An aspect of FRIDA’s participatory grantmaking process that participants have expressed the most appreciation about is the possibility for young feminists to see themselves as part of a movement. The types of feminist groups that collaborate with FRIDA tend to focus their resources and energies at the grassroots level. The participatory grantmaking process is built to invite groups to become aware of feminist work in their region, learn from other groups and establish new partnerships. 

Most interviewees stated that reading about other initiatives in the region widened their perception of the young feminist movement.

Interviewees explained how reading other groups’ project summaries awakened in them new ideas and the desire to tell stories about the movement. In their interviews, grantee partners resoundingly shared that the FRIDA grant application process helped them value and adopt a wider regional perspective. Some interviewees reflected that since problems are structural and deep-rooted, most groups in their region were grappling with similar issues, but which manifest differently based on specific groups’ contexts. In one of the voting comments, an applicant described reading proposal summaries as an opportunity to ‘see and think with the eyes of other gazes’ (translated from Spanish). By witnessing the panorama of different thematics and approaches proposed, another applicant suggested that they acquired a more comprehensive outlook on the many forms of feminist struggle.

Telling different realities of feminisms is essential to discourage homogeneous and univocal views on women and trans identities.

The approaches were unique according to what would work in their societies and what would work in their communities. That was very interesting to see.

Learning more about the work of other groups in the region supported a sense of solidarity.

A widened awareness of their regional contexts made young feminists feel like they are not alone and that their work speaks to the work of other young feminist collectives. This sense of solidarity was enhanced even without knowing each other. Reading about the work of other groups made young feminists aware of the diversity of feminist movements, with some expressing that it reaffirmed their belief that we should speak of feminisms in plural. The realisation that many factors that affect young women in their contexts also affect others throughout the world promoted in many of them the need for an intersectional perspective in their work. They also had the opportunity to learn more about the challenges other young feminists face in their countries and regions and the strategies and approaches they apply in their organising.

For most, seeing so much powerful young feminist organising allowed groups to manage their expectations with regards to securing FRIDA funding

Although they were all excited and hopeful that they would be selected, many expressed that if they weren’t, they would still feel reassured knowing that the funding would be going to such amazing groups and supporting other young feminists in realizing their dreams. A group interviewed expressed that after reading the summaries from other groups, they were so impressed by their work and the difficult conditions they were working under that they thought about withdrawing their own application because they felt that others needed the funds more than they did. The process itself made the result not less important, but less determinant of how they viewed their participation in the process and the experience itself. 

“It’s been inspiring, it encourages us to see other work but also we feel less disheartened if we do not receive the grant, we know it’s gone somewhere critical as well.”

“It inspired us very much, it made us feel supported by a network. It also made us feel like if we didn’t get the grant, still the funds would reach wonderful projects, and that in itself gave us a lot of strength” (translated from Spanish by author) 

The awareness and realisation that other young feminists are doing both similar and different work provides inspiration and a sense of recognition.

For example, one interviewee shared the experience of having established a research team but not knowing how to go about activating it. By reading others’ applications, they learned about an organisation in a neighbouring country’s research model. Reading about the other group’s work motivated them – they were able to discover their own model. Receiving the support and votes of other young feminists also made participants feel that there was a collective value to their work. They expressed feeling recognized in ways they would not have if those who had acknowledged their work had been people in far off offices, disconnected from their realities. Knowing that other young feminists believed in them and valued their work was an important validation and reassurance of the need for their work. By ‘seeing each other’ through the voting process, groups shifted their perception of isolation and understood differently their social transformation power.

Participatory grantmaking also creates a culture of horizontal accountability as opposed to top-down accountability.

Those who received grants associated being selected by the movement with a greater sense of responsibility towards their work. One interviewee conveyed the importance of it by saying that, by voting for them, their peers acknowledged and recognised their work as something valuable. The appreciation for their work encouraged them to continue. 

Although project summaries are anonymised, FRIDA’s voting system includes a mechanism to establish new partnerships. In the voting comments, groups respond to a question expressing whether they want to connect with other groups. Most groups respond yes to this question. Groups can also specify the application code and country of the group they’d like to get to know. Applicants often express interest in following other groups’ work and seeing their projects come to life.   

“We felt responsible for those who voted for us, not only towards the founder.”

“If you don’t have the support from peers, groups that are similar to yours, fellow activists, people who are constituents, there is no logic to continue to do what you do.”

“Such a participatory process helps the groups to decentralize, build alliances, and strategize with other movements. Learning to collaborate and also learning other methodologies with other groups.”

Allowing for an expanded perspective thus invites different ways of organising and invites grantee partners to be creative. This is especially important given that traditional funding systems perpetuate a culture of competition amongst groups, which often hinders the creation of partnerships. In traditional grantmaking, the donor establishes a more restricted dialogue between their own values, agendas and priorities and the approaches and reach of the grantee partner. Instead, participatory grantmaking opens multiple channels of communication simultaneously. Donors exercise great power when they decide how and what to fund. Yet, donors also use financial resources to amplify their power by establishing networks over which they maintain control and manage direct communication. Participatory grantmaking has the potential to share the power of networks with grantee partners and, at the same time, creates more power with grantee partners by fostering movement connections among grantees.