Grant-making with a difference – notes from the Edge (Fund) …

On Saturday 11th January 2014 we were awarded a £1500 grant from Edge Fund!

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This is our first non-donated/fundraised income and it means a lot to us for it to come from a funding org run by and for radical groups working on social change. Two representatives from DIY Space for London attended an interactive, democratic funding decision making session which lasted the whole day. It was a really special one for a lot of reasons. Here’s a little bit about what went down..

We arrived at 10.30am to a community centre in Finsbury Park. We were a bit nervous to meet so many new people at once but abundant tea and biscuits and a plunge into Ye Olde Icebreaker, which soon put paid to our worries.

Migrant and refugee organising was well-represented across a range of campaigns including Lesbian Immigration Support (from Manchester) Anti-Raids Network and UK Chagos Refugee Support. Some projects, like Reel News and  Green and Black Cross were looking for funding to buy new equipment or redesign their website, while others like Brighton Anti-Fascists were looking for help with budgeting for community outreach projects. The space-based projects like ours and Common House, a meeting space for radical groups based in Bethnal Green (excited to visit soon!) Regardless of their focus, every single person who spoke showed their passion and commitment clearly in the two- minute speech we all gave as an intro.

After this we split into two groups and created stalls where everyone in attendance, including shortlisted orgs, previously funded orgs and Edge Fund members, could quiz each other about their projects, based on previously disseminated info from the simple application form Edge ask for. DIY Space for London as a project was something a lot of people felt interested in, and were keen to offer their thoughts about how to make the space as accessible as possible, how to genuinely connect with the area in which the space will be, how to create a robust but workable system around safer spaces concerns, how to find an affordable commercial lease and how to balance realism with what can sometimes feel like a utopian demand (!). To be bombarded with such productive and informed positive and support was genuinely brilliant, a little overwhelming at times, but very exciting. We had to ask ourselves some tough questions and worked on the answers together with our new friends.

Then, after a break for delicious soups, breads and salads, we sat down to begin assigning scores. This is grant-making with a radical difference – everyone in the room was given a cup of chickpeas (uncooked!) and offered the chance to assign each group up to five chickpeas. The lowest amount a group would receive would be £1,500 (no small fry in itself!) with the maximum being up to £4,500 for one group. Together through chickpeas it was decided that the vital work of Lesbian Immigration Support would be the group to receive this amount. The whoop that went up (not just from that group!) when this was announced, and the sense of positive encouragement was great to see. I left with a to-read and to-do list as long as my arm, and a real sense of having make connections with people who care about the same things as we do, a pool of resources we can build together.

Overall, the day was an inspiring example of building an alternative funding model that really works. they are looking to grow their pot of money, this was round three and while the initial gift that the fund was founded on has got them this far, and enabled one of their members to be a part-time employee of the Fund, they need donations to continue the model and keep it moving forward. Check out their site here for more info about supporting and joining in for £1!

As for DSFL, £1500 is going to make a huge difference, bringing our fundraising total to just over £11,000! We’re about to announce the date of our next OPEN MEETING. It’s been a year since the first one, now it’s time to make this happen!