The first round closes!

Rethink grants. Graphic by Sylvain Mazas

The results are in. Months of work resulted in a group of people from across Europe submitting, discussing, and voting on proposals for progressive activism work. Today the FundAction Facilitation Group reviewed the votes for the first round of Rethink grants. In the end, FundAction will fund 8 applications with grants of up to €5000.

One of the many learnings from this round is that we need to ask applicants about whether they’re happy for us to publically recognise them. For now, we’ll keep things vague, with the intention of publicly announcing the final grantees in mid-January, once all the money is disbursed. But in the meantime, it’s good to share how the review process went.

Prior to this, we had some last-minute panics: we hadn’t considered what we would do in the event of a tie, for example. We’d simply agreed that we’d just trust the scoring process, which seemed so clear… We should’ve known this was too simple! But at FundAction, we’re making the road while walking. Often the issues don’t come up until, well, they come up.

We decided that we would give out only full grants until the allocated €40000 was spent (no partial amounts — any money left over from the ‘pot’ would go to the next round). And in the event of a tie, we would look at the tied organisations and see whether they represented under-served areas. If we could clearly see that was the case, we would add them.

In the end, we had 6 definitely successful proposals (top number of votes), and then 4 tied proposals with the next highest number of votes. 10 in total, with only enough funding for 8. So, the review began. We compiled a list of geographical locations and thematic areas (using the eight categories we’d identified for the Assembly membership). We also took a look at the comments, recommendations and responses each proposal had.

With this in mind, we added a 7th proposal to the list: the only organisation with a climate justice focus. (They were also one of the only Eastern European proposals, and had some positive comments, but this was just support for the main need to add some climate work to the mix.) Then we had a problem with the other 3 tied organisations: they were all working on issues or in countries that were already well-represented.

After quite a lot of deliberation about how we would make a decision, we decided that a lottery would be the only way forward. Some of us knew the applicants, and whilst we were keen that they got funded, it didn’t seem right to chose without clear criteria (more learning for next time). With 3 potential, tied proposals, all doing great work and with positive comments, there was no obvious way to decide. So, our coordinator rolled the dice as we all watched, and the 8th proposal was added to the list.

The final list of 8 grants show the blossoming range of work FundAction can support. We have proposals from Southern, Eastern and Western Europe; work on migration, alternative economics, and civil rights; work bringing people together virtually, and work bringing people together physically. Our small grants have the potential to contribute to these projects, but also to FundAction as a community.

There is still much we need to do. We have work to do to establish a smooth grants process and to broaden the range of work FundAction supports. There were technical glitches, and processes we hadn’t considered (you’ll be surprised to know that dice-rolling was never in the plan). But for a first round, we’re happy. And hopefully the first new FundAction grantees will be starting the new year with a smile too.