In April 2021 we came together to start our work to design and decide a fund of £250,000 to enable systems change activity in York.  We were a new group so we needed to build some relationships, but, with limited time we quickly got onto the business of how do we allocate this money.  Exploring, understanding and comparing models of participatory grant making.

Read more abut that on this blog;

Since the first whole group session, the larger group has been working in smaller connection groups of three…exploring models of participatory grant making, sharing their perspectives in order to and vote on their preference together.

In the session (26.05.21) the connection groups shared their thinking with another group of three, consolidating and refining their thinking.  After some time together, we voted.

See below… nod to Hannah Paterson for the images (@PatersonHannah):

This appeared to work really well with some concise and definite feedback for the decisions made.

Nonetheless, there were some strong objections that we worked through together.  Feeling patronised by the vote, still missing voices and the risk of doing things the way they have always been done. These were discussed as a whole and agreements put in place to bring people along, at least to tolerate the group decision.  Agreements included being flexible enough to reflect and tweak throughout the process, bringing in people if it is ever felt that the wisdom required is not present is within the group and ensuring specific action to seek the perspective of people of colour.

The group is proceeding with a bespoke model of grant making they’ve called a “Collaborative Board/Panel/Grant Maker” (official name still being refined).  The approach will be a mixture of community members, lived experience and specific roles where there are gaps to make decisions. Additionally, they will factor a rolling collective, inviting successful grant applicants to be involved in future rounds of decision making – keeping some of the previous members to maintain some consistency to decision making, a sense of community, peer support and continued learning.

Sketches and model drawn up by group members.


What else is coming up?

There is a need that keeps showing up; paying people (who are not covered through their professional roles) to participate, both to acknowledge the cost of time and expertise but to also support employability prospects post programme. It’s recognised and accepted that we’ve been unable to do so legitimately this round but we have to make it a possibility in the future.

There’s feelings involved…

Discussions are ongoing about the group not covering all perspectives and asking “who is missing”.  This was discussed alongside, “I am here, value me and my time, our door is open and we will continue to work with others but we need to engage the talent and wisdom here to get something done”.

Discomfort was expressed about the act of decision making, “I have never made decisions at this level”, and  “It feels very difficult to be confident in my decision”.

Excitement and energy surrounding what this fund could enable was palpable.


Funding System Change Activity

If this work wasn’t complex enough, our next step is to explore who, how much and what we fund. We’re asking:

What will fundamentally change things for people experiencing multiple disadvantage in York? How do we make enabling grants to support that?

Feel free to borrow these images by Ali for your own work.

We come back together in June following some time for the group to explore what they’re excited to fund.


Find out more, get in touch with Ali on:


Twitter @SpaulAli

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