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[EN] Innovation Hub Nieuws

Recap of the Brown Bag Session: lessons on participatory grantmaking approaches

In our first Brown Bag Session, Partos together with Aidsfonds, Mama Cash, Wilde Ganzen and the Robert Carr Fund presented on different approaches towards participatory grantmaking and what can be expected if an organisation wants to implement participatory grantmaking. Read on, to catch the key insights of this dynamic topic & make sure to check our brown bag of resources!

25 maart 2024

Participatory grantmaking is…

There are many different approaches to Participatory grantmaking (PGM), each with their own challenges, methods and opportunities. The thread that links them all is that PGM shifts the decision-making power over where the funding goes: from donors, those who hold the money, to communities, those who benefit from the funding. As mentioned by Coco Jervis from Mama Cash: “It turns the traditional approaches to philanthropy on its head, by recognising communities are the experts.” PGM ensures that the funding goes where it is most needed. It is seen as a form of justice and mutual accountability, creating space for those affected by inequality to decide on how money should be spent. 

“Participatory grantmaking increases the focus on community participation. Community problems need community solutions.” 

Esly van Dam, Wilde Ganzen 

The Robert Carr Fund, established as a participatory fund from the beginning, has a focus on changing the narrative from short-term funding to long-term, core and flexible funding, responding to the needs of 88% of their grantees who rely on core funding to implement their programmatic work and make change happen.

What to expect when just starting to implement participatory grantmaking

Mama Cash, the first international women’s fund in the world spent over two years researching, consulting, and facilitating dialogues with community members and other funders to ensure a participatory design of their transition process into a participatory grantmaker. Mama Cash started taking gradual steps, piloting new processes and persuading partners that it is worth the effort. As Mama Cash learned from other organisations and the diverse community already implementing forms of PGM, the organisation has been diligent about sharing information back on what was learned. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  

Many internal conversations happened to ensure that power sharing is embedded in the full process. We looked at our due diligence, donor management, and financial reporting. You start small and build up. You need to invest time, effort and resources. Know that participatory grantmaking is not the end goal but a process.” 

Coco Jervis, Mama Cash

Having the voices of communities at the decision making table deliberately speaking about sharing power works. The process of participatory grantmaking nurtures relationships at decision making levels, between funders and the community. The best way to direct funds is to invest in strong communities and strong civil society networks. However, a good process is required and sensitivity to the injustice that can happen in the process. How do you ensure diversity in representation and equitable opportunities to participate in decision-making, once different voices are at the table? Participatory approaches lend legitimacy and credibility but it is important to manage conflicts of interest in a robust, transparent way. Participatory approaches also take time, and this time needs to be budgeted in. Sometimes it might feel that the processes will go slow, but it does make the funding stronger, the impact stronger. 

The shift from the perspective of a grantmaker having the knowledge and the power to participatory grantmaking is radically different. You enter relationships in a different way, liberating you as a grantmaker from heavy decisions. The whole is bigger than the sum of the parts. It is not just about the grants we make, but also about the knowledge shared. It generates a culture shift.”. 

Olga Rychkova, Robert Carr Fund. 

Building trust & shifting power

Participatory grantmaking is all about trust. Trust from the donor in the communities, and from the communities in us. However, It is important to acknowledge the reluctance funders and INGOs may have to integrate participatory grantmaking. It isn’t easy, it requires time, resources and strong leadership as well as an internal excavation process to transition policies, procedures, staffing roles and responsibilities. As a donor you need to accept that your role can change; this includes shifting the power and letting go of risk-averse management exemplified by strict due diligence and reporting. The recommendation is to take it slow, do a lot of research and make sure that also in early stages of your transition to participatory grantmaking communities are involved. And know that participatory grantmaking can be done at different scales, from smaller grants to those larger. 

There is a need for a power shift and participatory grantmaking offers a great opportunity for organisations seeking to shift decision-making power on resources and grants. Of course:

“participatory grantmaking is not a magic bullet and it doesn’t completely disrupt entrenched power dynamics.” Change will not happen overnight, but for those prepared for a long haul it “is one step in the right direction. One tool that can be used to disrupt power imbalances and and really return funding back to the community so they can decide what their own priorities will be and where their investments should go to”

 Coco Jervis, Mama Cash

Curious for more?

Watch the recording of our first brown bag session on Participatory Grantmaking and dive into some of the below documents: