From Ideas to Action
Within the FundAction Facilitation Group, there is often bemusement about my enthusiasm for administrative tasks. One (male) member of the group volunteered to support the admin work because he felt uncomfortable about such traditionally gendered work being taken on so regularly by a woman. Aside from the issues around how we distribute work (a discussion for another time!), this who-would-want-to-write-notes? issue demonstrates how boring the day-to-day the business of getting things done can be.
It’s relatively easy to come up with grand pronouncements, sweeping statements and memorable catchphrases. Lots of people have great ideas, and many of them feel very confident about sharing their views on how things should be different. Big ideas, prophetic warnings and visions of utopia are all necessary elements for creating alternatives. But so are the designing the strategies, and implementing the actual activities, that are needed to get there.
Revolutionaries don’t tend to be too keen on setting up email accounts, reviewing budgets, or making and sharing legible notes. And therefore often these tasks fall to those with less power (junior members of the group, for example). This isn’t a call to recognise those out there who are better with a spreadsheet than a megaphone (though a cup of tea would be lovely, thanks). It’s rather a celebration of the activity that follows ambition.
The scale of the ambition of FundAction is enormous. When you compare our aims (‘fund progressive pan-European activism in a participatory way’) against any similar initiatives, they’re remarkable. Other foundations that are considered ‘modest’ took substantially more resources to establish than have been invested in FundAction. This doesn’t mean it’s not possible; we just have to be conscious in how we create.
FundAction established a Facilitation Group in May 2017, mandated by the larger group of funders and activists that had been developing this initiative since 2016. The intention was for the eight members (7 activists plus 1 funder rep) to implement the ideas conceived by the larger group. As such, we act as an advisory committee, steering the direction of the project, but also the worker-bees, undertaking the basic tasks needed to make the vision happen.
The tasks at hand are multiple: from practical issues such as choosing the right open-source platform for decision-making, to philosophical issues such as deciding how those decisions should be mediated. Furthermore we’ve also been getting to know each other, in order to build a coherent collective. We’ve developed roles and tasks organically, as we’ve realised what’s needed. It’s like building a plane while it’s flying.
We’ve been busy, beavering away with questions like ‘How do we involve people who don’t speak English?’ (Answer: we don’t at this stage, unless we have substantial money for translation) and ‘How do we fund informal groups?’ (Answer: we can’t at this stage, unless we set up an entirely new legal entity). These are the actions behind the ideas; the practical processes behind the dramatic dreams.
We’ve been working without a systematic way of documenting and disseminating decisions, beyond the lengthy, verbatim notes that are taken during our weekly calls. This blog is an attempt to rectify this; to offer an insight into the behind-the-scenes admin behind the vision on FundAction’s website. We’ll leave out the admin, but highlight the action: the action that underpins the ideas.