The question of power is central to philanthropy: Who decides about the allocation of funds? While social movements and activists have been calling for more participatory decision-making processes and new types of collaboration with funders for a while, a number of donors also see the value of adopting democratic ways to distribute resources as a way to achieve more impact. Indeed, some funds and initiatives around the world have been operating innovative participatory grantmaking models, such as Edge Fund in the UK, Red Umbrella Fund and Disability Rights Fund.
The idea behind these approaches is simple: those closest to the issues are best placed to make decisions about things that affect them. This includes decisions about where resources intended to benefit their communities should go.
Convinced that decision-making power should be shifted from grantmakers to grantees, four members of the EDGE Funders Alliance decided at the EDGE Europe retreat in summer 2016 to take the risk and set up a new participatory fund and platform for activists in Europe.
After a thorough consultation process with social movement actors from around the continent, Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation, European Cultural Foundation, Guerrilla Foundation and the Open Society Initiative for Europe pitched in over 200,000 euro for a pilot phase of a new participatory fund: FundAction.