On Wednesday 28th August, the Deciding Together Local Fund for York came together to explore the decision making process for the fund. As always the group was conscientious, considered and oozing with integrity.
We discussed how the fund had landed with people who might apply. It had overall landed really well but this fund is different and there was reassurance needed. Peoples said;
“Is this really available for me”, “what we don’t have to pretend everything is going to go really well”, “who’s really making the decisions”.
We also picked up that people are tired. As exciting as a flexible and participatory fund is, people don’t want to have to work out another way to engage…they simply want support to do good work. The participatory approach has been the only way to genuinely reach all those we have. The participatory approach is the only way we have genuinely and meaningfully been able to reassure and support people to engage. People work with people they trust, no one organisation or person can reach everyone, is has to be collective.
How did we go about co creating a decision making process?
In previous sessions we had already established that applications would be assessed in three different ways with small, medium and large pathways. We needed to decide how these paces would look, feel and operate.
First we looked at who we wanted in the decision making space. People with experience of multiple complex needs, kind and thoughtful, open and objective were all YES PLEASE! Preconceived agenda, closed minds, people who are too busy were in the NO THANK YOU pile. The activity below was light hearted but uncovered a lot of the groups hopes for good decision making. What was shared highlighted the broad suitability of decision makers in our space and close connections, and that good decision making did not need a “powerful” job title attached.
Decision Makers we want:
The group then split into three sub groups, with each group taking a grant size and making some recommendations for each decision making space. After a short while the groups rotated, took time to see what the group before them had considered before adding their considerations. Rotating once more to complete the cycle and contribute to each decision making space.
Coming back together as a whole group, the final tweak, remembers and additions were made together before deciding on the key components of how each decision making space/panel would work.
This included a lot of discussion and debate about the fact that we did not yet know what decisions we were making. Is the fund undersubscribed and therefore we’re making decisions against the guidance notes. Or is the fund over subscribed and we’re making decisions against the guidance notes and possibly between ideas. These questions are unanswerable until the fund closes. We agreed to work with this complexity and emergence and make time before the decision making began, when we had more information, to discuss this further.
Conflict of Interest?
People and organisations involved in the design and decision making about the fund, along with their friends, colleagues, partners, neighbours may apply to the fund. Lengthy discussions about “conflict of interest” took place.
Where it’s a conflict or when it’s wisdom. How do bring in knowledge and expertise while maintaining transparency and fairness for all applicants?
Two Ridings have a strong track record of managing invested interests, we can apply processes including not being able to vote on your own application. However, as we aim to build more and more connections, relationships and understanding across the system; the group are unwilling to state that those connections should mean conflict. We return again to the foundations; the integrity of the individuals and the strength of the group to check and challenge. We have the safety of processes that mean no single person can be accountable for decisions made nor does one voice speak above another. We have built strong and trusted relationships together and will continue to develop collective intelligence through discussion and work in a safe space to allow alternative views to emerge before decisions are made.
Who is on the panel?
To protect individual right to share or not share their personal experiences, we are carrying out a confidential and voluntary self nomination to be on a panel. This will be done through an online form and for those who wish, an informal conversation with Ali, the Coordinator of this process. We know that the people in this process are involved because they care, they are passionate and they want to represent everyone’s wishes. Therefore, they will act with integrity to put themselves forward for the right panel and support good representation as hoped for by the group.
We acknowledge that we do not have full representation of the York population by any stretch. We will learn and build out from where we are; supporting each other and modelling a welcoming and supportive process that will give people more information to step forward next time. Additionally, we need to do more work to proactively adapt, change, reach out and resource in order to engage more marginalised communities.