Expand grants: You said, we did.

We reflect on how Expand grants were developed, and what we learned from co-designing the process with Propel grantees.

Explore grants aimed to provide organisations with the capacity to explore the systemic issues they want to tackle, understand what change might be possible and who needs to be involved in making the change happen. In Spring 2023, 28 equity led organisations were awarded Explore grants.

Since then, we’ve spoken to, and learned from funded organisations and funders respectively to understand what systemic change looks like, and consider how collaboratively, we can change funding practice. With their help, we’ve launched Expand, a continuation fund for Explore grantees, to keep exploring (if needed) and begin testing their ideas. 

So how did we get there? It’s important to us that Propel is more than just a collaboration between funders, but a collaboration with funded organisations, too. We met twice with Explore grantees to unpack the following questions and help us create a blueprint for continuation funding:

What could the progression options be for Propel grantees?

What could a long-term funding relationship look like?

You said:

  • A lighter touch approach to progression was necessary. This means less time spent on application forms, and a more flexible approach to planning next steps.
  • What if funders and funded organisations collaborated when planning? Could funders offer more support in writing applications and developing project ideas?
  • All of this would involve more face time with funders. Grantees hoped for grant managers to be real advocates of their work, and cited project visits and regular meetings as a sure fire way to do so.
  • Better relationships would result in increased transparency. Understanding funders’ processes in good time enables organisations to plan better.

We did:

  • Scrapped the application form! To apply for Expand, they’ll only need to submit a workplan, and simple budget update.
  • Embedded conversations with funders into the planning stage. Grant manager will contact funded organisations at the halfway point of their Explore grant, to check in, and begin planning next steps.
  • Halfway check ins are an opportunity to meet face to face, rather than submitting written reports.
  • Bi monthly newsletters, blog posts and Slack are all opportunities for Propel to share how funders are making decisions, developing processes and codesigning with grantees.

These may be relatively simple changes, but we’re hoping they go some way to deepening relationships with one another, and changing our approach to funding, one step at a time.