The findings from the external evaluation have sparked many new ideas, thoughts and doubts, and have also confirmed many concepts and processes that we have already been questioning. In this section, we are weaving together our responses to the findings from the external evaluation as well as the internal reflection. Many of the feedback, stories, and experiences that have been shared with us have illuminated the impact of resources that carry the intention / inspire? connection between and within movements. It has activated our imagination and helped us to envision all the possibilities that could emerge from a participatory grantmaking practice. FRIDA stays devoted to resourcing the participatory feminist futures that we want to see unfold. Although it will take time for those futures to manifest, we can already feel their impact on the resilience of movements’ connections.

Addressing the Structure Behind the Process

Participation Needs Facilitation

FRIDA funds young feminist organizing that is multilingual, cross-thematic,  interconnected within different movements and abundant in strategies and approaches. Although young feminist organizers globally might be facing similar realities and challenges in their organizing, young feminist movements are not homogenous. Creating a participatory grantmaking process that can respond to the many dimensions of feminist organizing globally has been much more challenging for us than focusing on a specific thematic or geographic context. FRIDA’s model is exploring different approaches to participation across socio-political contexts, focus areas and language barriers for the more than 500 applicant proposals that end up in the voting process during each cycle. In every grant cycle, we have been adapting and changing the model in each of FRIDA’s focus regions to address their specific challenges. We must explicitly map out the internal infrastructure that holds this participatory process in order to facilitate young feminist movement connection and exchange and address complexities with transparency and care. It is also important that the knowledge that is shared in the participatory grantmaking model never just stays within the realm of grantmaking, but is in dialogue with all other pieces of FRIDA’s work.

Participatory Funding Strategy

The Role of the Global Young Feminist Advisory Committee

Grantee Partners as Part of the Peer Review Panel
in Grantmaking Processes

Why the open call for applications includes
more decision-makers than just the peer review panel

The process is not done behind closed doors

Having both a Peer Review Panel and an applicant voting process makes  FRIDA’s participatory decision-making more diverse and as well as more complex. However, creating space for continuous feedback, input, and recommendations supports FRIDA in making the system more accessible, intersectional and truly participatory. All groups get to see proposal summaries that are being reviewed next to theirs in their voting group. There are many emotions, intimate realities and vulnerabilities written into the grant applications that groups submit to funders, and sometimes funders meet them with nothing but an automatic email response or depersonalized process. Often application processes are not clear, and applicants don’t know who sees and reviews their application, if all criteria are applied, and how funders score their importance and need for funding.  As one of the key transparency tools of its participatory grantmaking model, FRIDA has designed a system where groups can track their proposal, the stage they are at in the process, and what is coming next. We want groups to be able to witness key parts of the process and see that the time and resources they put into submitting their application are valued as much as their work, regardless of whether they receive funding or not. As funders, we should engage in building trust with the movements that we exist to support, regardless of whether they are part of our grantee cohorts. Relationship and trust building opportunities are important to our initial grant applications stage. An impersonal grantmaking process could take away that potential.

The participatory grantmaking model increases transparency, but FRIDA also needs to continue to balance that transparency with safety and confidentiality in its upcoming grant cycles.

How we facilitate peer review panel access and 'conflict of interest'

Addressing the Accessibility of the System

Anonymity

Why Only Written Applications?

To support the anonymity of our process, FRIDA only accepts proposals in written format. Groups can only apply through an online platform in 1 of 7 languages or submit a Word document. We agree that other formats might open space for more creative connection among those participating, However, we have also witnessed that consistency in the formatting of applications neutralizes the voting process and decreases bias. Furthermore, not all groups feel comfortable with video formats or could be exposed to risks if videos or photos are shared. Also, video formats, although more engaging, could affect the voting process for those who have more access to technology, or who have strong video presentation and language skills, over those who don’t have the same access. Not only could it impact those who choose writing as their tool of expression, but it could also lead to voting decisions based on presentation preference, rather than on the organizing work itself. Bias is already evident in the writing format, still groups apply the understanding of the language access issue in the voting process and vote for the idea behind the project. Most importantly, when the applications are in written format, the identity of people behind the work is confidential, minimizing their exposure to risk. There are many accessibility challenges that groups can experience in foreign funders’ grantmaking processes in general, no matter the format—accessibility of the application, language requirements, non-profit lingo culture, etc. As we are addressing these challenges in FRIDA’s process, we recognize that many might experience these barriers with us as well. However, so far the written format has offered the most equity for our global, cross-thematic, multilingual participatory process.

The written application format allows us to practice consistency and fairness in a participatory process that engages more than 500 young feminist collectives in every cycle. However, FRIDA can explore more creative ways of supporting the presentation of written proposals and propose more detailed guidelines.

Language Access

Opportunities and Limitations of Online Participation

The Importance of a Holistic Outreach Plan

Support Capacity Strengthening for Participation

Our responses to community questions and concerns about our processes are a space to practice trust building. Building that trust lies in how we protect the safety of those involved and how we navigate through conflict of interest and power dynamics. Timely communication, responding to queries and clarifying the process, allowing the space for greater flexibility and adjusting the timelines are also important in cultivating relationships with the young feminist collectives that are part of the application process. All groups need to be informed about the status of their application or if there will be delays in the process, so that they can plan their budgets and activities accordingly. Applying for funding is an emotional and exhausting process for many organizations, especially when they are operating without enough staff capacity. Their meaningful participation requires time, capacity and often resources. It is important to be flexible and allow for more time or changes in the application conditions and practices to match groups’ needs so that they can actively engage in the process. Many groups who haven’t had a chance to join a participatory grantmaking process before might need support through things like video trainings and Q&A sessions to clarify purpose and criteria. Young feminist collectives care about how funding is distributed in their contexts and feel that their participation in funding decisions is important, but their participation might not be always possible within the limitations of our model, which often doesn’t respond to their realities. A meaningful participatory process that addresses all the conditions that need to be created for groups to participate takes time, but that time pays off long-term. 

What about Movements’ Time?

Addressing the Complexity of Movement Connection

Building Collective Power: What if we don't know
enough to make a decision?

Holding Complexities while Facilitating Connections
in the Voting Process

How does FRIDA address bias and fairness in the voting process?

What if someone takes our idea?

What if the groups know each other in the voting
process, even when anonymous?

Even though some groups might indeed recognize each other despite the anonymity of the voting process, and even if they do vote for each other, it doesn’t sway the voting much because each group needs to vote for 5 different groups. The main reason for the anonymity is not just to protect groups who are familiar with each other from voting for one another. The main reason is to ensure that there is a layer of safety and confidentiality in the process. If a group knows another group, and they believe they are doing great work and want to give them a solidarity vote, this is still part of the movement connection our participatory process seeks to nourish. It also doesn’t guarantee any group will receive funding, since 15 other collectives in that voting group also need to vote for a group in order for them to get the highest vote.   Groups need to vote in alignment with each other in order for a group to receive a grant, and they also must share why they believe the groups they vote for should receive funding. It is a collective decision-making process, so no group receives funding just because one or two groups know them and vote for them. 

Is there another layer of review for the voting results?

Movement Learning, Connection and Alignment

Movement connections throughout the
Participatory Grantmaking Process

However, it is not necessarily a non-competitive process

Rebuilding Trust in Our Connections

Voting Feedback: When result matches contribution

Internal Reflections and Challenges

On Well-being and Sustainable Transitions

Building Participatory Practices with Young Feminist Movements

This research process has shown us that the majority of young feminist collectives apply participatory approaches to decision-making within their own organizations, as well as with their communities and others in feminist movements.  Young feminist organizers have expressed that they envision feminist funders as participatory grantmakers, and have offered us great ideas and alternatives  on how to improve our model. Many groups have also shared that after participating in FRIDA’s participatory grantmaking process, they used similar decision-making models in their organizations. There is an opportunity to build knowledge and solutions that are movement-led and practices that better match organizers’ needs. Participation has helped feminist organizers build networks of support and a collective vision for our community. 

Over the years, FRIDA has mostly built its knowledge about participatory grantmaking with the philanthropic community and peer funders. As we continue to be part of a philanthropic community of practice, we would love to reimagine this knowledge co-creation space together with young feminist movements and consider further how knowledge exchange could look in practice. There needs to be a narrative shift in philanthropy to make knowledge production more participatory, and to engage movements in creating solutions for the processes that concern them. There are strong young feminist participatory practices that already exist in movements, which many funders can learn from (and compensate movements for their expertize). There are many different ways to build relationships of solidarity, accountability, and support in our respective contexts, and funders can learn from movements what funding approaches could best respond to each movement context.

FRIDA should support knowledge co-creation about participatory practices together with young feminist movements in a community of practice where these learnings, resources and

Participatory processes have their own pace

There have been many discussions about how participatory grantmaking processes take more time, but we believe this is not necessarily the case. Meaningful participation might require extra time and attention if we don’t have a structure that holds all important pieces and complexities of the process together. Setting up these systems might also take some time, and we believe that investing this time is essential in all funding processes, regardless of whether they are participatory or not. We are resourcing organizing that is complex, and we need to fund responsibly. Participatory process in FRIDA requires not only time, resources and capacity, but also expertise. We have learned that over time, however, some stages of our process become more straightforward because everyone participating has more experience. We have learned which systems we need to have in place to accelerate stages that could take time otherwise. 

We moved from Excel sheets to comprehensive grantmaking systems that we also designed, and this transition has taken time. We need to recognize that even though participation might take time, our readiness and systems for support need to be in place as well. For us, this was the main principles and values of our model, an online software, and our experience in facilitating this process. We have learned that participatory grantmaking processes have a great impact beyond funding, and we are continuously learning about this potential. Learnings from participatory processes have been an important tool for creating collaborative funding strategies within FRIDA that today allow for many other programmatic and grantmaking decisions to move more quickly.