Meeting Girls WhereThey’re At: Learnings from the Girls’ Fund

Illustration by Evelyn Kandin Geler| @ekgportfolio

A new kind of girls’ funding is emerging. It is becoming harder for donors who work with girls and young activists to ignore the calls for flexible and sustainable funding that supports meaningful collective action. Girls and young activists are calling for their active participation in decisions about how funding is distributed. They’re insisting on funding that is intersectional, accessible, and inclusive.

The Girls’ Fund, a pop-up experimental fund by Purposeful and Plan International made possible with support from the Irish Government, is looking to build on groundbreaking girl funding work that has been done for years by grant makers like FRIDA and Mama Cash, as well as recent innovative efforts like the Global Resilience Fund, housed at Purposeful, to move towards a more equitable and girl-led funding ecosystem. For some background on the Girls’ Fund, see our first blog here.

We decided to test a collaborative grant cycle where part is managed by Plan International and part by Purposeful, leveraging our strengths and recognising our limitations. Purposeful is better placed to transfer the money and will manage that part of the process. As Plan is more involved in the Generation Equality process, they will lead on some of the process-related aspects of the accompaniment approach e.g. connecting groups to GEF decision-making spaces. Each stage was designed together with colleagues from both organisations, which has been an exciting learning process.

So after selecting 28 groups from across the world to receive funding, what’s worked well in the grantmaking process so far?

We tried to meet young feminists where they are

The fund was launched over the Equality Accelerator platform, a young activist-designed networking platform.

The language, design and application and selection processes were all co-created with activists.

Our intention is that the experience of applying for funding resonates with young activists and feels accessible and intuitive.

We also look to be flexible and to embrace the diversity of ways in which young feminists are organising.

We ensured that the Girls’ Fund is set up to support informal groups: nearly half of all the applications we received were from unregistered groups. Groups who had difficulty applying online were offered alternatives that made sense for them. And the funding is entirely flexible; activists need that flexibility to respond to complex and changing circumstances, to sustain and grow their organisations, and to innovate.

By inviting activists to review their peers’ applications, we saw exciting opportunities for peer-to-peer learning

The selection process was led by groups that had applied to the fund in a simple, online peer review process.

We believe that, as young feminist groups engaged in the Generation Equality process, these groups were best placed to assess their peers’ proposals. Nearly 80% of all invited groups participated in the review. Beyond that, we tapped into the collective knowledge of these groups and gathered diverse and crowdsourced feedback on how groups can improve their proposals and their work.

Trust-based, network approach to due diligence

We saw the need to get creative on due diligence, which was the point when Purposeful took the lead, so that we could align with the realities of young feminist organising.

In practice, this meant that the process consisted of a set of very simple questions, asking partners and community leaders to provide information about the applicants. This process was based on trust, and allowed the fund to reach under-resourced groups which had often never been funded before due to their lack of official registration and other documents that are typically required.

It also allowed us to quickly disburse the funding to the groups, while still building relationships.

How groups received funds

We are committed to funding girls in ways that meet their realities, recognising that there are endless efforts to stop funding arriving into the hands of girls.

In an effort to accommodate diverse and informal groups, we offered options to receive funds through organisational or individual bank accounts, fiscal sponsors, Western Union and PayPal. We also offered funding in cash, through mobile money, in small instalments, or through consultancy contracts depending on the needs and circumstances of the group.

This is the second blog in a series. We’ll soon be updating you on the Girls’ Fund groups. Stay tuned!

Co-written by Liesel Bakker, Grants and Participation Manager, Purposeful and Alice Stevens, Innovation Lead, Plan International