Community of Givers: November Grapevine
More and more members of the funding world have caught wind of the idea of participatory grant-making. Since 2007, Dalia Association has been running grant-programs that employ the use of a similar form of grantmaking – community-controlled grantmaking. There are some important overlaps and distinctions between the two terms.
Participatory grant-making refers to a funding practice that includes the “beneficiaries” in the planning of projects and evaluation of them. Participation by the target population or their representatives is considered to enhance the effectiveness of the project in reaching goals and outcomes. In this sense, however, inclusive participation serves the purposes of the project. Discussions around participatory grant-making consider to what extent it could become best practice.
Community-controlled grant-making considers participation and ownership the most important part of the project. It is a people-centered, capabilities approach to funding. The indicators, outputs, and outcomes for community-controlled grant-making do not measure how many things the community produces, how much money is disbursed, or which newspapers the results are published in. Rather measuring success involves looking for transformations in thinking and action. Who chooses to share their resources, take initiative without prompting from donors, or rethink their goals and capacities? Building-capacity in the context of this approach tries to change perception and understanding. It is cognitive rather than possessive.
So how does Dalia Association do community-controlled grant-making? First, we do our homework. Using our constantly evolving village database, we first identify villages that are likely to be responsive to community-controlled grant-making (criteria considers population size, social diversity, local resources, and political neutrality of local government, etc). After identifying potential areas, we further narrow down the range through researching some of the existing capacities of civil society organizations in a number of municipalities and villages. The final villages that participate in the grant program must have a minimum level of civil society activity and a willingness to experiment with a different kind of funding process.
Once the villages are finalized, we announce a funding program through local media outlets and institutions. Interested community-based organizations (CBO’s) are invited to attend the initial community meeting. Attendees are asked to draft a list of community priorities collaboratively. Whatever is agreed upon become the criteria for assessing the subsequent proposals. Each organization presents its proposed project. Each attendee then votes on the organizations that he/she feels best represents the agreed upon community priorities. The CBO’s with the most votes become Dalia grant partners. Attendees are then assigned a certain amount of funds each to distribute amongst the new partners.
Dalia Association’s Program Coordinator then works with the new CBO partners to develop plans, budgets, and an oversight committee. The partnering CBO’s are asked to match the grant with their own resources. Many CBO’s will say that they have no existing resources of their own. We ask them to account for their volunteers, work space, resources of other CBO’s in the community, etc. Taking into account these existing local resources, many find that the dollar value of these contributions greatly exceeds the amount of Dalia’s grant.
Five people from the CBO’s form the oversight committee for the grant program. Dalia considers this committee and its members to be one of the most important opportunities for learning, education, and community-ownership. These five members receive capacity-building training on various monitoring tools and principles. They are then responsible for monitoring the projects of Dalia’s partner CBO’s.
At the end of this grant cycle, the CBO’s present their activities and the oversight committee presents its findings at a final community meeting. Other civil society members are then asked to evaluate the projects and overall process.
Community-controlled grantmaking, as followed in Dalia’s “Village Decides” and “Women Supporting Women” programs, aims to change perceptions in order to empower Palestinians to control and utilize their resources. The Palestinian community does not, in fact, need to rely on international aid in order to pursue its own development. Asking local civil society to decide upon community priorities, choose implementing partners, and conduct monitoring and evaluation challenges Palestinians to reconsider our capacities – rethink our ability to lead our own development. Community-controlled grantmaking, in this way, encourages a kind of innate form of cognitive development that does not need billions of external aid to be active.
Community of Givers
Dalia Association employs the use of community-controlled grant-making in its “Women Supporting Women” program. In October 2014, Dalia Association’s Project Coordinator, Doa’a Hantouli, and Communications Officer, Meredith Lee, visited each of the 12 CBO’s participating in the “Women Supporting Women” program (funded by the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality). Women leaders from each CBO met with the Dalia staff in order to discuss progress in the projects, difficulties they face, and stories of success and growth. Leaders from each CBO also showed Doa’a and Meredith the projects themselves, including equipment, products, and their utilization of local resources. These women are examples of true givers as many donate their time and effort for the betterment of their community. They also inspire giving in others, particularly from individuals and groups within these communities.
A Time of Transition
Dalia Association is going through a time of transition, as we say goodbye to our Executive Director, Saeeda Moussa, and thank her for her long commitment to the Palestinian community. Things are moving quickly as Dalia’s Board of Directors leads the search for her replacement. Arda Shamshoum, a member of Dalia’s Board, is serving as the Interim Executive Director during this transition.