Groups recognize that FRIDA puts a lot of effort into making the grantmaking process available in several languages and that they have worked hard to incorporate advisors who can communicate with groups in their local languages. At the moment, FRIDA offers the opportunity to submit applications in seven languages. Applicants who do not speak one of those languages as their mother tongue, however, may be at a disadvantage when describing their work.
Interviewees recommended that FRIDA explore whether groups can share their application in other formats, while taking into consideration their security and safety. If this is not possible, FRIDA should be transparent with the collectives about this challenge and why a certain format is required.
Make feedback available
For many of the groups, FRIDA’s participatory grantmaking was the first time they had any form of relationship with donors and their first their first time applying for funding. Many had never written a funding proposal before.
Whether they received the funds or not, most groups valued taking part in the participatory decision-making process. However, many would have liked to access the feedback they received from other groups. They expressed that it would be very valuable for them to know what their peers thought of their proposal, as it would help them reflect on their work and potentially improve their applications for future grantmaking rounds. This transparency would help to address the concern that there may be a lack of impartiality when groups know those they are voting for, or vote for applications exclusively because of the region or thematic area in which they work.
Improve fairness in the voting process
Groups recommended that FRIDA might want to observe and consider how applicants compare with one another in the voting process. New or smaller groups might have a harder time articulating what they do and what they hope to accomplish with the funds. FRIDA needs to ensure that these groups receive support when applying. FRIDA should also pay attention to how the voting process is organised to allow these groups to be voted on to receive funding. Both emerging groups and those that are more established have a lot to contribute to their communities and to the feminist movement as a whole; it is important to ensure they are both getting fair chances to receive support.
Provide support and guidance on the voting process
Some groups also expressed that they would appreciate more support and guidance from FRIDA on the selection and voting process itself, beyond the voting guidelines that they received from FRIDA. For new applicants, the review and voting process is exciting, but many expressed also feeling nervous because they wanted to make sure they did their best and were fair with those groups whose proposals they were reviewing. Most took this responsibility very seriously and felt accountable to those groups, to FRIDA and to the movement. Thus, providing extra support to those pre-selected groups participating in the voting process, especially those participating for the first time, would be very valuable. Videos, webinars, guides, test voting processes, examples, etc. would all help groups understand the process better and feel more empowered to participate.
Be more transparent and clear about roles in decision-making
Most of the groups that participated in the evaluation agreed that FRIDA’s PGM process sought to be truly participatory and aimed to meaningfully engage them. Groups enjoyed being able to review the applications of other groups and valued being evaluated and selected by other activists in their region. Even though many felt that they were informed in a timely manner about procedures, timelines and any changes in the process, some groups wished for more clarity on the Peer Review Panel role in decision-making.
FRIDA shared with applicants a description of the participatory decision-making stages of their model, yet many groups needed more information about the involvement and role of advisors and FRIDA staff. They wanted to understand how FRIDA manages gaps and supports groups with less access. They recognized that some information might be omitted for security and safety issues – in such cases, FRIDA could develop a clear communication mechanism to ensure transparency.
Be mindful of time, internet access and transportation costs
Young people, and especially those engaged in activism or other social impact work, are often stretched thin with numerous responsibilities and activities and have very limited free time to dedicate to processes like FRIDA’s PGM. Yet, a participatory decision-making process in which young feminists have the opportunity to reclaim their power inevitably requires time, effort and resources. Recognizing this at all levels is crucial. Even though the majority of groups shared that time allocated for the voting process was enough, it might still be a challenge for some. The meaningful engagement of young feminists in the grantmaking process should ensure that no extra burden is put on them, as this may significantly restrict the ability of some groups to participate. FRIDA incorporates into their regular practices monetary recognitions for the time and effort of young feminists that participate in their processes (i.e., the Peer Review Panel members receive compensation for their time). However, engaging in the participatory grantmaking process and in the review of other proposals, for example, represented for some groups an expense both in time and money.
Taking part in the review process requires internet costs. For some groups, having access to a laptop and to internet access requires significant effort and financial investment. While many groups already have reliable internet connections in their offices or homes, others don’t – accessing the internet can be a significant burden for some. FRIDA advisors also highlighted the limited internet access that some groups have as a potential challenge.
Many groups also found their transportation costs to be a burden. Groups with only one laptop available, for example, opted to meet face-to-face to conduct the process together – this involved travel costs. Although several groups expressed that they tried to take advantage of regular and/or scheduled activities for which they already had allocated a budget, for some this was not an option.
Thus, FRIDA might consider providing financial support for data packages and transportation costs to ensure that groups in hard-to-reach areas are able to fully and meaningfully participate in the process.
Make the most of movement building opportunities
Participating groups expressed that one of the aspects that they most valued about FRIDA’s PGM was the possibility to learn more about and engage with other groups. They found reviewing applications inspiring, and felt reassured knowing that other groups recognized their work.
Young feminists very much valued the opportunity to connect and engage with other organisations beyond the PGM. As part of the voting process, groups can share if they would like to be connected with any of the other groups. Most of the groups request the opportunity to engage with other feminist groups. It might be interesting to create an online community to facilitate collaboration, exchange and movement building. This could include not only FRIDA grantee partners but also, with their consent, those applicants that are not selected.
It is often the case that groups may be working on similar issues. Some advisors and applicants alike also proposed the idea that groups working on similar or complementary issues could collaborate on grant applications or initiatives. Finally, interviewees expressed that it was also important for groups that FRIDA supports them in connecting with other donors who may be interested in funding their work.
Space for advocacy with the young feminist movements
FRIDA’s grantmaking model mirrors how young feminists organise within their collectives. It is a familiar model. However, many groups have shared that they have learned from FRIDA’s model and created similar practices within their groups when they were in a position to distribute resources through sub-granting and other selection processes. One of the interviewed advisors shared that based on FRIDA’s model, they found their way to their own participatory grantmaking process by co-creating FemFund in Poland. Many advisors and grantee partners have also participated in participatory grantmaking processes with other funders where they also shared their knowledge and influenced donor-driven processes.
There is opportunity for FRIDA to reflect on these practices together with movements and track the implementation of these processes as well as the impact of this model on not just direct grantmaking, but also on philanthropy in general.
Sustainability of the model
The feedback about FRIDA’s grantmaking model and grantee support during collective journeys with FRIDA was overwhelmingly positive. Young feminist collectives, grantee partners and applicants valued FRIDA’s care and intention in building relationships that focus on the well-being of collectives and supporting the journey they envision for themselves. Before 2020, FRIDA’s participatory grantmaking had been led by one person. Since the moment we started this report, FRIDA’s staff has grown and has a stronger structure to commit the time needed to implement their funding process with care not only for the grantee partners but also for the staff members leading this process. With a lack of capacity, we face burnout and neglect, and some processes need strong capacity to be embedded within them. At this moment, FRIDA seems to have organised their structure differently to hold this process. We recommend that FRIDA think about the capacities needed for sustainability of their models of support, and continuously evaluate what practices are needed and what needs to be changed or what capacity the organisation needs to support them.