I Participate, You Participate, They Decide

By Avila Kilmurray

Courtesy of www.alliancemagazine.org

‘This is how the verb “to participate” is conjugated – I participate, you participate, they decide.’ This comment relates to international development aid but could be echoed by grant recipients of many philanthropic programmes. Who decides on the allocation of resources and how?

Motivated by an acute sensitivity to peacebuilding, the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland (CFNI) grappled with this question when it became a manag- ing agent for the Special EU Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation (PEACE 1) funds. The answer was participative grantmaking formulated through a series of seminars with community-based groups and those most involved and adversely affected by the conflict. As a result, Grant Advisory Panels were established to recommend grant priorities and awards. Each was chaired by a CFNI trustee and composed of individuals nominated by local groups, with a com- munity identity (Catholic/Nationalist or Protestant/ Unionist) and gender balance. Panels represented po- litical ex-prisoners, victims/survivors of violence, and minority ethnic communities, as well as geographically disadvantaged areas. The CFNI board essentially devolved decision-making, while continuing to be legally responsible and to act as a forum of appeal in the rare cases where this was required.

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