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
Young feminist leadership has been key in creating strategies that are aligned with the needs of global young feminist movements and their shifting realities. The majority of FRIDA's processes—especially our programmatic work and funding decisions, strategy and criteria—are open to guidance, feedback, and input from the young feminist community. However, we are aware that when funders request community participation in their decision-making processes, it can be overwhelming and add extra labour on organizers. To offset this, we co-create our funding strategies with movements, so that even when participation in funders processes is too overwhelming, their needs are still embedded into our process and the final decision-making. Funding strategies that are generated through community participation like these might take time to develop, but they allow us to save time when we implement those strategies.
A strategy created through a participatory process also seeds and cultivates trust in FRIDA's decision-making process, especially when no direct participation in the final decisions is possible. All decisions require a different pace, so that trust and pre-discussion about strategy helps us to make decisions more quickly. For instance, because we’ve co-created regional and grantmaking strategies in advance with young feminist organizers, when it comes time for our annual renewal process for current grantee partners, Advisory Community participation is optional. The decisions are made by FRIDA program staff with interested Advisory Committee members from each region, since they are guided by the strategies that have already received community input and within the funding framework that has already been agreed upon 1Also, some institutional processes require confidentiality on a level that doesn't allow open participation but they still need to be led by the feminist values at the centre.
FRIDA's strategy to holistically support young feminist movements should always be created with:
- FRIDA Global Advisory Committee input and recommendations
- FRIDA staff cross-team input and recommendations
- Data gathered from every call for applications: voting process and overall feedback
- Data gathered from grantee partner feedback: surveys and reports
- Thematic and regional funding strategies
For FRIDA grant opportunities that have limited funding, we need to ensure that there is a participatory decision-making process in place, in addition to participatory development of our funding strategy. We follow this process for FRIDA's Special Grants, for instance, which are dedicated to supporting capacity strengthening, collaboration and movement connection among grantee partners and advisors, and for which we have only a limited number of grants available. In this case, we co-create a Special Grant peer review committee that consists of programs staff, grantee partners and advisors from each region who have not applied for a special grant. Everyone from the Special Grant peer review committee provides inputs in the decision-making, and the staff bring additional knowledge about each of the groups and the capacity strengthening needs they shared. This peer review committee makes final decisions based on criteria that are established with movements prior to the selection process. This increases transparency around our internal grantmaking processes.
On the other hand, the participatory decision-making process in our open call for applications welcomes learnings from many young feminists across geographies, strategies of organizing and resistance, and complex contexts. FRIDA ensures that every new critical reflection, impact and need finds its way into our funding policy, regional strategy and funding criteria, as well as our plans for further outreach. This way, FRIDA staff together with the Global Advisory Committee have an opportunity to learn with movements, and ensure that knowledge flows across different organizational processes. This is just one of the reasons we stay committed to a participatory grantmaking model, where key decisions are made by the young feminist community that applies for FRIDA funding.
- FRIDA needs to develop a tool to examine when open community decision-making is needed, and when advance consultation and recommendations are enough to avoid overburdening the young feminist community with a decision-making process. We must also be clear when decisions are made specifically by FRIDA Board, Staff and Advisory Committee members.
- Different options for young feminist community participation in the process should be available. Data shows that young feminists do care about the final decisions, even if they do not always have the capacity to participate, so we could encourage more engagement by opening up more possibilities for how to participate
- Not everything needs to be surveyed—FRIDA builds a library of young feminist knowledge annually that allows for deeper thematic and geographical context analyses and focused strategy work. Therefore, FRIDA is responsible for the data it receives from young feminist communities, and should continuously embed this in its decision-making processes.
- Further, FRIDA must develop a tool to help guide participatory funding strategy co-creation and support other participatory processes.
The Role of the Global Young Feminist Advisory Committee
The very first Global Advisory Committee2The Global Advisory Committee today consists of regional advisory committees that have 10-20 advisors in each region. was created by the feminist activists who helped co-create FRIDA and operationalize its initial stages of work. This first Global Advisory Committee held many internal structure and governance responsibilities at a time when FRIDA had few staff members and no Board structure. The advisors have been a powerhouse for FRIDA and have decentralized FRIDA's decision-making processes and the Fund's infrastructure since its incubation stages.
As the initial advisory members have transitioned out of FRIDA, the next young feminist Global Advisory Committee3All FRIDA Advisory Members are paid an annual stipend to participate in FRIDA's processes, which was not the case with initial advisory committee members, who were volunteers. Advisors can also apply for specific grants for their capacity strengthening, including travel, holistic well-being, etc. members have been selected through an open call process for each region. A similar recruitment process is still in practice today. The transitioning advisors, in addition to staff members, make recruitment decisions about new advisors based on FRIDA’s advisory and grantmaking needs. This process is not open for community participation, unlike the selection of FRIDA Board members that is open for nomination and community voting process. It is important to recognize that throughout the history of FRIDA's young feminist Advisory Committee, new advisory members have not always been able to immediately adopt ownership and shared power over FRIDA's processes. The power dynamic of the selection process sometimes limits the feeling of ownership that new advisors experience, especially while they are still in the orientation process, around the interconnectedness of their role with other aspects of FRIDA's work. FRIDA's new administrative structure, which now includes a Board, has also changed the role of the Advisory Committee, yet they are still a critical part of FRIDA's governance structure. New advisors in each of the regions often grow their collective agency over time in relationship with FRIDA staff and Board.
Now, there is a team of staff at FRIDA that facilitates advisors’ integration, representation and participation across FRIDA's processes. Young feminist governance through the Global Advisory Committee decentralizes the power and knowledge exchange within FRIDA and builds a cross-accountability mechanism between young feminist movements and FRIDA as a funder. Young feminist activists in the Global Advisory Committee bring expertise about the needs and priorities of young feminist organizing in their regional socio-political context. This guides FRIDA’s regional funding strategies, helps determine funding criteria and outreach planning, as well as increases the accessibility of FRIDA's participatory grantmaking process. Unlike the FRIDA Board, the Global Advisory Committee is part of peer review grantmaking processes across FRIDA’s programmatic work. In the open call for applications process, they participate in regional Peer Review Panels, which review applicant eligibility, join the community voting process and support consistency and equity in FRIDA's participatory grantmaking process.
- FRIDA needs to recognize the power dynamics in the advisory committee, which emerge when new advisors are selected through an open call where decisions are made by other advisors and staff. We should consider other selection mechanisms that allow community input into the advisor selection process.
- FRIDA needs to invest more time and resources into supporting the Advisory Community to build ownership over FRIDA's processes. This will decentralize power and better distribute accountability across the organization.
Grantee Partners as Part of the Peer Review Panel
in Grantmaking Processes
Before the 2020 grant cycle, only Global Advisory Committee members were part of the Peer Review Panel in FRIDA’s open call for applications process. In the last two grantmaking cycles, however, we have piloted a panel where Global Advisory Committee members come together with activists from FRIDA grantee partner organizations to review proposals and the applicant voting results. After receiving a grant through FRIDA's young feminist voting process, many grantee partners have expressed interest in continuing to take part in the process of selecting new grantee partners. For many grantee partners, the opportunity to join a participatory grantmaking process for a new cohort of grantees allows them to further connect and learn from young feminist organizers in their region. Many grantee partners have shared that when they participate in funding processes, they experience a greater feeling of power and importance.
Grantee partners’ participation in the Peer Review Panel also contributes to decentralization of knowledge and expertise, and helps build the collective power of young feminists in FRIDA’s grantmaking process. It also strengthens mutual accountability between the Advisory Committee, grantee community and staff, and grows young feminist representation in FRIDA's governance, which further enhances the transparency and fairness of the process. This has brought more richness, nuance and new perspectives to the Peer Review Panel space. However, it is important to note that grantee partner participation alongside Global Advisory Committee members in the Peer Review Panel has been piloted only in the last two cycles. We wanted to experience this model and the possibilities and challenges that it could bring before we made it a structural part of our processes. We have found, however, that this shared space for decision-making has added new layers of facilitation for FRIDA, as well as an opportunity for FRIDA to build trust and power with young feminist movements.
- FRIDA can review possibilities for expanding the Peer Review Panel and can redesign the model to adjust to all changes the community has expressed a need for, including more multilayered participation.
- FRIDA can make space for more grantee partner engagement in the peer review process, as well as the outreach process, and ensure grantee partners are compensated for their involvement.
Why the open call for applications includes
more decision-makers than just the peer review panel
The Peer Review Panel has long played a central role in supporting FRIDA to navigate the socio-political contexts of its focus regions and address gaps and access issues in our funding systems and strategies. They review over 1,000 proposals in each cycle to determine if groups fit FRIDA's funding criteria, and also review the voting results to ensure there is consistency throughout the process. However, when it comes to final decision-making, the voices of young feminists that have applied for grants are prioritized4The process is explained further in the “How does it work?” chapter. The majority of philanthropic participatory grantmaking processes involve a peer review committee from the community they support, which generally makes final decisions about the pool of applications. There are a variety of ways to design this process with only a peer review panel, and FRIDA does apply this model in some of its special grantmaking. Considering how broad and diverse FRIDA's funding focus is, however, having a peer review panel make all final grantmaking decisions wouldn't necessarily empower an intersectional participatory grantmaking process. We collectively agree that we can't represent all voices, backgrounds, identities and organizing focuses in all the contexts where FRIDA funds. We therefore include grant applicants in our final decision-making.
Even when funders’ grantmaking processes are participatory, they can still replicate the same systemic inequalities and power dynamics of any other grantmaking process. For instance, we pay close attention to how we recruit Peer Review Panel members. For many funders’ peer review panels, staff are involved in the recruitment process, which can limit the power of the panelists to advocate for different radical funding practices. This can be also present in FRIDA's peer review panel and how the power dynamics works within it. To alleviate this, FRIDA has built mechanisms to address those dynamics. FRIDA’s current multilayered participatory grantmaking model also allows FRIDA spaciousness to share power across multiple decision-making actors and to establish accountability as a framework for growing connections. For instance, each person in the Peer Review Panel, when reviewing applications, might apply different criteria that are based on their knowledge, access and lived experience. FRIDA has also co-created a guiding tool that supports us to align the review process with our principles and values. This sometimes asks us to spend more time unlearning patterns and transforming them into new generative systems to evaluate and set our funding criteria and priorities. The guiding tool5FRIDA doesn't use a scoring table for decision-making because from our experience, numbers do not capture the intersections and more nuanced analyses that are necessary and again those with power decide what qualities are being scored. also helps to identify any underrepresented organizations, groups with little or no access to funding in their contexts, groups that likely might not be voted for based on language or other dynamics, etc. The Peer Review Panel also reviews the final votes to identify any movement dynamics, biases, or inconsistencies that might have occurred in the process, and can support the final decision-making process, which is based on a community vote.
- FRIDA needs to increase transparency about the Peer Review Panel and introduce the Peer Review Panel before the Panel reviews submitted applications, so that applicants know who is reviewing whether they fit FRIDA criteria6The Advisory Community is public on the website, but information about them and encouragement about interaction with them should be clearly communicated with those applying..
- FRIDA needs to be clearer about what roles the Peer Review Panel holds and how the collective voting process factors into final decisions.
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'
FRIDA ensures that there is clarity and transparency about the participation of our Board, Advisory Committee, and any participants that hold power within FRIDA throughout its grantmaking process. We have learned that 'conflict of interest'7FRIDA is not aligned with the terminology of 'conflict of interest' and we will be renaming this practices to reflect its meaning in FRIDA that has to do with the structure that facilitates increased access to decisions and power and equity and fairness in our participatory process. guidelines for our participatory grantmaking process are important for creating transparency and accountability toward young feminist movements. Our ‘conflict of interest’ policy guides us through potential dynamics of power and access and how they might play out in FRIDA's participatory grantmaking process. For example, it is critical that activists and organizers are part of boards, advisory committees or peer review panels where they can influence and transform grantmaking processes to ensure movement needs are truly represented. However, we must be mindful that this puts some organizers in privileged positions over others, and that this can create further challenges when the same movement and funder representatives hold multiple positions and hats across peer review panels, boards and advisory committees. This not only limits the diversity of perspectives, experiences and backgrounds that influence these spaces, but could emphasize individual visibility over movement needs and representation.
Since FRIDA's advisors are also recruited through an open call selection process, we have learned that the dynamics between Peer Review Panel members can also be affected by individual access, identity, language barriers and lived experience. Even when there is community participation in Advisory, Board and Peer Review panels, there are often conditions and power dynamics that influence how members see their voice having power or not. For this reason, the purpose of the structure behind FRIDA's participatory grantmaking process is to hold clarity about the roles, values, and principles we want to reflect in our decision-making process and how increased access might impact power-sharing. Still, we also need to ensure that there is mindful facilitation that ensures equitable participation within the Peer Review Panel. We use varied tools to facilitate conversations and understand what dynamics might affect equitable participation, as well as to offer different formats for expressing thoughts and sharing input and recommendations 8FRIDA grantmaking and Community and Culture staff build relationships of trust with advisors so that they can address any power dynamics, conflict or unsafe feelings within the Peer Review Panel, or if they need specific conditions to participate equally.. We acknowledge that experiences with young feminist organizing make the participants in FRIDA's grantmaking process peers, and that there can be many connection points and similarities in our experiences, especially related to identity or geopolitical context. However, peer does not mean sameness, since our lives are shaped by the socio-political conditions, identities and bodies we inhabit, as well as how interlocking systems of oppression relate to them.
We hold these complexities collectively within both the Peer Review Panel and staff, who supports cross-communication and alignment of values throughout FRIDA's grantmaking process. Thus, FRIDA's 'conflict of interest' policy exists to help young feminists across FRIDA's governance structure to participate in its processes with greater awareness of boundaries and the power that we hold. For instance, the Advisory Committee has more direct access to FRIDA and is able to share support about a group or influence a group’s application process if there is a personal conflict or misalignment. The young feminist collectives that apply, on the other hand, don't have the same access to FRIDA. This is not something specific to participatory grantmaking, but is a concern that has grown from experiences with traditional philanthropy. It has proven to be an even greater concern when grantmaking decisions depend on relationships with a single Program Officer or are made behind closed doors. For many organizations, this experience is common when they apply for a grant from local offices of international funds or for government funding that might be biased, or decided based on relationship dynamics or even corrupted systems.
This hasn’t happened often among FRIDA's Peer Review Panel. Because we know this might be a possibility, however, we created a process where multiple Peer Review Panel members review the same applications, and where staff members review each Panel’s decisions for consistency and ask any clarifying questions. This ensures that no single advisor or staff member can necessarily sway the final decision. Advisors also declare 'conflict of interest' in some scenarios. For example: FRIDA advisory members can apply for a grant with their collective in the open call for proposals. When they do, they cannot participate in the review process with the Peer Review Panel, but can participate in community voting with other applicants, and with the same access to information as other collectives. To receive a grant, the entire community needs to vote for them, so there is a clear process where the Peer Review Panel can't decide alone to award a grant to an advisor’s group. If that group is selected to receive a grant, they also go through the same due diligence process as other groups, although this part of the process may be more straightforward for them because FRIDA is already familiar with the advisor and their work. Grantee partners take part in FRIDA's Advisory Committee, so if an advisor's collective receives a grant, they can remain on the Advisory Committee. However, there are agreements about the processes grantees can participate in—for instance, they can’t join a grant renewal process since under current agreements, that process involves just staff and non-grantee Advisory Committee members.
Board members, however, cannot apply or receive a grant from FRIDA. If an activist from a grantee partner collective is nominated and joins the FRIDA Board, they would need to step down from the grantee collective or the collective transition out of FRIDA's current grantee community. We made this agreement because they would join the Board as an individual activist and not as a grantee collective nominated by the grantee community to represent them. This means their collective would no longer be a peer to other grantee partners in terms of power, visibility, and access within FRIDA. Especially in the FRIDA renewal grant process, this would make it hard for that group to receive radical trust and to remain as a peer partner of the grantee community. This agreement is about recognizing power in all its forms and how it can direct our hearts and minds. This is why addressing access and intersectionality across lines of power and privilege is important.
We also apply this to FRIDA staff. Many staff members have been part of applicant groups or grantee partner groups in the past. Even though our lived experiences have ass young feminist organizers have been essential in shaping FRIDA's funding work to better support young feminist movements, many staff members have needed to transition from their collectives and step back from participating in FRIDA's process when collectives they used to work with are involved.
FRIDA should make the 'conflict of interest' policy more transparent to young feminist community members. FRIDA needs to ensure that this process is clear for the groups applying, advisory members and board members, as well as how we navigate important values within the grantmaking process and how applicants can share any inconsistencies they notice.
Addressing the Accessibility of the System
In the Voting Stage, applicants get to read anonymized summaries from other applications in their geographic and thematic context. Applicants have sometimes requested the opportunity to learn more about the peer feminist collectives in their voting groups, connect with them and visit their social media pages before voting. However, we intentionally anonymize the summaries to minimize any non-alignment, bias or safety concerns that collectives might have. It also provides an extra safety layer for groups whose organizing might put them at risk, without leaving them out of opportunities to connect and learn from other feminist collectives. We also encourage groups to reach out to FRIDA in case they have any security concerns, and we ensure that there are conditions in place for them to participate. Many of the groups who apply are newly established and might not have materials to present yet, while others might have a strong online presence that represents their work well. Access to information can influence the voting and decision-making process, and put some groups, such as those with less published materials, at disadvantage, which is another reason we anonymize. However, there may be ways to add more information to guide groups in their voting process without putting applicants at risk or disadvantage.
- FRIDA should design ways to share more information about groups and the contexts they operate in without putting them at risk. This could support applicants’ decision-making during the voting process.
- FRIDA can explore the possibility of providing more training for those who take part in our participatory process and share more comprehensive voting guidelines for those who are interested or need more information.
- FRIDA should share summaries from the regional strategies, clarity on who we have been supporting so far, and where we’ve identified gaps with voting groups. Even though this is available on our website, it may need to be more accessible to support voting decisions if applicants find only voting for 5 groups challenging.
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.
We acknowledge that an application process in only seven languages still creates quite a disadvantage for many young feminist collectives. For example, in many regions we translate proposals to be able to be in the same voting process, which means groups are not always getting the more accurate view of each other. FRIDA has been exploring ways to expand application form language access and provide additional support to the groups that have challenges applying due to language. For instance, FRIDA has provided application information in additional languages spoken by advisors and staff members. However, another possible challenge that hasn't come up in the findings is that language might be a barrier for groups to read each other's proposals, or might make it an easy task for some and overburdening for others, depending on the languages in applicants’ regional contexts. Some young feminist collectives need to ask their community for support with writing and translating their application in order for them to apply and be part of FRIDA's participatory process. Language access is a challenge in peer review committees as well, and it can enhance power dynamics among those making decisions. We address language access when creating voting groups. For instance, we will sort groups who have similar writing skills or approaches into the same voting group to ensure there is more language equity. Many have shared that the FRIDA voting process has been an important opportunity for them to learn how to present their work, so it is on us as a funder to improve our language diversity in order to support their participation.
- FRIDA is already asking groups in the application form whether they received translation support to apply, and takes that into consideration further along in the process. FRIDA should expand possibilities for supporting groups to submit their application when they do not speak one of FRIDA’s current application languages.
- Voting guidelines that we share with all applicants in the voting process can remind them that some groups might find expressing their work in one of the application languages challenging. These guidelines should remind groups not to vote based on eloquence of language, but based on ideas and the work that they would like to support.
Opportunities and Limitations of Online Participation
Both the Peer Review Panel and the applicant voting portions of FRIDA’s participatory grantmaking process happen in an online space. We have learned that technology can assist and facilitate connections that still feel close and tangible. There are emotional aspects of connection and participation that those involved exchange, and groups feel part of a broader feminist movement. The advantage of hosting this process online is the diversity of perspectives, identities and backgrounds that can connect with each other, which wouldn't be possible for FRIDA to manifest in a physical realm. We still need to ensure, however, that our online participatory process applies the same feminist principles, values and agreements as we would practice in shared physical space, especially around holistic care and well-being. We use an online platform9The participatory grantmaking and management platform is hosted via Smart Simple. that allows the Peer Review Panel to access training on the participatory grantmaking model, exchange comments and learnings with each other and document their work. Applicant voting also happens on the same online platform, through which they can create their profile, save and submit their application and track their application’s journey. We know that some level of in-person decision-making does happen because many groups come together with their team members during the voting process to read and make decisions together about their votes. However, we also recognize that in-person participation and decision-making processes can enrich the experience of participation and movement connection. At the moment, this is not feasible for FRIDA, so we are committed to using the many possibilities that online spaces can offer us while ensuring we also address this format’s disadvantages 10This has been an amazing experience for Peer Review Panels in many participatory funds - being able to be in the same room together and make decisions. .
When we reflect on our first grantmaking cycle in 2012 and many of the following cycles, lack of internet access and disproportionate access across regions created major challenges and disadvantages. Even though this gap might be smaller today, many groups still depend on accessible internet connection to participate in this process. Collectives in countries where internet access is controlled by oppressive regimes or sanctioned, for example, are not able to safely access and apply through our online system even though it is built with safety measures. This means that these collectives need to invest additional personal resources and funds to pay for internet access or even for travel costs to internet cafés, even when they apply using a Word document, etc. FRIDA itself is a fund where all operations happen in an online space, so we have learned over the years how to best use the internet’s opportunities while also addressing its disadvantages and safety concerns. As we reimagine what is possible beyond the current conditions, we are developing tools to navigate these challenges and facilitate meaningful participatory decision-making processes in an online space.
- Even though participatory grantmaking processes in an online space have limitations, they do have the potential to diversify participation and outreach, and to support groups who are willing to connect that otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity. FRIDA should explore and utilize all the online tools it can offer, while understanding how to address the challenge of inequitable internet access.
- FRIDA will ask groups if they have access to the internet to understand what kind of challenges they might face during this online participatory process, as well as how to address those challenges. Groups can also reach out to FRIDA if they have any safety concerns and FRIDA will support them.
The Importance of a Holistic Outreach Plan
FRIDA leans on the broadness of our networks, community, friendships and social media to share information about each call for applications. On some occasions, we have been able to organize events with the leadership of Advisory Committee members to share more about FRIDA and our funding opportunities with underrepresented communities in their contexts. For instance, one FRIDA advisor organized a community event in the Pacific region, sharing information with young women and trans youth on how to apply to FRIDA's call for applications.
This had a great impact in that grantmaking cycle on the number of groups applying from that region. Similar events have been organized by advisors, staff, and grantee partners across regions and also international activist spaces. These events have helped to create connections with communities that haven't had access to FRIDA's funding before and to learn what support they would need to apply.
In person and online events and dedicated outreach processes have helped us clarify our funding criteria and make our processes more accessible. Because the scope of FRIDA's funding is so broad, many potential applicants have felt unsure whether FRIDA would be open to funding their organizing. For instance, FRIDA might have not been visible as an organization that is committed to supporting trans organizing and intentional outreach and strategy work was needed for those communities to feel invited to apply. Regional funding strategies that feed into FRIDA's overall grantmaking allow us to understand who is missing from our processes, the challenges groups face in different regions when it comes to accessing funding, and how to address those challenges11FRIDA has recently published their strategy for how it will show up and support trans organizing and there is an intention to create focused thematic funding strategies to support other underfunded communities to access FRIDA funding.. They inform the outreach plan in each context and it supports our processes to embrace intersectionality, both in the call for applications and in our direct communications and outreach plan. Participatory mechanisms are helpful to diversify our grantmaking process and outcomes, but they can't work in isolation from other tools that make our processes more accessible for a wide range of communities. Regional strategies that inform our outreach plans are key to guide us in creating conditions for meaningful and diverse participation. Regional and thematic strategies that inform our outreach plans are key to guide us in creating conditions for meaningful and diverse participation and understand where we need to adapt our model, systems and also funding criteria.
To diversify its grantmaking process, FRIDA needs to map out the capacity needs and budget for outreach opportunities guided by regional funding strategies and create a process that could involve FRIDA community members in sharing information about funding opportunities at FRIDA
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?
In order for the applicant voting process to drive FRIDA’s final decision-making, all groups involved need to vote within their voting group. Even though this process has been rewarding for the majority of groups, some don't have time to dedicate to this process. Young feminist movements still are vastly underfunded and under capacity, and their members take on multiple roles within their collectives while they also work, study and support their families. FRIDA's participatory grantmaking process can be burdensome, especially when collectives are often joining the process from a place of burnout. We are reflecting on this question continuously and we have improved our systems over the years to make them more accessible and less demanding. Collectives sometimes need capacity strengthening and specific conditions enabled in order to take part in a funder's grantmaking process.
We still don't have systems in place to financially compensate the over 500 groups who participate each year in the voting process, but we do offer support for those who experience challenges in applying or participating, including support with internet connection. The majority of groups shared that the voting process was worth their time, and that they gained a lot from it, however they also expressed that it was overwhelming and consuming of their time and resources. Even though many groups have shared that they could not imagine another grantmaking system for a feminist funder, we still want this process to be generative and not overwhelming. This has been a major motivator for change in FRIDA's grantmaking system.
FRIDA should experiment with other participatory models that still hold feminist values and support movement connection, without creating an obligation to participate. Instead, it could be a process where information is shared and groups can choose not to participate based on interest.
Addressing the Complexity of Movement Connection
Building Collective Power: What if we don't know
enough to make a decision?
Even though groups have expressed that they feel young feminists should decide where our funding is going and consider themselves knowledgeable about their contexts, they have felt unease about their vote being the only decision-making factor. The majority have expressed that although all groups are worthy of funding, they worried they might not make the right choice when voting. This contradiction has taught us that we haven’t been fully transparent about how votes come together and build with others into a collective decision. For a decision to be made, the majority of the collectives need to vote similarly, which also confirms shared values, needs, knowledge and priorities in their context. Part of working through this contradiction is also reprogramming cultural input about power and agency that young people, especially women, and trans and gender non-conforming people have received saying that they are not taken as seriously. Groups are not questioning if they know enough about organizing, but if they know enough about philanthropy and funding processes to make these decisions.
Many groups have shared that they would like to influence donors' funding strategies, but that they are not sure where their entry point is or what skills this requires. There has been a disconnection between the knowledge of their lived reality and organizing experience, from the knowledge that has been sought for strategic funding decisions to be made within philanthropic context. These days, philanthropy often sees young people as experts of their own reality. However, this perspective hasn't expanded to other areas of expertise that young people could hold in designing, building and developing grantmaking systems, governance, and leadership processes that concern their context and community. Taking part in philanthropic processes at early stages of organizing changes young feminists’ sense of agency and the power of their voice in funding processes. We have witnessed this shift in young feminist collectives FRIDA has supported. Over time, they are more willing and interested to join FRIDA's participatory processes because they can see the effect that direct participation has on them. The purpose of participation needs to be clear to grow the agency and the understanding of the importance of their voice in influencing and collectively bringing forward solutions in the philanthropic space. The existing power dynamic and top down approaches to funding have created a sense that movement voices do not belong in decision-making processes around resources in philanthropy. Shifting not only who holds the power and the knowledge to decide, but mindsets and cultural understandings about who funding decisions belong to is critical.
- FRIDA should support collective knowledge co-creation with young feminists about the importance of creating and occupying decision-making spaces.
- FRIDA must make more information available about the collectives, FRIDA's grantmaking process, who has been funded, gaps, etc., so that groups feel more empowered by the information they hold to make decisions.
Holding Complexities while Facilitating Connections
in the Voting Process
In FRIDA's participatory grantmaking open call for applications, we have learned that applicants truly believe that a participatory decision-making process aligns with their vision for a feminist funding mechanism. However, this doesn't mean that they show up with wholehearted trust and without doubt about the fairness of this model or that all their peers will apply the same values and principles. It is evident that young feminist organizers recognize the complexity of feminist movements. Young feminist collectives have expressed concern about whether FRIDA will be able to recognize how privilege and access can direct outcomes in participatory processes across different contexts. They believe that, like any other grantmaking process they’ve experienced, certain groups might be excluded or there will be more competition than solidarity. An intersectional perspective is often missing when the lived experience of organizers is not present in resourcing-related decision-making processes. This perspective is key however in building, practising and expanding a relationship of trust, cooperation and interconnectedness within the participatory grantmaking process and then in relationship with the funder.
The final outcomes of the voting process often indicate that groups apply an intersectional lens when voting for their peers. They ensure that underrepresented groups and those with less access to funding in their context are supported. Still, even though the groups feel the value of their peers reading and voting for their work, they feel the need for another layer of review by FRIDA staff and advisors that mostly focuses on ensuring that concerns around things like underrepresentation are taken into consideration. They believe that FRIDA also needs to build understanding about each context its funding reaches in order to organize the voting process and make sure that underrepresented groups and those without much access are fairly considered. Collectives have requested that FRIDA create a system that can recognize when groups experience disadvantages in its participatory grantmaking process and when FRIDA's engagement is needed. For this reason, we believe that a participatory process alone won't inherently build connections, but if there is a system and structure behind it, the process can facilitate meaningful connections.
FRIDA needs to make the structure behind this process transparent, as well as the mechanisms in place to minimize bias in the voting process. There also must be awareness among the grantmaking staff and the Peer Review Panel about potential inequity and how it is addressed in final decisions.
How does FRIDA address bias and fairness in the voting process?
The majority of FRIDA staff, board and advisors are young feminist activists and organizers themselves. Since we come from movements, we bring knowledge about the many complexities that movement-driven decision-making can entail. Yet each grantmaking cycle asks us to grow our understanding of power structures and dynamics that could emerge in each socio-political context. It often unveils the conditions that need to be in place for communities with less access to fully represent their realities, visions and strategies in the process and be equally recognized and resourced.
Over time, we have learned to identify in the voting process when certain communities, issues and strategies are not receiving votes. The young feminist collectives in each sub-region approach the voting process differently, and different thematics for different subregions have been underfunded or prioritized over the years. In the earlier years of this voting process, for example, we noticed that groups voted for the strongest written applications, and that groups from more progressive organizing wouldn't necessarily vote for emerging women's rights groups that are more rural. To address this, FRIDA introduced an extra stage into the review process, where the Peer Review Panel reviews voting results. The Panel identifies complex dynamics, as well as gaps, in each context, and can award additional grants. Based on contextual analysis for each sub-region, voting feedback and review of the final voting results power regional funding strategies. This is also connected to overall analyses about which regions are continuously underfunded. FRIDA's grantmaking budgeting works to bridge these funding gaps.
Across geographies this can look differently, for instance:
In West, East, Central and Southern Africa, the voting process is organized in English and French sub-regionally and thematically. For instance, there are separate voting groups for LBTQ+ organizing, FGM/Child Marriage focused collectives, climate and environmental justice, art, etc. Given how many proposals we receive, this has allowed for more diverse strategies and approaches to be voted on and supported.
In Latin America, the voting is sub-regional, country-based and also addresses rural vs big city access. We have also established priorities around supporting Indigenous and Afro-descendant organizing. The process is also organized in Spanish and Portuguese.
In the Caribbean, the voting process is in three languages, which means that everyone's proposal most likely needs to be translated into all three, which may require more thought.
Southwest Asia and North Africa have the voting organized according to sub-region, country, language access and rural vs big city area.
In other regions, voting groups are sub-regional, language- and country-based, and facilitated with mindfulness of feminist movement and social justice organizing history, socio-political and cultural dynamics, and how interlocking systems of oppressions work within them.
In respect to this, young feminist collectives who apply get to choose the region that they feel most connected to, instead of being placed into regions based only on geography. There are shared histories that connect different contexts, communities and cultures that aren’t just about geographic proximity. This disrupts dominant narratives about regions, borders and connection, and decolonizes the idea of distribution of wealth and resources. In many reports on social justice funding, the data is divided per region, which doesn't take into consideration which countries, contexts, or thematics within those regions are continually underfunded. There is a multiverse of realities that exist simultaneously, and we can learn and address different experiences in community with each other during the participatory grantmaking process.
- FRIDA needs to continue to expand its knowledge about socio-political conditions that affect young feminist organizing in each focus region in order to create conditions for meaningful and accessible participation from an intersectional perspective.
- FRIDA needs to share with applicants what criteria are considered when voting groups are made, and that there is another layer of review after the votes have been tallied.
- FRIDA should continue to share how many voting groups there are and how many grants will be available in each region.
What if someone takes our idea?
The majority of groups shared in the feedback process that the most valuable aspect of FRIDA's participatory grantmaking process is that they got to learn about and witness the abundance of organizing strategies and the resilience of movements in their context. However, some groups expressed a concern that others would take their ideas and request funding for them elsewhere. This was an especially present concern in contexts that have seen irresponsible traditional and charity funding that has increased silos, creation of 'NGO businesses' and competition for resources. These concerns exist in both traditional and in peer review participatory grantmaking processes.
However, intersectional, decolonizing and movement-informed funding strategies are important lenses for resource distribution. Otherwise, many emerging organizations or those operating in challenging contexts may stay largely underfunded and movement frictions may become even more profound. Many collectives have shared that funders often find groups with more visibility and access in their contexts to be more trustworthy to manage funds and therefore prioritize them in calls for applications. In this dynamic, those groups who might have more visibility may adopt another collective’s idea or a strategy without working in collaboration with them. We recognize this challenge, so we ask groups to share in their proposal summary only the information they want other groups to read. We remind groups of confidentiality and ensure there is a due diligence process before groups are moved into the voting process.
At the same time, all groups have been willing to connect with others after the voting process to share their knowledge, ask questions and sometimes apply similar strategies in their own contexts. They let FRIDA know which groups they'd like to connect with and why. For example, one group shared that learning about how another group set up their research process inspired them to approach their own research in a similar way. All groups share that if any group is interested in learning about their work, that group can connect with them. The movement exchange component of FRIDA's participatory process has been the most rewarding experience for the majority of applicants. One of the main findings is that all groups felt inspired by each other, and inspiration is an important driver of organizing in movements for justice. Thus, this is more about creating mechanisms that make this knowledge exchange transparent, reciprocal and mutually accountable. The peer exchange in this process needs to be facilitated so that groups can track how they contribute to each others’ work, and share back about how they have adapted new learnings.
For the sustainability of feminist movements, it is critical to have an abundance of successful strategies shared and replicated across the movements’ intersections. This can multiply the impact and alignment of our work. We want to strengthen FRIDA’s facilitation of inspirational connections so that groups who would like to try out a new strategy that they learned about through this process can connect with one another.
- FRIDA should build a mechanism for connecting groups after the voting process to exchange knowledge and build connections.
- While FRIDA needs to maintain its participatory grantmaking process’s transparency, we must also consider how to protect with confidentiality any information that groups would like to share only with FRIDA.
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?
We recognize that for many young feminist collectives who participate in our grantmaking process, this is their first time engaging with a grantmaking model of this kind. Also, not all groups are familiar with non-profit language, which as much as we are trying to move away from it, still dominates how we speak about funding. To add an extra layer of support, FRIDA’s Peer Review Panel reviews the voting results after the voting process is done, and identifies gaps, underrepresented issues and communities, or if any groups haven't received votes due to bias and impartiality. Once the Peer Review Panel reviews the groups who received the most votes, they get to add additional information about each proposal, including if they feel a proposal fits an underfunded issue, thematic, or community that has not been funded before. They can also add notes in proposals addressing bias, access and any other challenges that groups may have faced in the voting process.
This layer of review helps us understand more deeply how systems of oppression inhabit movement spaces and sometimes direct the outcome of participatory decision-making processes. For example, if two groups have the same number of votes and FRIDA can fund only one, the Peer Review Panel members will make the final decision with an intersectional lens and consideration about access to funding. In the same way, the Panel can award additional grants to underrepresented groups and provide overall feedback on the voting process to ensure it aligns with the values and principles of FRIDA’s model. This also responds to the request from young feminist collectives for FRIDA to conduct a final review of the voting process to address bias and access.
- FRIDA needs to share the details of its Peer Review Panel process with the community and also ensure the tools and guidelines provided to Peer Review Panels are updated with feedback before each cycle.
- FRIDA must ensure that groups are informed when advisors award additional grants, and must share any important information from the Peer Review Panel’s review of final votes.
Movement Learning, Connection and Alignment
Movement connections throughout the
Participatory Grantmaking Process
The majority of young feminist groups have shared that FRIDA's participatory grantmaking process allowed them to learn about the diversity of organizing in their region and envision possibilities to connect across geographies. They get to experience their organizing as part of a larger movement vision where everyone’s work is valuable and important for the larger movement’s resilience, sustainability and growth. Different perspectives speak to each other and build on each other’s visions, bringing more movement cohesion across a diversity of organizing. This is a potent space that can catalyse young feminist movement connection that goes beyond FRIDA’s grantmaking process. Participatory grantmaking processes with this connective component indeed can expand empathy, compassion and understanding for the many varied social issues impacting the lives of people who share the same movement space. Young feminist collectives can build new currents of solidarity through this kind of knowledge sharing and can uplift each other’s activism through this process. Almost all groups have expressed the desire to connect with others in the voting process, and have shared a rationale for why that connection was important for them. Many groups have shared that their vision for feminist futures expanded when connecting with others, as did their understanding that this struggle requires generative connections and collaborative practices to guide the way.
During the voting process, groups get to support each other’s proposals and advocate for work different from their own to receive funding. They also get to express any questions, doubts and concerns about any of the proposals in the voting process. The questions have usually been less technical and more about care for groups’ well-being, safety and capacity needs during the implementation of their projects. Also, many have expressed a deep sense of compassion and unease about how many collectives might not receive funding in the current grantmaking cycle. Many groups have shared that even if their collective doesn't receive the funding, the news is less challenging because they know that other important young feminist strategies and ideas are receiving the funding instead. As one participating collective put it, they were not upset 'because we are part of those movements, the work of others benefits us too, our communities and speaks to our work.' An example of the deep solidarity that can be inspired in this grantmaking process is that after receiving a grant from FRIDA through a participatory process, one group returned their grant. They witnessed other amazing organizing work that needed resourcing, and because another funding opportunity came through for them, they decided that their FRIDA grant should go to other groups. The participatory grantmaking process invites us to learn about new strategies and struggles and engage from a place of compassion, as well as to practice reimagining and co-creating justice spaces between us.
- FRIDA should explore what capacities are needed to create a safe system that could facilitate connections between collectives after the voting process.
- FRIDA could expand the current platform they use to support groups to connect in this process, as well as use the platform to share resources with a broader young feminist community, allow current grantee partners to connect with others applying in their region, and collaborate.
However, it is not necessarily a non-competitive process
Participatory grantmaking can help us practice more collaboration and solidarity when making decisions about resources, but won't necessarily feel non-competitive for everyone. Participatory decision-making is not necessarily the opposite of competition, and participation alone without a caring infrastructure won't necessarily inspire solidarity. If we don't recognize that participation and competition can co-exist in our process simultaneously, we fail to acknowledge the dynamics imposed by oppression and inequality that don't just disappear even in a system that at its core intends to challenge those dynamics. The current configuration of structural privilege and oppression across the world’s contexts is always present in funders’ processes. Even when we are establishing alternative practices, they will not necessarily be free of competition, impartiality, disagreement or mistrust. Organizers show up to our process from very different conditions and levels of access. We need to acknowledge the complexities that exist and recognize that participatory processes are not always simple. Many collectives mobilize a lot of their internal resources to apply for funding, especially to international funders and private philanthropy.
That application carries their power, their struggle and solutions that would bring them closer to the futures they are dreaming of. Not receiving much needed resources can be equally disappointing in any grantmaking process, even when a process is participatory, because of the often precarious positions of organizations. One group has shared with us that it was hard for them to show up and support other groups’ proposals even though they were aligned with their values, because at that moment they were organizing from a place of exhaustion and limited capacity and resources. Some groups have shared that it was simultaneously amazing and challenging to know that their application was reviewed next to others and that so much important organizing work requires resources. This might not be reality for everyone, but we can't overlook the fact that in each cycle, more than 400 groups don't receive a grant from FRIDA. For this reason, we don't expect that participation alone in our grantmaking practices will make them non-competitive, but it opens space for our compassion, empathy, and trust to grow in spite of it.
- Many groups that receive the grant have been interested to collaborate with those that did not receive the grant and FRIDA can support this connection
- FRIDA is committed to supporting groups who go through our voting process to connect with other donors and sister funds who could potentially support the groups that we couldn't during each cycle. We ask groups for their consent to share their proposal and contact information with other funders.
Rebuilding Trust in Our Connections
The competitive mindset over resources in social justice organizing is rooted in many years of funding practices that have not prioritized catalysing connections across movements. In many cases, non-transparent funding strategies have driven movement frictions, encouraged work in silos and put underfunded and marginalized communities in precarious positions. These philanthropic landscape patterns have created the conditions for competition. Funders who wish to truly support movements hold a large responsibility to break cycles of competition and encourage connection instead. Movements for justice need funding and support mechanisms that centre movement needs and interests and that inspire collaboration, solidarity and mutual accountability. Participatory grantmaking is one way to challenge these dynamics and form new kinds of relationships between funders and movements. The competitive systems control our capacity to build connections across movements, and the participatory grantmaking process in itself focuses on relationship building prior to the final decision-making outcomes. Funders hold a large responsibility in how they support movement connection and not increase competitiveness in their process.
Participatory grantmaking processes challenge the competitive and neoliberal capitalist way of working–in isolation from community and other organizing. It reminds us of solidarity economies and principles of collaboration that sustain our work and allow us to practice at a small scale what we hope to grow into wider movement practice. FRIDA's process is about learning to make funding decisions collectively, knowing that all organizing is interconnected and equally important. Funders need systems that facilitate learning, exchange and active solidarity and inspiration, while recognizing that everyone who applies equally needs the grants we have available. Understanding this can help funders grasp the full potential of participatory grantmaking, while acknowledging its limitations.
Voting Feedback: When result matches contribution
Moreover, when communities connect with the impact of their engagement in the grantmaking process, it can fundamentally change how they relate to their power and to the significance of their participation in collective action and transformation within their communities. Groups get to witness and be in relationship with the impact of their participation, and also that there is a some level of movement alignment in the result that emerge in this process. The voting process is very diverse and involves many radical and underfunded organizing strategies, innovative approaches or solutions that might seem risky or may commonly not receive support through traditional funding. A transparent movement-driven participatory process intervenes in organizing dynamics that are affected by interlocking systems of oppression and funding that reinforces competition. We interrupt these patterns and expectations by creating space to witness interconnectedness and practice compassion, accountability and active solidarity.
Even though among applicants there are many differences in approaches, priorities and alignments, some shared framework around values and principles emerges in the final voting/decisions. The opportunities and challenges that groups have shared with us about the process have been very consistent based on values of safety, mutual respect, connection and liberation, so how applicants engage with the participatory process is as important as the outcomes.
This system allows us uplift and affirm each other and build supportive and accountable relationships that contribute to building a community accountability politics based on values of safety, respect, collective responsibility, connection, and liberation. Groups care how funding is distributed and feel that their participation in those decisions is important. Groups often feel honoured that their proposal has been chosen by their peers more than by a funder. They feel accountable to the peers who voted for them, especially because they know how many great proposals were in the process. Groups who receive grants share solidarity notes to those who voted for them, and many have expressed a desire for FRIDA to connect them, so they can work collaboratively.
Even when there is a feeling of competitiveness, we witness the compassion and empathy that guide groups’ approaches to this decision-making process. This shows up in the voting rationale that they share for each group they gift their vote to. In their rationale, groups always apply context analyses and intersectional lenses about work that is under-resourced in their region and which collectives funders may be less likely to prioritize. This voting feedback not only influences the final results, but also some of FRIDA's overall funding criteria. For instance, income generation activities have existed separately from FRIDA's funding criteria for a long time. However, we saw in one voting process that a group who wanted to open an income generating queer space to support their LGBTQI+ work received a vote from everyone in their voting group. All collectives who voted for them emphasized how important autonomous financing is in their context and that more projects like that should be supported. Now, FRIDA does fund income generating activities that are resourcing groups’ activism. This is just one of many examples of how this voting process changes our strategy and criteria and allows us to apply more context-specific approaches.
FRIDA should expand the current platform so that there is more opportunity to share voting rationales that groups leave for each other. This may help groups see how much time and effort other applicants have committed to reading their application, and understand how other funders felt it was important for their work to be funded.
Internal Reflections and Challenges
On Well-being and Sustainable Transitions
From its inception, FRIDA's grantmaking process was led and facilitated by one staff member and an advisory committee of young feminist activists. Over the years, FRIDA's participatory grantmaking model has been modified to match the needs of young feminist movements. During times of limited capacity, it has been key for FRIDA's participatory model to be facilitated by staff that come from young feminist organizing. First-hand experiences of young feminist organizing needs is built into the grantmaking process that exists today, and it has strengthened trust between FRIDA grantmaking staff and young feminist applicants. This process has been very overwhelming for FRIDA staff who have facilitated it, so FRIDA has taken a break between cycles for documentation and knowledge transfer before the new cycle starts.
Even though FRIDA's staff capacities have grown over time, we need to acknowledge that as we celebrate our work, we also need to reflect on the resources that facilitating a meaningful participatory decision-making process requires—resources as in staff, time, knowledge, patience, deep care and attention to the applicants and guidance every step of the way. FRIDA is committed to providing these resources because we know it takes a feminist village to facilitate a participatory process, improve systems and allow for sustainable flow of knowledge across the FRIDA community. Intersectional approaches and knowledge about every region and context, and the dynamics within them, are necessary to continue to create space and access for meaningful participatory processes. With limited capacity, it has been overwhelming for grantmaking staff to facilitate the grantmaking process, build, adapt and evaluate the system, and also document all the learnings to support sustainable transitions. We have witnessed what happens when one person is holding all this knowledge and how long the orientation process can take, which makes this kind of approach unsustainable. In the 2022 cycle, transitions and lack of internal capacity have affected the length of the process. Moving forward, we plan to reflect on the capacity systems needed for this model to be sustainable during staff transitions when new energy takes over.
- FRIDA needs to identify what is necessary for the sustainability of their grantmaking process and what needs to change in the model to make knowledge transfer more straightforward.
- FRIDA needs to decentralize knowledge about its grantmaking process so that it is held by multiple staff members.
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.