5 December 2019

Understanding and implementing intersectional grantmaking with the Disability Thematic Network and Gender Equality Network

The EFC’s Disability Thematic Network (DTN) and Gender Equality Network hosted a joint peer-learning meeting exploring intersectional grantmaking on 20 November in Philanthropy House, Brussels.

The EFC’s thematic networks aim to bring together EFC members to share, learn and inspire one and other to identify potential issues of common interest and joint action. The two networks sought to come together to explore the intersectionality approach because this approach better supports an understanding of how multiple identities (such as race, gender, class, sexuality, ability, and more) intersect and can create unique experiences of marginalisation which can be better addressed together rather than in isolation.

The joint meeting opened with an experimental workshop designed and facilitated by Laura Barker to enable grantmakers to apply intersectionality to their grantmaking, using an empathy and resilience pathway to face their personal and organisational biases. The workshop began by asking participants to share experiences of isolation and alienation, to build from an understanding of what exclusion and discrimination can feel like. The participants were partnered together and given a magic object from the ”Mystery Bag” from which they then utilised to give their partner’s story of isolation a happy ending. The group then did a quick audit of the multiple intersections in their own organisations, sharing identities and experiences that were missing from their organisations or amongst their grantees. Participants drew four ”monsters” and matched the ”monsters” up with the four types of exclusion most prevalent in their work. These ”monsters” were then shared with the group and participants explained the issues they matched with and represented.

The participants learnt to interact and connect with each other in a body centred way. Sharing vulnerable experiences and imaginative exercises with one other increased bonding and resilience as a group. The participants also re-learnt how to create and share these ”monsters” a skill many have as children and shed over time, and learnt more about the ”monsters” in our work places. The ”monster” of workplace whiteness, the ”monster” of white middle class interns, and the ”monsters” of trans-exclusion and cis monopoly in organisations and amongst grantees came up a lot. Homeless people being represented in grantees but never (at least openly) in grantmaking organisations was a standout ”monster”. An intersectional approach helps people to appreciate what is missing and the damage that replicating the same power dynamics does inside and outside of organisations.

The workshop was followed by a panel facilitated by Debbie Pippard, Barrow Cadbury Trust, which aimed to share grantmakers’ experience in breaking down silos and working across issues and identities. The panel explored strategies through which grantmakers can address problems at the intersection of population, place, issue, etc. Intersectional grantmaking starts with recognising the importance and complexity of differences and how they overlap and James Lee, City Bridge Trust provided an insightful example of how understanding the interconnectedness of issues, such as children’s empowerment and sustainable cities, which had previously been understood in isolation from each other, has enhanced the Trust’s impact. Herta Toth, Open Society Foundations also highlighted that although the term intersectionality may be daunting to some stakeholders, effective communication and explanation of what it means and the benefits of the approach will aid its implementation. Herta provided such an explanation as ”getting to the root causes of discrimination and inequality, making links between these, generating inclusive strategies, and ensuring that all under-served groups have voice in social change”.

The event laid the groundwork for forming a supportive community in which funders can learn about best practices, exchange their experiences in intersectional grant-making and work together to build a more inclusive world.

For more information on the work of the Disability Thematic Network (DTN), Gender Equality Network or the joint meeting contact Sevda Kilicalp.