How would you rate funders?


More direct and democratic resourcing. We were gathered last Friday, convened by CIVICUS, to talk about this – actors in the global development, and philanthropic and activist spaces who care about getting more money to the ground and in the hands of the effective grassroots leaders leading change around the world.

For most of the people in the room, to #ShiftThePower means giving up their own power. It means no longer being the decision-makers and the controllers of resources. You see the rub?

And even when people have the best of intentions, the operationalization of this is confounding for funders and grant makers who are used to being at the top of the food chain. They actively struggle with “how” to de-center themselves in the work of social transformation. Here were a few of my suggestions from our work at Thousand Currents:


(Folks at the convening had lots more to say as well, which you can see on this Storify.)

As Theo Sowa from the African Women’s Development Fund reminded us, most importantly, more direct and democratic resourcing “is not about technical fixes. It is about power within partnerships.”

And still on Monday, the call came for more “business intelligence approach/solutions.” This made me once again question how close we are coming to shifting the power at all. My call for more clarity of what these solutions would be resulted in examples of dashboard-type mechanisms that gave funders more information about their grantees.

Ugh. These “solutions” still center the financiers of civil society and their needs. You see the rub?  must go deeper or risk recreating the same systems. (And can we stop always thinking the private sector has the answer? I ask from an ever-warming planet.)

So let’s rate the funders, ya’ll! Let’s turn the tables. Here’s my suggestions for criteria upon which they could be rated:


What are yours? 

It’s time to stop sending out “partnership surveys” where we might get some feedback but nothing that’s ever acted upon. Let’s rate our institutional donors out in the open, where there will be more consequences to inaction. GrantAdvisor has been launched for this purpose – I’m excited to check it out and see if/how it could be applied to a global funding context.

What criteria would you rate funders on? Feel free to share in the comments!


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