Testing out a different approach to funding
BD Giving has been exploring Participatory Grant Making (PGM) for just over two years now. PGM means that the people impacted by funding get to make decisions about funding, though there’s no one way to achieve that aim.
From our conversational approach to seed funding, to the delivery of £100,000 last summer through the Rapid Response Fund, we are always looking to change the way that funding is done in Barking & Dagenham. We need a funding system which builds up individuals, communities, and organisations and allows them to explore ideas together.
The charity has an annual income, which is generated from properties in the borough. As such, we’re not accountable to a 3rd party funder and the only restrictions on it are those laid out in charity law. This means that we can try out ideas which other funders might not feel confident supporting, or to fund pilots which can be used as a ‘proof of concept’ for a new way of working in the borough.
While we will still continue the type of PGM we’ve been doing, which has seen representatives from the community form a panel of decision-makers, one of the issues is that it’s going to take time for community members to feel confident in making big funding decisions, especially ones which explore new ideas. The pace of change isn’t fast enough to keep up with the needs of the sector so we want to try out a model which puts organisations in the decision-making chair. After careful thought, we’ve decided to test out a closed collective model.
You can read more about the work that we’ve done so far on this here and if you’d like take part in our decision-making panels, consider joining our Community Steering Group.
What is a Closed Collective?
A closed collective is a type of PGM in which a group of people and/or organisations who are linked by a common area of work (which might mean a physical area or the same sector) are given control over resources. It is for the group to decide together how to use that money and they are accountable to one another. They can use the money for anything within reason, including paying themselves for the time they spend together.
“The closed collective aims to create the space and opportunity for groups working
in the same sector to work together and build relationships. It supports both the
fund holder and the organisations themselves understand the overall context they
are working within and it highlights where there are replications or gaps in service
provision. It also refocuses the funding process on the end user, not the needs of
organisations, or the needs of funders.” (Lani Evans, Participatory Philanthropy: An Overview p.15)
An open collective would be one in which all who were interested in receiving support from the fund formed its decision-making body – for a current example of this, see Edge Fund.
Why are we doing this?
We’re early enough in our grant making journey (some trusts have been around for centuries) that we are still able to be quite flexible about the way we work.
We believe that local organisations are best placed to solve problems and support people to have good lives. We’re genuinely interested in seeing what they come up with rather than us as a funder trying to plan everything out.
We want to build our relationships with local organisations and we think rethinking the power dynamic between funders and fundees will help us achieve this.
We want to encourage collaboration over our resources where possible instead of creating or deepening divisions.
We’ve gone with a closed collective model simply due to the scale we’re working at – we think it is neither right nor a productive way of spending money if we always split funds into small pots of money.
Who are we working with?
Over ten sessions, these five organisations will be working together to make decisions about a pot of money, aiming to explore some key questions about their sector and share their learning back to Barking & Dagenham Children and Young People Network (BDCYPN).