I’ve been having a lot of conversations over recent months about what collective accountability can and should look like. The Participatory Grantmaking Community has grown so quickly and organically and has created a wonderfully welcoming space for so many people over the globe. But how do we use this space to make philanthropy and the work many of us are doing better?
We’ve brought together hundreds of people interested in, working with, or trying to embed participatory grantmaking. We’ve made the case for the approach. We’ve shown it works. Provided resources and guidance to help you use it. But how do we stretch the work of individuals and the collective movement? We can’t rest on our laurels; we can’t think that we’ve done enough or that another participatory grantmaking programme is the end goal. Participatory grantmaking is just a tool and a tool that needs to evolve and develop to make sure it is relevant and responding to an ever-changing world. If we stop innovating, we’ll soon find ourselves out of date. The world will have moved on and left us behind advocating for a practice that hasn’t kept up.
How do we bring in the knowledge and insights from those outside the Community so we don’t create an echo chamber? How do we make sure we’re lifting up and centring diverse voices within our membership in the Community itself? How do we learn from tech, design, digital, foresight, indigenous, embodied, creative, unknown and unrecognised practices? What does this look like, how do we do it and how can the Community provide it?
We can work together to find ways of creating a wonderful space that is not only welcoming but can help us reflect on where we can be better, to help us be honest about where our work can improve, what’s missing and how we can truly live the #ShiftThePower values.
As I’ve been ruminating on these challenges, I’ve also been thinking about how we give feedback with care and love, and how we welcome and reflect on the feedback we receive. I’m thinking about this on a very personal level–as a human in this Community, as one of its volunteer organisers–and also on a Community level–how can we all be in a culture of receiving feedback together? One of my first mentors used to say ‘praise with a flashlight, critique with a laser’ meaning that praise should be done in the open whereas a critique should be done one-on-one. I think there is a place for this, but open conversations and reflections can be framed in a way that we can all learn from if we lean into the ability to discuss when things have gone wrong; when we are honest with our shortcomings; when we seek out better ways of doing things; when we centre collaboration rather than competitiveness.
This can be hard but I think it is possible. My partner often cushions feedback by asking ‘Can I give you some feedback from a place of love or from a place where I want you to succeed or from a place where you can improve or learn’. And the best thing Nusrat Faizullah asked me when we designed the Leaders with Lived Experience programme was ‘Why are you doing it like that?’ from a place of genuine curiosity rather than judgement. How can we create a community where feedback can be acted on or not, but it’s always welcomed and always reflected on and learnt from?
Exploring how we can have honest conversations and building accountability structures is vital for this to work. Particularly in a sector where many of our organisations lack accountability and transparency. How do we move beyond just tinkering with what we’ve got? How do we build the capacity in the sector to question our work and design better approaches? How do we push ourselves to be better? How can the Participatory Grantmaking Community be a vehicle for this?
Within the Community we’ve been asking monthly for feedback – a lot of this has been small tweaks to the way we do things or ideas for sessions, others have been bigger questions like how we manage funding asks within the community. We’ve tried to respond to these through adapting our work. For the bigger questions, we’ll start exploring some of these both as a stand alone piece of work around our governance and at our August #Tuesday Club and #ThursdayClub meetings which will be focused on these topics. The goal: To check in on our Community (you!) and help us to better meet our needs as we move forward. I hope you’ll attend to begin exploring these questions in conversations led by two long-time volunteer leaders, Jen Bokoff and Rose Longhurst. I will be on holiday myself, and can’t wait to hear insights generated in these conversations when I return!