“ I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t had an experience of harassment. Do you?”
This was how Samantha Rennie, Executive Director of Rosa – the first and only UK wide fund for women and girls – described her reaction to the #metoo campaign and the growth of discussions around sexual violence and sexual assault:
“We knew long before the #metoo campaign that the UK is one of the most violent countries in Europe to be a woman in.”
But while the #metoo movement empowered women to speak up about their experiences, now Samantha wants to know “what’s going to happen next?”
Movements need funding to fully develop and grow. But how do funders see themselves as part of these movements of lived experience? Samantha Rennie explains:
“Unlike most funders, Rosa sees itself as a player in the struggle for gender equality in the UK. We mobilise resources not only to champion change, but also to act as a connector and advocate of change. We’re not just passive supporters. That’s why we do convening, network building and training, and we match our grantees with mentors across sectors. This is about movement building, and not just a sector”
But what does funding the lived experience look like in practice? The lived experience may not be a neatly formed constituted group, with a solid project plan. It may be an idea and passion. Samantha Rennie addresses this tension between a funder’s desire to fund something that is wholly formed, and offering people, especially marginalised communities, the space to develop and grow:
“We know that women are the backbone of local communities. Investing in women yields greater returns in communities. Women’s voices are particularly important in influencing change. The ‘Voices from the Frontline’ fund is to help those in campaigning, advocacy and influencing. It’s a simple video application based on 4 questions. The first: what do you want to change. The second: who has the power to make that change? The third: how can you influence them? And, finally, what will the money help with?
Here we can see the embodiment of developing marginalised voices through funding. The ‘Voices from the Frontline’ fund develops, empowers and supports grassroots groups to create change.
These questions hark back to when I interviewed Jess Cordingly from Lankelly Chase back in April, who spoke at our Losing Control conference. Jess offered some advice to other funders that the Rosa Fund have certainly been listening to:
“Trust. Don’t just trust blindly – we build a relationship with people, learn about all the aspects and come together as partners. See yourselves as part of those movements – and take time to learn with them. I know that not all funders can work like that, especially the larger ones. But more funders could use partnership agreements to make the funder and movement accountable to each other and to underpin the mutual endeavour.”
The result? A genuine engagement with and development of marginalised communities to create change.
Funders play a crucial role in supporting organisations’ structures in a way that puts the lived experience and the centre of their work. enabling those with lived experience to use their own voices to spark change. This is a move away from a traditional funding model of funding constituted organisations with solid structures. This is a move towards funding social movements, which are not always neatly tied together. The role of the funder, as Samantha highlighted, is not a passive money pot. The funder is an active player, they are conveners, network builders and trainers. The Rosa Fund is a perfect example of a funder that acknowledges the power of the lived experience, and has created structures to allow those voices to be heard. Other funders should take note.
Rosa will be announcing new funding rounds in the near future. Those who are interested can
sign up for news and updates at www.rosauk.org.
If you’re interested in how to elevate the voices of the lived experience, then why not come along to our hackathon on digital campaigning and the lived experience? You can sign up for your free place here.