Introducing Giving Circle Cohorts at Grassroots Fund
In 2020, in concert with other partners, the Grassroots Fund set out to create two new funds within the organization focused on regional food system equity and climate change resilience in Boston, Mass. Initially, the Grassroots Fund planned on using our participatory process - an open call for application readers and convening a Grantmaking Committee to make final decisions on resource allocations based on community-submitted grant applications. However, after reflecting on the intent of the funds, which was to center the voices of communities at the intersection of multiple social vulnerabilities in decision-making about food system and climate change organizing, we decided to reevaluate our approach to ensure that we were aligning with the Grassroots Fund Guiding Practices - Rooted Innovation, Shifting Power in Decision-Making, Equity in Participation, and Centering a Just Transition.
We conducted an extensive series of interviews with organizers and grassroots leaders. From these conversations, we found that our initial effort could continue to perpetuate existing systemic inequalities in whose voices are centered in design and the decision-making process of these funds. We also drew inspiration from HEAL Food Alliance’s Open Letter to Food System Funders and Soul Fire Farm’s Equity Guidelines for Funders, who outline steps that funders can take toward more just ways of giving.
The practices that drew our attention include:
- Cultivate authentic partnership with Black, Indigneous, and People of Color communities
- Examine our own funding trends
- Move toward participatory grantmaking models with BIPOC-led orgs
- Shift towards regenerative practices
- Fund general operating expenses and not asking for “projects” and “innovation”
- Support culturally responsive technical assistance
This fundamental shift highlights how we are evolving participatory grantmaking toward community-led and grassroots-led grantmaking, which we have been shown as necessary for more equity-driven work. We have set the initial design of the fund, and are now looking to co-create this model with community organizers who are already centering equity in their work. Read more about these two funds below.
The Food System Resilience Fund officially launched in December 2021 when a cohort of 13 grassroots organizations across New England came together after accepting invitations to join this year-long cohort.
The current cohort of 13 food system organizations, and 23 individuals, all work at the intersection of equity, food justice, and community development. This cohort will remain together from December 2021 to December 2022 before a new cohort is invited. The cohort will participate in a giving circle, where cohort members will collectively decide how to distribute up to $300,000. All cohort members will receive up to $15,000 in unrestricted grant funding as part of their work and efforts within the cohort.
Community-based organizations have played an outsized role in responding to Covid-19 in Greater Boston. For several years, key players in the climate movement in Greater Boston have suggested that our region is not becoming as resilient as it could be because we are missing a critical mass of leadership from grassroots organizers who are the people with the local expertise and networks in the communities that are at greatest risk from climate impacts.
The cohort launched in March 2022 and brings together seven grassroots organizations (about 13 individuals) from the Greater Boston area who are newly interested in climate resilience and approach their work grounded in the Grassroots Fund Guiding Practices - Rooted Innovation, Shifting in Decision-Making, Equity in Participation, and Centering a Just Transition. In addition to granting money through a giving circle model, cohort members will build relationships with each other to share best practices, make connections, and lean on for support and guidance. They will also participate in a series of group conversations about climate change and the links between the work they’re doing and the specific ways climate change affects that work and their communities.
This cohort will remain together from March 2022 to March 2023 before a new cohort is invited. The cohort members will collectively decide how to distribute up to $180,000. All cohort members will receive up to $5,000 in unrestricted grant funding as part of their work and efforts within the cohort.
While these cohorts are no longer an open-call for grant applications, we appreciate your interest in these funds and hope you’ll look out for additional ways to be involved in the future. We also will continue to fund food system and climate change work in our other grant programs. You can find more information here.
To receive other updates from the Grassroots Fund, sign up here to receive the Grassroots Fund’s monthly newsletter.
For general questions about the fund, contact Sarah Huang