Models of Participatory Grant Making

In September I’ll be nervously setting off on the first leg of my Winston Churchill Fellowship. I’ll be travelling to South Africa for two weeks to explore and understand best practice in participatory grant making. I then have a few weeks to reflect and compress before I head over the pond to the USA for four weeks to learn more about what we could be implementing in the UK.

As a concept Participatory Grant Making is about devolving decision-making power to the very communities impacted by funding decisions. In practice there are lots of different ways of doing this.

Representative participation models: Having sector experts, individuals with lived experience or community members on decision making panels, committees or boards.

Community Board models: Where the whole decision making board is made up of community members, sector experts or individuals with lived experience. There are various ways of choosing who these people such as interview, selection or democratic election.

Rolling Collective Model: All grant recipients are involved in the process of both receiving and giving funding. Those who receive funding will then make decisions for the next round of funding.

Closed Collective Model: Most appropriate for a small place or sector. Involves bringing all relevant organisations together to collectively understand needs and decide how best to spend funding available through consensus decision making.

Open Collective Model: All interested parties, including applicants participate in funding decisions through voting this can be in person or online.

Direct Transfers: Looks to alleviate poverty by removing the middle organisation out of the equation with cash going directly from a funder to an individual with no application, monitoring or reporting. It allows the individual to spend the money direction on what they need for their situation.

Crowdfunding: Communities come together to fundraise and spend money on issues of importance to them.

These models all have their own strengths and weaknesses as well as settings and contexts which might make one more effective than another dependent on your aim. This report from Lani Evans provides more details as well as case study examples of all these models in practice if you wish to know more.

Over the next few months, in preparation for my trip I will be reading anything and everything I can get my hands on about Participatory Grant Making (please send stuff over). I’ll be writing up short introductory blogs on aspects of participatory grant making that have been covered in great depth by some incredible people across the global to lay the foundations for this work. I’ll also be speak to funders across the UK in order to understand what it is that would be most helpful for them to know so that I can frame and develop my research around this. I’ll also be doing some panicking about organising the logistics of a trip like this, anyone who knows me will tell you my time maths is not my strongest skill set!

Churchill Fellow exploring how communities can be more involved in decisions about where and how money for their communities is spent

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