Developing a Regenerative Futures Fund #3 — Participatory Grantmaking and Racial Equity

Leah Black
Open Working & Reuse
6 min readNov 8, 2022


I started writing this a few weeks ago on my open working course and tried to write this in 30 mins —too big a topic and not possible! I have adjusted and expanded and clicked publish…

At the end of Sept 2022 I felt so lucky to have a cuppa with Shasta Ali and Talat Yaqoob at the lovely Out of the Blue Drill Hall — they are both writers, anti-racism campaigners (and much more, a little of which is below) — and we spent an inspiring 2 hours together taking about the third sector, grantmaking and philanthropy in Scotland, the barriers that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people face every day and how this plays out within power structures in charities, funding structures, the projects delivered and how these communities are supported (or not).

Talat is a consultant, campaigner and writer focusing on themes around womens rights, anti-racist policy, social research and public participation. She is the Co-Chair of the First Minister’s Advisory Council on Women and Girls and when stuck at home in the first lockdown in 2020 founded Pass the Mic to try to get more women of colour into the media. Shasta I first met when she was working with SCOREscotland (one of the key tenant charities within Whale Arts Centre). She now works for Corra (more below) in a communications and funding role, and is an anti-racism campaigner. By being part of Pass the Mic (above) Shasta started writing about her personal journey and experiences of racism and the importance of shared histories and more recently shining a spotlight on Ayahs who made long sea voyages to Scotland during the 19th and early 20th century to care for the children of wealthy families. I attended a lecture that Shasta co-led a couple of weeks ago — so powerful — and I still often think about the Edinburgh Ayahs as I cycle around the city and how more of us should know about them (please write a book, Shasta!).

So you can imagine what a rich conversation over a cuppa we had.

Rewind a little…

Earlier in Sept 2022 — not long after I started my 12-month secondment to develop a Regenerative Futures Fund for Edinburgh — I attended an online sharing session in early September led by Corra Foundation — Exploring Racial Equality in Grantmaking.

This was an event to share the programme that a small team within Corra led, which included Shasta — The Equity Programme — and the sharing event was masterfully chaired by Talat.

This was not an open grants programme. The Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women's groups were identified, and a huge amount of work was done with them before they started thinking about money and how it might be spent. The team at Corra worked closely with the groups to work out what they needed and how they might spend funding. The project started with asking the women — what did they want and need. Interestingly, Corra Foundation adapted some of their own structures to allow for unconstituted groups to access funding — ordinarily this wouldn’t have been possible.

The groups and themes were:

  • Roma and Romanian community — partnering with Fife Migrant’s Forum
  • Mohila Ogrojatra group — a Bengali women’s group
  • Young People of Colour — partnering with Intercultural Youth Scotland
  • Men and Mental Health & Women and Mental Health — partnering with Minority Communities Addiction Support Service (MCASS)
  • Culturally appropriate counselling — supporting the work of BEMIS

During the session we heard directly from participants from Mohila Ogrojatra and MCASS.

Here is a blog by Saleha — one of the women from Mohila Ogrojatra — about the development of the group — naming the group, growing plants, learning about healthy eating and sharing food, and going on a bus trip.

Plants grown by the women in Mohila Ogrojatra
Mohila Ogrojatra womens group on a bus tour of Edinburgh

I scribbled down SO many notes in the session — and there is much more to share, reflect and learn from this, more conversations to have and I have a lot to learn. But as a start and to get some of my scribbles out of my notebook and onto paper, here are TEN things I am reflecting on from the Exploring Racial Equity in Grantmaking / The Equity Programme Sharing session on 5th Sept 2022:

1. Talat is a wonderful and skilled chair!

2. Corra Foundation are so lucky to have Shasta in the team!

3. Respectfully involving those with lived experience and considering them as experts is how we will shift power and move things forward.

4. By funding groups in this way — new doors opened for them that wouldn’t have been there had they not had this support.

5. Participatory grantmaking is vital — not just a nice thing to do, but the only way to shift power.

6. What happens in the arts that I know well and have felt so frustrated by (and that we have started doing some work on in Edinburgh through the Creative Community Hubs network)— larger cultural institutions, festivals and galleries building local community arts orgs into funding apps without including staffing costs and expecting them to work as ‘partners’ to help to ‘tick their boxes’ — is happening to small Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups — this is unacceptable and funders need to pay attention to this behaviour by larger organisations.

7. When funders try to tackle inequity through funding programmes but within the same structures — it can end up inadvertently being discriminatory.

8. Consultation fatigue is real.

9. Privileged people should not go to these events and (just) think and say these are ‘inspirational stories and inspirational people ‘— we must value people from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority communities as experts and work with funders to adjust existing structures to ensure that we incorporate Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority people in decision-making at all levels. We need to build these things in at the very start of projects- not as an add-on or afterthought. It’s not enough just to say they are ‘inspiring’ and then move on.

10. Representation matters. Funders need to have (or build) diverse teams — for Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority community groups to see themselves reflected in a funding organisation will make the groups more likely to respond and get involved.

My questions:

  1. How do we make current funding structures that exist within Scotland work better for Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority
  2. What would a future funding structure look like that better supports Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority?

3. What is the role of funders in progressing racial equity work?

4. How can funders focus on being accessible, prioritise evidence of need, rather than governance and budgets being a barrier — how can funders support unconstituted groups that are very close to their and often led by their communities?

My next steps are to keep talking and reading about this and making sure that these things are built into Regenerative Futures Fund from the very beginning, rather than as an afterthought.

I’m beyond happy that Shasta and Talat are working with me and a small group of facilitators and partners to try to develop this new fund (Regenerative Futures Fund) that’s focused on long-term transformational change, imagining a better future and funding people who can move into this future — in an inclusive. Shout out to our wee group of Talat, Shasta, Suzy Glass, Mhairi Reid as facilitators and also Patrycja Kupiec from Edinburgh Trust / Turn2Us (more about these wonderful humans, soon).

And key learning is to continue to be open to being challenged on what I say and do, and to keep and learning with people who have diverse and different experiences to me, continually.



Leah Black
Open Working & Reuse

Lead, Regenerative Futures Fund Edinburgh; Chief Executive, Whale Arts; Warden, Incorporation of Goldsmiths; MBA student, Edinburgh Business School.