Participatory Grant Making: Session Three of Deciding Together Local Fund York

Who, What, How and How much?

The Deciding Together Local Fund York puts people in York in the control of £250,000 to spend on distributing grants in the city.

The fund is about fundamentally shifting things for people experiences multiple disadvantages.

The third session (of six) had 20 participants following lots of prior work, including which model of grant making we would use (A Bespoke Collaborative Decision Making Model) and developing a shared understanding around the parameters of the fund. For example, this could not fund illegal activity, or activity benefitting people outside York.

At the meeting on Wednesday 30th June 2021, the Deciding Together Local Fund York group came together to decide;

  • What and who would be funded
  • How much could be applied for
  • How would people apply


Grants to enable fundamental change

We do not believe that we hold the full understanding of ‘how do we fundamentally change things for people experiencing multiple disadvantage’.  Nor do we believe that any single person or organisation does (a massive reason for doing this whole process of grant making together).  This is a developing and emerging process where we all learn together.

However, we must start somewhere.

In order to reach a shared understanding of what is/could be meant, we’ve pulled together a few images:


The decisions we needed to make in the session this time…


Initially when the Deciding Together group signed up to participate in the participatory grant making process, we planned for a 6 month/6 session programme of engagement.  But this commitment was bringing up issues in terms of getting the work done while giving applicants enough time to access the fund.

The image below outlines two timeline (2021) options for group consideration:

Discussions waved from “get the funding out to people as quickly as possible” to “grant applicants need a good amount of time to get ideas and applications together”.

We debated how can we possibly confirm a timeline before a process.  But then how could we start on a process if we don’t have a timeline (Chicken/Egg).

Some practical considerations, knowing how long quality, transparent and diligent process of grant assessment takes, alongside…let’s cut all the extended process of applications.

There is a real balance to strike between balancing the commitment of time and energy of the Deciding Together Group with the needs of the applicants (and visa versa).

And doing this WHILE learning but also learning/considering before doing.  This simply is not straight forward.

After discussion the group voted and landed on the second option with an extended period of engagement – ultimately prioritising applicants experience and opportunity.


Key Dates we’re aiming for:

  • 14th July LAUNCH Fund
  • 27th September application close.
  • Mid/late Oct – Decisions made
  • Late Oct – grants awarded.



Who and What can be funded and How much can they apply for, as well as How to apply is going to take a little more rumination and refinement.

We are having a very practical session to develop the fund guidance, advert and application process on in 7 days (9am Wednesday 7th July 2021 in time to launch the fund publicly 7 days later on the 14th July).  Below outlines the discussions that are getting us closer to clarity.

The discussions were broad, and it has been extremely difficult to reach decisions, so much is valid and important.  But decisions are necessary in order to enable people to access the fund.

Some of the tools and methods that were implemented to facilitate the process of decision making included:

  • Sharing parameters ahead of the session.
  • Encouraging prior discussion in trusted small groups to work through some of the thinking. In support, sharing proforma documents so that people have the information organised similarly so that open discussions are more accessible.
  • Within the session we mixed up (Zoom) breakout groups to enable discussion and cross pollination of ideas, opinions, and thoughts.
  • Plenary presentations from break out rooms had representative, sharing a summary of discussions for all to hear.
  • Delegating decision making, through self selection according to where people want to focus their energy/ feel their knowledge was stronger.
  • Bringing decisions into big group with “remembers” and “tweaks”, opportunity to refine together.

To be clear – no decisions have been made by the facilitation team.

At the end of each session we “check out”.  This session asking, “What do you appreciate?” We shared:

Space; Everyone’s positive approach to the process & tasks;  Good questioning;  Like-minded people;  Hope;  Making progress in a positive way;  Coming together for the better of York;  I am grateful to have met with so many thoughtful people;  An understanding of how damb hard this all is;  To hear multiple perspectives;  Everyone’s ongoing commitment;  Have welcomed the time for really deep consideration of options;  Having the freedom not to get it all right first go round;  Different ideas.



As mentioned, we meet again in a week to develop the functions that enable money to pass transparently and fairly from fund to grantee.  This session will enable us to open the grant for people in York to apply from the 14th July.

If you’re interested in hearing about the fund when its open…keep an eye on:

We want as many people in York as possible to access this fund, please do suggest where we should be promoting it…contact Ali on [email protected] or 07834596576.

While this process is important, it is shifting mindsets and moving hearts…  It is not perfect.

There are people who have not continued to engage in the process and those people are important.  There will be people who do not feel as heard as others, and we will work together to do all that is possible to notice and address that.  With wholehearted honesty comes discomfort, but without some discomfort comes no progress.

We are attempting to do is do this work in the open.  We’ll share the whole journey and do our bit to change the narrative or assumption that anyone has this (or anything) sussed and worked out completely. Can we change the need to present perfect, therefore expect perfect…releasing a little of the pressure cooker of life.



Twitter @SpaulAli

email [email protected]

Phone 07834 596576