resilience! Festival of Solidarity

This just in from our friends at the Edge Fund:

In November of 2014 members of Migrant Artists Mutual Aid, Lesbian Immigration Support Group and Action for Trans* Health met at Edge Fund’s Radical Sharing Forum and hatched a plan to make their groups more sustainable through a unique community fundraising event. They’ve worked really hard to create an amazing day. Please support them and help make it a huge success. Please buy a ticket (for you or someone else) and spread the word far and wide!

resilience! Festival of Solidarity, 25th July,

MERCi, Bridge 5 Mill, 22a Beswick Street, Manchester

Join us at resilience! Festival of Solidarity for a family-friendly day of culture, art and music.

We have created an intimate journey through the halls of Bridge 5 Mill, starting with a photo exhibition (there will also be an auction of the photos) interwoven with powerful short films, explosive live music and heart-moving spoken word from some of Manchester’s most talented Artivists.
Bridge 5 Mill will be shaken up by an eclectic mix of Artivists from all of the world. Some of the artists you can look forward to are: Emma Obita – an actress, filmmaker and ‘expressionist’ from Uganda by way of Botswana and Manchester. Elmi Ali is an accomplished writer, poet and revolutionary. The effervescent Marcela Herivia – of Chilean origin – is a British actor and director; Marcela will be reading her works on the day.

You will also be treated to a fantastic line-up of musical acts on the day. Felix Ngindu will be indulging us in the rhythmic sounds from the DR Congo – expect percussion, bongos, rhumba, and of course dancing! Claire Mooney is a singer/songwriter from Manchester. Well known for her presence on the North West LGBT scene, her music is both playful and political. Paper Wings are a 5 piece folk-punk street band from Liverpool, consisting of a Mandolin, Violin, Double Bass, Guitar, Cajon and vocals by everyone!

As if that wasn’t enough, there will be a film screening showcasing 12 films as part of the First Person project. The films are the creation of a collaboration between (Community Arts North West) CAN and Filmonik two brilliant arts orgainsations based in Manchester.

Bridge 5 Mill is Manchester’s first, (and only!) Centre for Sustainable Living. The Mill was refurbished with reclaimed and recycled materials, eco paints, no pvc, water saving and low energy fittings.

More info, and to book tickets

Hope to see you there!


A voice from the edge (fund)

The Edge Fund has just completed its first round of funding – supporting 28 grassroots groups. Here’s a quick interview with Joe, one of the Edge Fund community:

What’s the vision of The Edge Fund? Our long term goal is to achieve systemic social change. This is not an easy task and will have to be a process which is led by the grassroots as those in power seek to keep things on the whole ‘business as usual’.

We hope we are filling a big gap by offering financial support to these types of grassroots groups who are also working towards this.

We’re particularly interested in supporting groups who are facing discrimination and injustice because of their class, ability, gender, race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, or other factors — those who are actively working to challenge these injustices and to create just and healthy communities.

What was the catalyst for starting the Edge Fund – why now? We are facing monumental injustice and threats from the current economic, ecological and democratic crises in this country and beyond. All power and resources are held by the privileged few who are putting the worst effects of economic failure onto ordinary people.
What made you get involved? My background is campaigning around climate change, squatting and against the trebling of student fees. I have struggled, as many have in the past, at the near impossibility of securing funding for grassroots work of a radical nature. Inaccessible funding application forms and unhealthy hierarchies make the whole process soul destroying. It was clear the Edge Fund was on a mission to be different.

What have been the biggest challenges so far? For me the hardest part was getting 25 members, all of very different backgrounds, to agree on a shared values statement. This was always going to be tricky, and took many hours of sometimes painful meetings but we did it through good facilitation skills and a shared understanding that we’re all working for the same thing in the long term.

And the most exciting things so far? During the first round of funding, once there was 30 applications left from the 334 we received in total, members were allocated a group/groups to get more information from. I was given Critical Education Project, Britain on Trial, UK Via Campesina and Fuel Poverty Action. I managed to meet up with three of them and had a conversation with one over the phone. It felt like a very empowering process where we were already building a mutually beneficial process both for the funder and grantee. The first thing I told them all was that my background was not in funding which immediately broke down the inherent power inequality.

How hopeful are you having seen the applications for your first round? I was extremely happy with the 28 groups who received some support from Edge Fund during the first round. I was really pleased with all 4 of my groups that I was allocated and my favourite project was Disabled People Against The Cuts who are a really strong campaign standing up for Disabled People’s rights all across the country. All I hope for is that we will be able to give out more cash next time.

Funding from the edge to the edge

We’ve mentioned the Edge Fund before. Time to mention them again as their second funding round has just opened and decisions will very soon be taken as to who gets what from their first round – in fact the decision will be taken on Saturday.

So who are the Edge Fund and what do they do? You could do worse than read the Fund’s guest post over at the New Left Project‘s blog. Here’s a couple of snippets that will hopefully answer any questions you have:

We hope we are removing as many barriers to funding as possible. Barriers which include: funding being restricted to people in ‘the right networks’; groups and communities not knowing that the funding exists; groups and communities with language and literacy issues; the need to complete complex, written application and reporting forms that often use jargon; and organisations and activists being regarded as ‘too radical’….


…The aim is to prioritise groups who are working for systemic change, and ideally organisations who are led by those who are most affected by an issue. This is because if we want real, long-lasting change it has to come from the bottom up and it has to be people taking back control over their lives. So we are supporting groups which are grassroots-led and which do not suffer from the growing ‘professionalisation’ of activism, where salaries from large charities and other organisations have diluted people’s politics and often distanced them from the grassroots.

It’s a brave attempt to fund radical work in radical way – funding from the edge to the edge. Rhizome has had a modest input, in the form of facilitation of meetings, into the development of the fund. We watch that development with interest!


The importance of great facilitation for inclusivity and progress

The Edge Fund is a new grant-making body run by its members; who include donors, people directly experiencing and challenging injustice and those working in solidarity with them. From the beginning it was important to us that the power usually held by donors was devolved to those who do not usually have that power, but also who are the experts since they live and breathe the very issues we seek to resolve.

As our starting point was a desire to break down hierarchies of wealth and power it was important to live the values of social justice throughout the entire process of setting up and running the project. This had to be a project guided by many people, as diverse as possible, which meant meetings have mostly consisted of people who have not met
before, covering all levels of wealth, backgrounds and passions. We started in April with a fairly blank sheet so it could be built more or less from scratch and we’ve met five times since then with meetings attended by around fifty different people in total.

What are the chances of a group of strangers, brought together to talk about money, giving each other space and communicating with each other without falling out? Better than you might think! Whilst I’ve been part of many meetings which have broken down into shouting matches and achieving very little, for some reason I never thought for a minute that this would happen with the Edge Fund, even considering the often contentious subject matter. We have been extremely lucky to have meetings attended by people who are committed, smart, respectful and compassionate. If any one of them has an ego striving to take the lead, it’s been left at home.

Shared values and mutual respect have been crucial to being able to develop the project in a relatively short space of time. Having a committed facilitating group to do all the work behind the scenes so options can be presented clearly to the rest of the group, has also been vital. But without fantastic facilitation from Rhizome’s Perry Walker I very much doubt we’d be where we are now. I don’t have facilitation skills and neither do I usually feel very comfortable in large groups, so the idea of having the responsibility of facilitating the meeting was terrifying. That’s where Perry came in. Perry was able to help break the ice, allow people to get to know each other, keep an eye on who wants to speak, move the meeting along and clarify decisions made. We appreciated his laid back approach and willingness to play it by ear.  I especially appreciated the time he gave before the meeting to be clear on the aims, but mostly for being able to share the pressure!

At the last meeting 25 July, we decided on the structure of Edge Fund; we will have a large donor base (hopefully) and a smaller membership body who will make decisions collectively on funding and will make a financial contribution to the fund, no matter how small. Several other major decisions were made fairly smoothly and at the end of the meeting comments included “thrilled at energy levels, very exciting, great progress, definite hope for the future, awed by clarity and respect in the room, sense of achievement, sense of momentum…” and I put much of this down to the excellent facilitation.

Of course, nothing in this world is perfect. There have been people at the meetings who have spoken much more frequently than others and some who have hardly spoken a word all day. I would like to work out how to give those who find meetings difficult an alternative way to feed in, perhaps it means more personal follow-up afterwards. But our biggest challenge yet is engaging those outside of the usual activist networks; reaching out to those who are directly experiencing injustice for whom terms like ‘systemic change’, ‘activist’ or ‘consensus decision-making’ are alienating and the costs of travel, communication and time needed to participate are extremely limiting. Our efforts to reach out so far have, on the whole, failed, but we’re committed to making it happen and once everyone who needs to be in the room is in the room, we will need Perry more than ever!

Sophie, Edge Fund Co-ordinator