Our staff met this week to sort out the complexities of our current reality: adapting to children (both young and adult) at home full time, encouraging aging parents to take extra precautions, checking in on neighbors, sourcing and sharing provisions. We're slowing down, taking walks, trying to stay informed without getting overwhelmed. And we talked a lot about the realities we're already hearing about from our neighbors and communities across New England. It's clear significant actions are necessary and from many fronts. We want to share some of our early steps and we're committed to stretch deeply to support the grassroots.
Here's how we're adapting to support communities & take care of our people:
Programmatic repsonse for community-based, volunteer-driven COVID19 responses
Phase I: The Grassroots Fund’s first phase response to the impact of COVID19 on communities across the Northeast was a rapid response fund for all-volunteer efforts responding to community needs. We modified our guidelines to allow for more direct service and urgent response, reduced review time to 24-48 hours and increased our grant pool by $175,000. In six weeks’ time, we heard from over 250 groups and were able to grant over 175 requests spread across the region.
As institutional philanthropy and federal support are opening up (some) resources, we are now moving to our second phase of support. This means we are moving back to a review period of 4 to 6 weeks for Seed applications and putting back in place grant program guidelines and expectations based on our guiding practices. The Seed program remains available for groups responding to community needs at the intersection of environmental, social and economic impacts.
Phase II: Many mutual aid efforts have newly launched over the last few weeks. While groups continue to respond to urgent needs in their neighborhoods and town, it is becoming clear that this hyperlocal, resilient level of support has to be sustained for the mid- to long-term as the impacts of COVID19 are likely to continue into the foreseeable future.
Many volunteer-driven mutual aid efforts are now working to build platforms and group infrastructure to continue the incredible work happening all around us.
Working alongside community organizers, the Grassroots Fund is launching and preparing 2 programs this Summer to continue to support community-driven responses to COVID19 and local resilience:
- Mutual Aid Communities of Practice: a 5-part virtual series where mutual aid organizers convene to share questions, challenges and innovations with each other. The Series covers topics like lowering barriers to participation, shifting power in decision-making, accessing resources across the community, and centering Just Transition principles as we start (re)imagining a post-COVID19 community. Community of Practice calls are limited to 30 people to allow for active sharing and co-creating. Click here to learn more & register.
- Mutual Aid Infrastructure grants: coming out of the first rounds of Community of Practice conversations, Grassroots Fund staff will design a Summer funding opportunity to help mutual aid efforts formalize their work. Funding priorities will be determined in collaboration with local organizers. We expect more information to be available by the middle of June. Make sure to sign up for the newsletter to get updates over the Summer.
Flexibility for current grantees
We're providing technical support and flexibility in reevaluating existing grant timelines, work plans and necessary changes in focus. Please ask if you need an extension and know we are very open, transparent and flexible in assessing best use of funds right now.
Our office has transitioned to being fully remote and staff are working regular hours, ready to provide support to existing grantees or applicants. Calls are being transfered and we're checking emails regularly, albeit with some delays as we manage much higher application volume.
Creativity in managing our participatory grantmaking process
We've received over 100 applications in our Spring Grow grant program and over 200 people have signed up as readers! We'll be able to stay on our timeline and center values around equity in grantmaking using virtual review processes and (likely) a virtual grantmaking committee retreat in May.
We know our core mission of co-creating sustainable, health, just, environmentally sustainable communities is perhaps more relevant than ever in this moment. Now is the time to respond. These grassroots groups are meeting urgent needs in the short term, and these same groups are reimagining systems and creating more resilient and just communities in the longer term. We are stretching our budget to meet needs and support emerging networks, and doing what we can to bring philanthropic partners on board as well.
Here is how you can help:
- Become a Grassroots Fund sustaining donor to keep this work going
- If you are already co-leading mutual aid work, please apply for funding. And don't hesitate to reach out, we can assist with the applicaiton submission or advise projcet development.
- Share the COVID19 Program Response availibility widely
Now we're all settling into our hyper-local worlds for a while, let's (re-)commit to building resilience in community, especially for those most vulnerable to the many impacts of this pandemic. Thank you for doing your part!