CLEANING UP (OUR) SHIT : FundAction’s first in-person Facilitation Group meeting
The facilitation group of the FundAction had an in person meeting on 23 October in Belgrade, Serbia. The meeting was hosted by one of the facilitation groups members, Iva Cucik, of the Ministry of space, and was held at the Magacin Collective cultural space– Besides participatory grant making, FundAction also wants to enable the development of a cooperating activist network in Europe around systemic change, and we took several steps forward, particularly in the area of community and process building. We also decided on the next years’ calendar year, including on the Annual Assembly 2019 to be held 24–26 May in La Bergerie of Villarceaux, France.
Magacin has seen considerable struggle to be able to autonomously develop its more than 500m2 of collective space. The space is owned by the city and its affiliate the Belgrade city youth centre, and has seen pressure from its owners to commercially exploit itself. After different events challenging the capacity of different organizations wanting to collectively manage the space, in 2014 a model was proposed — inspired by the Pogon Zagreb’ Centre for independent Culture — to be running the space according to a local calendar. Magacin is made up of spaces catering to different needs. So, for instance, it has storage space for different kinds of equipment which are necessary to hold demonstrations and manifestations; it has a dance floor open to all, a makers lab and workshop facilities; it hosts an ‘illegal cinema’, and has recently also opened a co-working space. Today in October Magacin hosted some 260 activities, is maintained by its users, and has a monthly assembly, which addresses governance issues. The space also has an association, which on a wider level addresses issues of cultural policy in the city.
For the organizations trying to keep on running Magacin collectively and as a common good despite the pressures on it, getting any funding is difficult as they have no deeds for the premises. Therefore to become a FundAction’s grantee recipient was very valuable and helped them to literally ‘clean out their shit’, as the grant was used for several repair and renovation objectives including the clearing out of cellar rooms which were flooded by human waste following the collapse of some pipes. Today these form an important part of Magacin space. Also the space now catering to co-working was able to be gotten in the right condition due to FundAction funding.
FA community and process building
During the meeting the upcoming years FundAction process calendar was looked at, addressing in particular the Rethink round (offering funds for collaboration, exchange and capacity building of the participating groups), and the Renew round (offering funds for systemic change concrete proposals). The next Rethink grant is opened now in October, another Rethink round will take place in January 2019, followed by a Renew round before the Annual Assembly at the very last weekend of May 2019. Later in the year then there will be again a Rethink round.
A first evaluation has already been made of the young process, and the challenges to the process brought up in the evaluation draft report were addressed in Belgrade. We discussed how meaningful communications between members could be enhanced, and different tools were discussed which could be facilitating more cooperation among the members, as well as the sharing of their skills and resources. Discussed was also the need to address the issue of translation in the platform, as well as on how to create a mutual support system for the elaboration of project proposals.
Also the Decidim platform on which FundAction runs its process was discussed, in particular how certain features would like to be proposed to the platform and co-worked on. The Decidim open source tool for deliberation and decision making developed in Barcelona, and which is being used in more than 50 cities globally, will have its assembly in November to which also one of FA facilitation group members will participate. The Decidim process wants to come to working groups of different civil organizations, and wants to also set up a foundation, in order to gain independence from Barcelona city government.
Another important issue discussed during the meetings was that of the development of the platform itself in terms of its members, its community. In line with the observations of FundAction members, the evaluation addressed how the process importantly should keep an eye on the socio-economic characteristics of its participants, on issues of inclusiveness, diversity and representation. The process has so far seen a couple of invite rounds, in which members get to invite yet other members, and each round was used to check on the composition of the platform. This conscious growing process needs further development, including importantly of course consciousness of the platform’s limited funding base.
The Annual Assembly then at the end of May 2019 will be an important in-person meeting in this otherwise on-line process. The hope is that different FundAction actors in different roles will be able to attend the meetings — from previous grantees, to working group members and funder representatives. The Assembly, which will be preceded by a day of Peer Review panel members interviewing the Renew grant final round candidates, should in different ways come to meet the needs of the platform in terms of community and co-action building, as well as of platform process building. In fact, a call for proposals for the facilitation of the Assembly is now encouraged as part of the current Rethink grant round.
Our meeting ended in a circle with local Belgrade activists and political actors, pointing to despite the differences once again also to the similarities with regards to the experiences of a dominant extractive economy, privatizations, and right-wing political pressures. Already the next day this track was continued with the participation of one of the facilitation group members giving a talk on Municipalism in Belgrade — a theme interesting quite a number of actors in the platform. Hope lies also here in our collective commonifying action!
This article was written by Ruby van der Wekken, member of the Facilitation Group of FundAction.