There is a growing national consensus on the direction of travel needed for funding models to become more open, participatory, and, most importantly, capable of sustaining collaborative action. The solutions needed involve risk. When dealing with small and micro charities, funders find it challenging to reach out in cost-effective ways. It feels safer to try to mitigate risk with disproportionately rigid grants or create artificial competition that centralises the power and role of the funder.
Ironically, those approaches mean funders miss out as much as small and micro charities. Real change will look like funders at the forefront of creating significant localised, collaborative impact, challenging systemic inequalities, and nurturing a new generation of innovative voices and approaches from diverse backgrounds.
At POP, we do not want to strike the pose of the teacher who tuts and writes ‘could do better’ on the funding communities’ school report. What we want to say is that in the past five years, as a place-based pilot working with Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, we have trialled and tested new methods of funding to explore what works in our setting. POP is not the finished article, but we offer a living example with practical evidence of the possibilities of collaborating for grassroots impact.
In Plymouth, an estimate of grassroots impact is not a theoretical proposition. It looks like health costs saved through workshops that build confidence in people to overcome lockdown anxiety. It looks like asylum seekers and refugees able to settle and contribute to city life more efficiently because there are organisations working together that can purchase them essential items. It looks like small environmental groups growing a significant voice in the city because they have the time, trust, and training to promote each other. Each of these examples come from collaborations resourced by the POP Collectives Fund.
Working in relationship with the Plymouth VCSE community, we have identified three key conditions that enable funders to collaborate for grassroots impact.
· VALUES – Shared values are the engine of healthy collaboration and a precious form of capital to small and micro organisations.
· PLACE – Place based funding means funders coming from the same place, either geographic or social, as those they fund. Funders need to see themselves as collaborators.
· COLLABORATION – Funders need a wider lens than a single project or a small organisation. Invest in collaborative ecosystems and grassroots will behave like grassroots; clumping, spreading, binding, and proliferating together.
We aim to explore each of these key conditions in more detail to foster the conversations that build relationships and share values with like-minded organisations.
If you are interested in collaborative place-based funding, visit POP's collaboration opportunity on the Funders Collaborative Hub to find out how you can get involved