A key value of LEAP is “genuine participation.” This is easier said than done. Currently, we are in the middle of running a series of online consultations with about 10-15 activists and social entrepreneurs each. We hope to gather feedback on our initial ideas, expand our network, and identify individuals who would want to join us to build this thing together. And yet, because so far no member of the Facilitation Team represents a potential grantee of the new fund, genuine participation is not yet happening.
When planning the first consultation call, the idea of compensating participants was briefly mentioned and then discarded, because we hardly had the money to pay our amazing facilitator. As well-connected as we are in the funding world, convincing a funder to support such an early stage idea is hard. If you tell them that you would be spending most of the budget on paying people for their participation, but without a guarantee that they would actually stay involved, it’s close to impossible. (If you are a funder and now thinking ‘Wait! Not true.’ please get in touch: email@example.com.)
So we resorted to the strategy of inviting people without promising compensation. We named the issue in our invitation but were hoping that people would find the project interesting enough, that our relationship to them was strong enough, and that they would get involved based on the prospect of possible longer term benefits. How quickly groupt-hink can get the better of you!!
Luckily, Leonie joined our team just at the point where we had sent out the first invitation. Leonie had just set up Resource Justice and made compensation for activists it a non-negotiable element of the process. She thoroughly washed our heads over the this issue. We realised our mistake and made it a topic during the first consultation call, asking participants for their opinion. Some were happy to give free advice once, others preferred being compensated. We also offered later compensation once we’ve raised the initial funding to those who wanted it.
This incident showed how slippery the slope is when you’re having fun in your little bubble and how crucial it is that we expand our team to include more people in the design process who actually represent those who will be using LEAP.
There is more to be said about genuine participation, and we will follow up with more reflections soon.