groups, usually about 2-4 applicants from each Voting Group go on to receive grants.
After all groups submit their votes, the Peer Review Panel and FRIDA’s program staff review the voting results in their respective regions. For each regional and sub-regional voting process, there is a conversation within the Panel about how groups have voted, their voting feedback and any dynamics that might have arisen in this process–for instance, how underrepresented groups and those with little or no access to funding are reflected in the votes. At this stage, the Peer Review Panel comes together to discuss the results and confirms that the groups with the highest number of votes can continue into the due diligence stage. If some groups have the same number of votes and only one can be awarded, the Peer Review Panel makes this decision based on previously applied analyses from the voting process, FRIDA regional strategies and evaluation from the previous grantmaking cycle. The highest voted group goes into the next stage of the due diligence process.
In case the Peer Review Panel reports any gaps in the voting process or groups that come from underrepresented priority communities have not received high vote counts, the Peer Review Panel can collectively make a decision to allocate a grant to that group in their region.
All groups considered for a grant go through a due diligence process that takes two weeks or longer. The due diligence process is done by FRIDA staff and serves not only as a risk assessment tool in FRIDA’s funding strategy, but as part of our accountability to the Voting Groups that funds are supporting the organizing and work they intended to support. We are committed to funding young feminist groups that are self-led, so we ask questions about applicants’ work, leadership, how they started organizing and if there are any internal or external challenges the group is experiencing.
We inform the applicants that we will contact the references they provided in their application. We understand that many groups are newly established and can’t provide references from previous funders, so we also ask them to provide as references individuals and/or organizations connected to feminist organizing that can share more about their work. We ask them to notify their references that they will be contacted. They can also choose to change their reference contacts at this stage.
Advisory committee members and FRIDA staff can also contact local partners or sister funds to ask if they can provide more information about the group.
Calls with Groups
In some cases, we have a call with a group to better understand their work, structure and leadership. This is mostly the case if a group is part of another organization or another entity.
Once the due diligence process is complete, if a group does not comply with FRIDA funding criteria, the group is informed and the next highest voted group from that voting process is considered for the grant instead.
All awarded groups receive an award email again explaining the process of how their grant is selected and are invited to share any notes of love, solidarity or appreciation with the groups that voted for them.
The groups that were not selected in this cycle receive an email with a list of the groups that were awarded in their voting group, with their voting number, country and name. We share with them other resources and funding opportunities. If they have confirmed in the application form that they would like to be connected with other funders and there is an ongoing opportunity with FRIDA’s partner funds, we share applications with partner funds so groups don’t have to go through another application process.
We collect bios and photos of the groups for FRIDA’s website. This process takes time, especially because we want to ensure that translation is available, which can cause delays. We ensure that the groups receive an email with the names of groups that have been selected, and once all groups’ bios are ready, we share the information with everyone again, together with appreciation quotes.
How are participatory practices applied across organizations? Other types of grants
All FRIDA’s grantmaking support is done through a community decision-making process. Renewal Grant Approval is done by an advisory committee in each region and FRIDA program staff and doesn’t involve external decision-making. FRIDA program staff accompany each group in their grantee journey. We would like this process to be as streamlined as possible, especially because we commit to providing long-term support. The discussion about renewal grants happens with the advisory committee only in cases when there have been challenges within the group.
The Special Grants selection process is carried out by the Peer Review Panel created for each specific cycle and consists of advisory members, grantee partners who did not apply in that round and FRIDA staff. FRIDA staff is there to share capacity strengthening needs of each group and supports the decision-making prioritization.
FRIDA also involves the young feminist community in other decision-making processes like selecting Board Members, our Strategic Planning Process and our Resources Mobilization Consultation. They are standalone processes and should be evaluated separately from the FRIDA’s participatory grantmaking process.