By Miriam Anne Frank, Foundations Relations Manager, Amazon Watch
In 2018, during an informal meeting between Leila Salazar-López, Amazon Watch’s (AW) Executive Director; Lourdes Inga, Executive Director of International Funders for Indigenous Peoples (IFIP) and myself, we discussed the need for more open sharing between grantors and grantees. We believed this was crucial to shifting these sometimes unbalanced relationships to the more engaged partnerships we all envisioned – for both communities. The idea for the Skill-sharing on Grantmaking workshop was born.
Together with a core team consisting of IFIP and Cultural Survival (CS) we invited presenters including the Ford Foundation, (who acted as our host), Institute for International Education (IIE), the Christensen Fund, and Land is Life to join our efforts. We worked collectively to organize the 2-hour pilot event held during the 2018 United Nations Permanent on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), chosen as the venue as presently the largest annual gathering of indigenous peoples.
Our agenda was designed to provide the participants – indigenous representatives attending the UNPFII – an insight into current challenges, issues and realities around the grant-making process, emphasizing the creation of empowering partnerships. Presentations by foundations and NGOs included grantseeking, building community capacity for grant implementation, and an overview of the various grant types (urgent grants vs. planned grants, small-scale, core-funding, etc.). In order to provide concrete tools we included a capacity-building segment focused on providing information on developing projects to fund, types of grant applications and grant reporting. In our evaluation, our presenters expressed that they had not only learned from the participants’ questions but also from each other’s examples of providing engaged support.
IFIP initiated the idea of hosting a session at their 2018 Global Indigenous Funders Conference. This time our workshop was designed for grantmakers with a focus on how they could improve their granting relationships with indigenous partners. IFIP, CS, AW partnered again, joined by LUSH, in the creation of a more interactive format. During the workshop we worked to address two critical questions for funders – what partnership models they could envision and exploring how they can successfully address both the specific needs of indigenous peoples and the requirements of grantmakers. Some key takeaways were the need for more direct site-visits to foster greater understanding and trust as well as the importance of general support grants. These core-funding grants, when coupled with multi-year support, are considered essential to fostering the growth and stability of an organization. It also shows the grantee that they are truly being invested in.
Noting the ongoing desire for a deeper, more interactive dive into this topic, IFIP, CS, and AW began preparations for a more intensive workshop to take place in the framework of the 2019 UNPFII. This year’s partners included LUSH and a new partner, the Pawanka Fund, an indigenous-led grantor. We also invited Daisee Francour, an independent consultant working on indigenous philanthropy to provide additional guidance. With a team of facilitators from each of the aforementioned organizations – in a “hats-off” setting – we focused on covering 3 core areas – the project planning process; research and funder engagement, as well as the development of Letters of Interest (LOIs) and proposals. The house was packed with a highly engaged audience of 75+ attendees in what was seen by all as a true, deeper engagement effort.
In this past year, it has been our hope that the attendees of these skill-shares took away important learnings about grantmaking and philanthropy. Through our close collaboration with IFIP and CS as co-organizers, but also in sharing this path with other grantors, AW was able to deepen our own knowledge about a variety of engaged partnership models. What these workshops highlighted is how important it is to listen to what is really needed. Each offered opportunities to view how current funding practices translated to indigenous communities’ experiences with philanthropy. I believe the core take-away is to recognize that capacity-building works both ways – that there is a real need to deepen our learning from the communities engaging with our grantmaking. In the end, the premise for creating these mutual learning spaces is our collective desire to foster more engaged and respectful partnerships.