This article by Jenny Barry, the head of development at Fondo Semillas, a national women’s fund based in Mexico City, details her organization’s journey in integrating the process of participatory grantmaking.
Before assessing and determining the best models for participatory grantmaking, the organization first created working groups made up of staff and board members, current and former grantees, and other key allies of the Mexican feminist movement in order to reaffirm and redefine the organization’s values of “shared power, inclusion, horizontality, and diversity.” They also came to the conclusion that it was imperative for grassroot feminist activists to play a larger role in the grant decision-making process to make it more equitable.
In attempting the process of participatory budgeting, Fondo Semillas tried out two models.
The first was a forum that brought together 40 diverse representatives of the Mexican feminist movement who participated in small-group discussions regarding the status of feminist organizing in Mexico.
The second involved narrowing down the 400 grant proposals received to 178 finalists. The organizations of those 178 finalist proposals then voted among themselves through a peer review process where they received anonymized copies of proposals of a similar topic to theirs and cast three votes for the best proposals. The proposals with the most votes were awarded a grant.
Barry emphasizes that while the process of participatory grantmaking is not easy, it is important to view it as an evolving and iterative model in terms of revising and improving the process, rather than scrapping it entirely.