Shifting power to catalyze movements: Our inclusive grantmaking journey

October 6, 2021
Shifting power. These two words are at the heart of the Equality Fund’s vision and fundamental purpose. Every day, we see how feminist movements are addressing the world’s biggest challenges—building durable, scalable solutions to seemingly intractable issues like inequality, climate change, and conflict.

At the very same time, we see how traditional approaches to philanthropy and development forfeit this potential from the start, keeping money and power at the top, starving feminist movements of the resources and agency they deserve to build the future we all need.

By its very design, the Equality Fund is a challenge to this status quo. It is a collective promise to unlock capital to unleash the full power of feminist movements. Together, we are reimagining old approaches to philanthropy, investment, and government funding simultaneously, with a model that shifts sustainable and scalable resources to feminist movements for lifetimes to come.

Ultimately, shifting power is about much more than what we fund. It demands that we examine how we resource movements, and how we can disrupt the colonial and patriarchal practices that continue to be so deeply entrenched in our field. It means moving beyond words to action—a willingness to experiment and co-create new approaches to governance and funding practices. And while we have so much more to figure out, we are committed to the journey, and to sharing what we are learning along the way.

Inclusive grantmaking 

When we envisioned and started the Equality Fund, we set out to honour a deeply-held belief and commitment to solidarity, accountability, and transparency with movements. As we began the Equality Fund, we worked with the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) to consult feminist activists globally.

In AWID’s report, High Hopes and High Expectations for Resourcing Feminist Movements, feminist movements highlighted the importance of inclusive grantmaking, with a priority on placing funding decisions in the hands of communities as a matter of both principle and efficacy. This echoes current conversations in Canada that highlight “the importance of abandoning the ethnocentric and imperialist practices whereby donors and experts from the global North impose questionable solutions to historically disadvantaged and donor-dependent countries and communities”. Listening and responding to these conversations, it was clear from the outset that the Equality Fund would use a community-informed strategy to ensure the necessary power shifts could take place to support a global move towards more decolonized philanthropy and funding. 

Over the course of eight months, we designed and implemented a community-informed process to make participatory grantmaking decisions in our inaugural Catalyze grants program. Through a dynamic partnership between the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) and Equality Fund, AWDF led a call for proposals across the African continent, ultimately selecting 42 grassroots feminist organizations for funding. The Equality Fund led a call across Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, selecting 30 new grantee partners. Together, the 72 grants total $4,365,632. Read more about our grantee partners here.

For Equality Fund’s selection of the 30 new grantee partners, we worked with a Global Advisory Panel—a group of ten feminist leaders supporting our decision-making process by providing recommendations and insights on selecting our new cohort.

The following infographic outlines our step-by-step timeline—unpacking how we implemented our first participatory grantmaking process and highlighting the key elements and principles needed to deliver it in line with our feminist values.

 

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