minute read

Time and Money

Image Credit: Stephen Sizer, Refugees Welcome Rally

Urgency versus depth

During desk research, in every interview and in the workshop sessions, a theme that kept coming up time and again was that of time horizons. 

Throughout the research process a sense that the 3–5-year organisational strategy horizons and funders’ funding cycles were not conducive to the investment and time it would take to set up and start to embed community organising models, especially in some of the hardest to engage places. 

There was concern raised about the next general election as being the only time horizon.  Some people and organisations, more focused on community level power building, didn’t see the general election as being a key moment in a calendar because their targets were more often local authorities or local companies.  For others, more focused on making national level policy change, elections were seen as an important moment to shape the policy agenda, notwithstanding the hesitation around ‘political’ activity as expressed elsewhere. What both groups agreed on was that elections should be seen as a moment or opportunity in a longer-term journey of building local power, not an end destination in themselves. 

What the ‘lessons learned’ (from the US and Europe), the interviews and workshop sessions all surfaced was the need to take a long-term view on strengthening civil society power. That needn’t be done at the expense of shorter-term policy, advocacy or tactical campaign work, but at the moment the sense is that the shorter-term horizon is where the time and energy is currently focused.

The challenge of funding and re-granting

One final theme to explore that came out strongly in the interviews was the challenges around funding, especially about how we can get small pots of money to community level work. There are great sources of small grants like the National Lottery Awards for All that could support this local work, and one of the key challenges will be about how we make local networks and organisations fully aware of the funding opportunities that are available, like as happens through the HOPE not hate towns bid builder.  The Climate Coalition made lots of microgrants for the Great Big Green Week and found them highly impactful, but during discussions it came up that this was a challenge as some funders didn’t allow re-granting to local levels and their own funding infrastructure wouldn’t make such small grants themselves. The Paul Hamlyn Foundation fund that focused on Ideas and Pioneers is another example of something that has been impactful in this space.

We need to see more collaboration amongst funders and support coalitions and organisations to do effective strategic regranting. We know that the European Climate Foundation does some excellent work on this across the climate sector, but that is limited to climate justice issues. Having both interviewed the Civic Power Fund and had them be part of the workshops for this research it’s clear that there is an opportunity to learn from their work and support them to build on their mission to support grassroots community organising, build the ecosystem organising needs to thrive, and empower talented civic leaders.