The G Blog #Insights #News #RadicalFunding

Guerrilla Participatory Governance & Collectivised Resourcing Trial

Romy Krämer, Nov 2022

Our experiment is taking place between January 2022 until the end of 2023, piloting our ideas for participatory governance and collectivised resourcing of the Guerrilla Foundation after 5 full years of operation (check out our 2021 annual report for a review). For those of you interested in the nitty gritty details of participatory practices, we will lay out the ins and outs of this process in upcoming blog posts. Here, we will focus on the broad strokes and motivations behind this experiment which will hopefully be the beginning of our next iteration – Guerrilla Foundation reloaded.  

like water, we want to be one of the catalysing agents in the field making all our resources flow to grassroots movements and frontline communities.

Why move to participatory governance? 

We want to walk our talk when it comes to sharing power with and being accountable to the European grassroots movement ecosystem we are resourcing. For years, we have been involved with and promoting FundAction to other funders and we preached about the more egalitarian ideals behind participatory grantmaking, so adopting those changes ourselves was only a matter of time. It did mean that our founder Toni, had to concede to power sharing so that we could transform from a more traditionally governed foundation model with into a truly collectivised framework.

While engaging with various funders and deepening our knowledge about participatory practices, we also learned that participatory grantmaking (PGM) might or might not be a source of fundamental change to the philanthropic system of power relationships. If PGM is implemented within a broader structure that retains vetoing or decision making authority in the hands of those that hold power by default (high net worth individuals or family members who more often than not tend to be the classic, white old(er) men,…) it might just function as a way to perpetuate the overall philanthrocapitalist system with progressive window-dressing. If, however, the idea of participation takes hold at different levels and places of decision-making, e.g. not only decisions about where exactly grants go within a predetermined program of what and where the funding should be spent on, but also decisions about the broader strategy of the organisation, grantmaking criteria etc. then PGM has a chance to contribute to fundamentally shaking up the philanthropic status quo. 

Keeping this in mind, we set-up an 11-member Activist Council for scouting and grantmaking, but also to be involved in the governance and future strategic development of the Foundation. Our hypothesis for the trial period is that the council will help us in reaching a more diverse set of grassroots initiatives from across Europe, improve our decision-making process and positively inform our selection criteria and strategic thinking.

moving towards participatory structures means meticulous node weaving, tying the webs of seemingly distinct groups while growing, learning and cultivating our own processes of getting-together.

Why collectivised resourcing?

We want to be the funder we have been waiting for. Our wishes go into growing our funding power to resource more grassroots groups (and over longer periods!) while not becoming one more of the ‘big institutional funders’ that sort their grantees into ‘program boxes’, or that are intransparent and unaccountable to the communities they impact. We often speak with funders that have large amounts to distribute and they seem to be agreeing on the importance of funding movements. However, they seem to not know how to do this. They lack the DNA (i.e. people, know-how & processes) to be in touch with those they want to fund and support. Besides, their funding amounts are often too big to reach grassroots groups and support a diversity of tactics and approaches to social change because the capitalist lore of ‘bigger is better’ has not stopped short of philanthropy either, privileging a couple of big NGOs that monopolise most of the funding. 

This led us to conclude there is a big gap in the European funding ecosystem for broad systems change that is not single-issue oriented and focused on resourcing grassroots groups. This is why we felt that in this specific case, an expanded Guerrilla Foundation with more funds would be valuable. In the first five years of operation, we had created the organisational framework, networks and infrastructure so that the conditions were set to redistribute more resources to radical social justice movements. Hence, the second element of our trial was to test the hypothesis of expanding our funding sources by setting up a Funders Circle and inviting people with wealth and privilege to contribute to our work. 

We want to be the funder we’ve been waiting for. Planetary precarity cannot wait for trickle-down pocket money from the Charity-Industrial complex. Oppressive, rigged systems cannot be overthrown by civil disobedience and due-process campaigns. Philanthrocapitalism needs a more invasive surgery than a palatable facelift.
Time flies.

Practical implications 

In practice, the trial meant tweaks and changes at every level, from small operational details to new meeting structures and working groups. We can’t outline all of these here but are happy to discuss them with interested funders considering similar moves. 

To give you a glimpse of what kept us busy on the side of those holding the bling £$€, the first quarter of 2022 was dedicated to undertake many conversations with potential funders interested in joining the Funders Circle, ending up by confirming seven individuals committing to a minimum of 100k EUR for the two-year trial period. Circle members got together to decide about their internal self-organisation. How often would they meet? Who would facilitate these meetings? What would be discussed there? The perks of self organisation 😉 

As for the Robin Hoods crew aka the Activist Council, the process was more straightforward at first. Spreading an invitation call through our existing networks with a very specific description of the kind of kick-ass activist individuals we were looking for helped us receive 25 applications for Council membership. The more time-consuming work went into onboarding them. A lengthy onboarding call in April gathered the Council for the first time and served as a base for setting up working groups on conflict of interest, culture of care & anti-oppression, and communication & internal processes. To create a common point of departure, we established an online space for Guerrilla staff and Council members where we shared an analysis of our past grantmaking, the current version of the selection criteria, details about the decision-making process and how we imagined them scouting new initiatives, including a full transparent overview of the Action Grant pipeline for everyone to see who scouted, reviewed and rejected which grant candidate. 

Enlarging our scouting and decision-making structures also meant adjusting and expanding our grant management and review software. Convinced that the more of us gathering, the merrier, we redesigned our annual strategy meeting into a political hackathon to accommodate the spearheads of the newly-enlarged team (5 staff, 3 funders and 5 Activist Council members) while adding a whole new meeting structure over the year to exchange with the Staff Liaison Committee (comprised of 3 funders and 3 council members).  We also held our first ever Guerrilla Kiki this October which brought together 5 funders, 4 activists from the council and 5 team members for a trust and connection-deepening couple of days in the woods (nature immersion + open sharing agendalessness = relationship enhancement + headspace expansion for sustaining political work).

with a kick-ass activist group, an intentional funders circle space and a stellar team, the Guerrilla Foundation is now in full force to mess up with the system and have a bold strategy to address the wrongdoings in the field.
Illustration by Berenice Zambrano

Like any pregnancy, the past nine months were bewildering, exhausting, and an emotional rollercoaster at times. But what we gave birth to in this period is a beautiful group of activists that already scouted amazing new Guerrilla grantees like Camera Femina, Jornaleras de Huelva en Lucha, and Alda and already allocated 175k EUR in funding. They are in the process of forming close connections that hopefully will have an impact way beyond their Council membership. Simultaneously, the supportive group of committed funders backing us now also infuse our hopes for changing the face of philanthropy in Europe and beyond. In the coming months, we’ll be uncovering more layers about what makes this whole experiment a funky, motivating and joyful gestation, so stay tuned for future juicy updates and first lessons learned..

if you just read this article and you thought, ‘great, this speaks to me immensely and i want to be involved’ reach out to: