Closed Collective Model - Week One: First Steps

This Monday, 13 September, saw us move into the next stage of a project that has been in the works for a few month. As a funder, we want to look beyond the impact the money makes to how the processes of allocating funding could be used to improve outcomes for the borough. To this end, we are delighted that members of the Barking & Dagenham Children and Young People’s Network (BDCYPN) have agreed to test out a new model of funding with us. You can read more about that here.

Over ten sessions, the group will meet to decide together how to spend a pot of funding using what is known as a closed collective model (p.14) of participatory grant making.

In this blog series, we will be collecting the learning from these meetings so that others can understand and feedback on the process


We started the first meeting with a check-in. This is something that I have picked up from doing Deep Democracy training, in which the check-in is outlined as ‘a way of connecting at the beginning of a meeting, group discussion, or simply when reconnecting with a person.’

The question can be anything, it’s just something to help bring people into the meeting, as well as give a bit of an insight into what energy people are bringing into the group by how they choose to answer.

This week’s question was: ‘What was the last thing you read/saw/heard etc. that you wanted to share with someone else’. We had a range of response, including wanting to share the excitement of seeing representation in media and finding out information about issues of domestic violence and poverty which they wanted to share with their children.

After this, we moved onto going back over what had been agreed before summer, to ensure everyone was clear about the purpose of our meetings and also to outline the expectations of the project.

Checking in is a good way to connect a group and get them thinking about each other in a way which is different than their role in the meeting.

Terms of reference

With any project, especially a collaborative one, it’s important that everyone taking part understands what’s expected of them. This helps manage expectations and provides a reference point for the team in case there are any disputes or lack of clarity.

We gathered all the views in the group, and I asked members to indicate if they were happy with someone’s suggestion being included. What I have done below is consolidate the different ideas put forward, grouping together ideas that were talking about similar things. They are in no particular order.

The terms of reference are not a settled matter – it is a living document that may need to adapt as the work continues. The group agreed to regularly check-in with the terms of reference throughout the project when needed.

What questions do we want to explore?

With the terms of reference, we moved the discussion onto what questions this project might explore. There were a lot of suggestions and I have grouped together questions which seemed to me to be linked but there are many which overlap This is simply to give an overview of the types of ideas that the group find interesting and worth interrogating. 


How do we work across each other in the network?

  • How do we join up the work we are doing?
  • What needs to be in place to enable collaboration?
  • How do we stand strong as a sector so that long-term solutions are sourced from within the community rather than being parachuted in from outside?


How do we identify the gaps in provision?

  • How do we know if someone is trying to fill a gap?
  • What services do we have and what skills are already available in the borough?
  • How do we learn about the work other organisations are doing?
  • How do we enhance and supplement what is already being done (Mentoring, counselling, translating etc.)?


How do we get people to engage and participate in the work that is already being done?

  • How do we do outreach which is relevant to different contexts (social, cultural etc.)?
  • How do we retain people?

What do young people think about our work?

  • How do we bring young people into this work?
  • How do we follow the journey of young people that we introduce to other organisations?
  • How do we monitor young people across a long period of time, not just track them over a single project?
  • How do we make young people feel safe about our collaborations?


How do we measure the long-term impact or our work/the work of the sector?

  • How do we end the destructive cycles we see in families and communities?
  • What are the important metrics we want to measure?
  • How do we measure qualitative data to show our impact?


Does this method of funding seem likely to help BDCYPN meet its intended outcomes for children and young people?

  • What do we notice happening?
  • What things surprise us?
  • Does this method increase collaboration?

Other ideas raised

In the last part of the meeting, the group had questions they wanted to ask of BD Giving, mainly around how we might sustain and develop this work – the group understandably doesn’t want to be left with more questions and no support from us.

While we are not able to promise more funding, it is our hope that the pilot will be able to attract more funding to develop it further. We have already been doing outreach to other funders and, if we get their interest, bring them to the group for a conversation – it will be the group that decides how they want to take this project forward and build an idea about how BD Giving could best support this. We will stay in the work as long as we are needed in it.

Next time

We ended the session with a check-out – it works similar to the check-in and gives a temperature check for how people are leaving a session. Depending how the session went, it might indicate if the facilitator needs to follow-up with someone later.

Check-outs tend to be shorter than check-ins as they’re often factoring in that the meeting closing is all that’s standing in the way of the end of the working day/lunch/the weekend! To that end, we checked-out with a single word about how we were feeling after the session – we heard that people felt excited, strong, hopeful, inclusive and positive. The challenge will be in remembering those feelings and course-correcting if they start to fade.

We agreed that the agenda for the next session would be;

  •           Check-in
  •           Decide which questions the group wants to explore, taking into account the limits of the pilot.
  •           Start to think about how we might explore or begin to answer these questions.
  •           AOB
  •           Check-out

The actions for the group were to reflect on the session and these questions to be prepared for the discussion on Monday – see you next week!