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The Activist Council Rises

Ivan March, Dec 2022

If this year at the Guerrilla Foundation would be broken into 4 chapter titles they could be: 1) Recruiting Activists as Decision-Makers, 2) Finding new Radical Funders, 3) Uncoupling Wealth from Power and 4) (finally) Diving Deeper in Participatory Wealth Redistribution. This first step was essential as the Activist Council is now the brain of the Foundation (I would analogize the Funders Circle (FC) to the blood and the staff to the heart). The FC fuels the foundation with money, the resources, the nutrients, the oxygen we use to fund social movements, to give activists some room to breathe, to meet, to mobilise, to take action. The staff conducts all the meetings, processes all the grantmaking paperwork, and like the heart, pumps the resources around Europe, we skip a beat whenever the FC grows and our pulse accelerates every time we have a win from our grantees, or aches whenever their work is undermined by systemic injustice. 

Visualising the metaphor. How the 3 governance bodies of the Guerrilla Foundation work in connection with each other. Illustration by Berenice Zambrano

Activist Recruitment

Finding activists of diverse backgrounds, issue area know-how and with varied regional expertise, after funding the European activist scene for 5+ years was not very difficult. We sent out an email with a description of the kinds of kick-ass activists we were looking for and the time commitment necessary to a few people we thought fit the bill, as well as to grantee and multiplicator organisations so that they could pass on the application to others who they thought would match. Ergo, some targeted and some peer-to-peer applicant recruiting. In the end we received 19 full applications and we chose 9 to join. Two activists were already on our previous advisory board (Iva & Tatiana) and we renewed their terms, so they could participate in the selection process and onboard and induct the new members into the vibe of the foundation.

The council was selected on 29th March decided by two of the three existing advisors & the two oldest Guerrilla staff members. The ‘old’ Advisory Board wrapped up with a final cycle of reviews in May, giving the new Council a bit of time to onboard and find themselves as a group and they officially started deciding on grants in late summer.

Council’s Responsibilities

The Council will scout and help us pre-screen new groups for Action (10,000 EUR and above) and Reflex grants (up to 9,000 EUR). This is the most important step in our decision-making process because the invitation to acceptance ratio is rather high (about 85% for Action Grants). 

Council members will review Action Grant applications and take the final decision about an application (details below). The Guerrilla team will also be reviewing these applications and participate in the final decision making call (main role: moderation and admin support). However, we do reserve the right to intervene in the decision-making process if we have additional information about the candidate in question that would warrant a veto. We expect that such interventions will be rare and we want to be mindful of not over-extending our power. At the same time, we are keen to bring our experience and existing connections into the process. 

Beyond grantmaking, the Council has also been invited to self-organise in order to get involved in the governance of Guerrilla. Five council members will participate in our annual strategy meeting where we discuss grantmaking objectives, geographic focus areas, internal processes etc. Three council members (together with three funders) form the Staff Liaison Committee (SLC) that receives quarterly operational and budget updates from the team and is a sounding board in HR and strategic matters. 

The council’s term, for now, will be until the end of the trial period at the end of 2023. We will begin evaluating this trial in summer 2023 and discuss a potential continuation as soon as we know whether the trial will become the new normal. Thereafter, the council will also decide and support us in the selection and onboarding of new members.

Strategic Steering & Organisation Culture

An overarching role the council will play in the Foundation is that it will shape and mold its strategic direction and culture. The council is arriving on the scene after 6 years of operation so a statute and identity already exist. We have a guiding vision that the council already is aligned with but there is still room for elaboration and since the council plays an intrinsic role in steering the Foundation beyond pure grant-decision-making, they have already started self-organising into 3 working groups, they decided as priority areas: 1) Building a culture of care & decolonisation, 2) Conflict of interest, 3) Internal processes & communication. More specifically, they are developing a code of conduct and self-understanding statement, developing ideas for dealing with conflict, care & repair within the Council and in terms of communication with candidates, evaluate and monitor their grant decisions and the overall grant-making process with an eye on anti-racism and decolonisation, as well as care. They are leading a collective development process for a conflict of interest policy and maintaining good communication processes between Council members and the Foundation staff. 

leading these collective development processes takes time, and collective commitment! Illustration by Berenice Zambrano

Diving Deeper into Participatory Wealth Redistribution

The Funders Circle are on their own journey within Guerrilla to find ways of recruiting new members and doing peer-to-peer mobilisation around redistribution, while tuning in with themselves and each other about how they feel about this whole process. They are still fine-tuning processes such as who they would accept money from and under which conditions, they are setting up processes that future funders may inherit because this entire endeavour is about the collective body and not any one individual. Same goes for the Activist Council. It is likely that most council members will serve a 2 year term, with a few serving longer to onboard the newbies, and this rotation, the new recruitment processes and other to-dos still remain to be developed by this crew. We have already distanced ourselves from the tired, karma-washing, white-saviour notion of Philanthropy and we’re working on Participatory Resource Redistribution, a decolonised, reparations-oriented movement of money by activists for grassroots movements. Our Activist Council thus rises, enriching the Guerrilla hive mind, bringing breadth of skill and lived experience to evaluation as well as scouting and steering our pirate ship, which will hopefully see more mimicry and replication while (fingers crossed!) collectivized, radical redistribution models mushroom across the globe.

Our Activist Council’s day-to-day operations depicted in an animation: grant decisions and strategic conversations held to make money flow to grassroots groups doing their work on the streets, in campaigns, demos, trainings and so much more. Illustration by Berenice Zambrano