In addition to the model’s strengths, we wanted to share aspects of FRIDA’s participatory grantmaking model that surveyed groups found were either challenging or could be improved. We discussed each aspect as it emerged in the evaluation process. We then shared the recommendations made by external consultants for FRIDA staff to clarify or strategize about how to move forward.

Should more information about each group be available? What about safety concerns?

In FRIDA’s current participatory grantmaking process, votes are anonymous. Many groups felt that having summary descriptions of the work is not enough to fully understand what the group and/or initiative is all about. This is especially true for groups who were applying for funding for the first time – as they might struggle to present their work clearly and convincingly. Many groups felt that knowing more about the organisations they were assessing, even their identity, could benefit and simplify decision-making processes. There were even some suggestions that groups could have calls and closer interactions during the voting process to be able to clarify any doubts and learn more about the work of other groups. In the absence of calls, they suggested that applicants could share photos, videos and audio of their work.

Maybe instead of reading the projects, it would be interesting to see videos or make virtual presentations to get to know better those who are applying for funds from FRIDA.

Amongst FRIDA’s advisors there was some degree of consensus that more background information should be provided to those groups participating in the voting process. Some advisors felt that the decisions were being made based on which groups had the best skills in presenting their work and that this could affect the voting process.

I love this decision-making process, but I also feel that groups with fewer language capacities are more vulnerable in the process since they cannot convince others about the importance of their work.
— FRIDA advisor

My recommendation though would be to share more information with applicants to support their voting process. Like I shared in the previous questions, details about how many grantee partners are currently supported in the region, what thematic and approaches have the most/least representation in terms of grantee partners working on them and maybe even details about representation of diverse identities in the grantee partners that currently are supported by FRIDA (how many groups are girl-led, how many are intersex-centred, trans-youth/people – centred, how many are disability rights-focused). I believe a fact sheet like that would help applicants best understand where funds are most needed and inform their decision based on the accurate knowledge of FRIDA’s resources allocation.
— FRIDA advisor

Yet, other groups expressed safety concerns in sharing non-anonymized application material. They felt that receiving detailed information about groups and their work via email could pose a risk to groups operating in restrictive contexts. This may discourage some groups from applying for funding and be a reason why groups might decide to share little information about their work. 

Sometimes we cannot apply for grant for fear of prosecution and if we do we try to be very anonymous for safety and we end up not receiving the grant… we felt that during that process that we had not filled out some of the things for safety and that’s is why we didn’t get the grant.

We put less information in the application because of safety issues and we wrote to FRIDA but they didn’t respond to us.

The application process was public which makes you feel unsafe and end up not providing all the information about our work which is a disadvantage because they are scared of sharing much about their work due to security issues

How can FRIDA ensure the objectivity of the voting process?

Some groups recognized that groups may be partial toward those working in their countries, regions or with similar thematic areas. They questioned how to ensure impartiality in the participatory grantmaking process. In addition, some groups feared that it would be difficult to maintain anonymity: groups who know each other may coordinate to vote for one another, further harming emerging groups with less connections within the movement. Others were concerned about ‘stealing’ project summaries or ideas from other organisations. They requested clarification from FRIDA on how it addresses these risks and biases to ensure consistency in the voting process and that groups with less access can have equal opportunity to receive a grant.

Many groups also expressed concerns that feminist spaces are not always intersectional and feared that groups may not understand the importance of intersectionality when voting. For example, some groups working with trans and intersex collectives expressed concerns that they may be discriminated against, especially given the resurgence of anti-trans feelings within the mainstream feminist movement in certain regions.

Even though groups expressed that they feel young feminists should be deciding where the funding is going and consider themselves knowledgable about their contexts, many felt fear about choosing the right groups. The majority felt that all groups are worthy of funding and felt uneasy that some might not receive resources they need. This shows that groups really show up to this process with care and feminist solidarity at the center. However, this doesn’t mean that they show up without scepticism about the process. Young feminist organisers understand and recognize the complexity of feminist movements. Because of this fear, they actually approach the voting process the same way they want other groups to approach them.

Interestingly, in the analyses of vote allocations, we learned that the collectives actually applied this lens when voting, most likely because of their understanding of the power struggles within feminist movements. Coming from the movement, the groups do not only understand the background but also the dynamics that should be taken into consideration when selecting groups and priorities. Often, the lived experience of organising and co-existence within movements is lacking in decision-making processes where the communities being funded are not involved.

Should participatory voting be the only selection mechanism?

Despite positive feedback on the voting process, some groups felt uneasy about the responsibility of excluding some groups from gaining access to funding. Although certainly a minority, some groups expressed a discomfort with voting, questioning whether they were qualified to make such decisions – they felt pressure to make the “right” decision. The majority felt that all groups are worthy of funding and felt uneasy that some might not receive resources they need. This shows that groups really show up to this process centering care and feminist solidarity.

When asked how they would envision this process differently, many suggested the need for another layer of review by FRIDA staff and advisors. Not all believed that the decision should be left entirely to the young feminist groups applying for funding. Many of them believed that FRIDA, with their experience and expertise, should also participate in the process and perhaps make the final decisions based on the recommendations made through voting.  For some, they also felt that FRIDA should be more transparent about what happens after the participatory voting process and how it approaches these concerns and deals with bias.

FRIDA in fact does have another layer within the peer review process: following the voting, the young feminists who are a part of the FRIDA Advisory Community and grantee community participate in a Peer Review Panel that reviews the eligibility of proposals and reviews the final voting process. 

The evaluation also engaged the Advisory Community to get a sense of how they understood their role in the participatory grantmaking process. Regarding the participatory process in which applicants themselves decide who receives funding, most advisors agreed with the model and felt FRIDA was doing a good job implementing it. Almost all advisors felt that the grantmaking process was clear and that they had received the necessary and appropriate support from the FRIDA team. However, some did believe that the groups should be engaged further to ensure they understand which proposals are the best fit for FRIDA and which most need the resources. Advisors didn’t necessarily feel like they had the power to influence the decision-making process with regards to assigning funds and understood their role to be more of a filter. The overall opinion of advisors was that a participatory model was the best way for a feminist fund like FRIDA to decide which groups receive resources; advisors also felt they could support it with regional expertise.

Is the process too time-consuming?

Even though the majority of groups shared that the timeframe they had to read and vote for proposals was enough, groups felt it must be acknowledged that it does require a significant time dedication for them to actively take part in such a participatory process. 

As mentioned above, groups performed the task of reviewing applications and voting on them with responsibility and care – as such, many organised participatory processes where they worked together to review, discuss and assess the applications. 

Though most were happy to dedicate time for this and described the process as worthwhile, for some this was a burden adding to the many responsibilities they already have. Some reflected that having to dedicate so much time to reading summaries might stand in the way of participating fully in the process – especially for smaller groups in which all members are volunteers. ✨