How we’re using what we’ve learnt so far to inform a further round of Propel funding

Today, Propel is launching a further round of funding under one of our missions: A New Deal for Young People.
In this blog, we explain how we’re using lessons and feedback from applicants in the first round of Propel funding to test new approaches, first on a smaller scale in this funding round before we potentially roll it out in a wider funding round in the future.

What’s happened so far?

The first round of Propel funding launched last autumn and focused on three ‘missions’ set out by the London Recovery Board, the body which guides the capital’s post-covid recovery – mentoring and activities for young people, providing support for people experiencing financial hardship and building strong communities.

The ambitions and principles underpinning Propel are rooted in equity, justice and working to tackle the root causes of the issues our communities face. Working with funders and equity partners – LGBT Consortium, Hear Network, Inclusion London, The Ubele Initiative and Women’s Resource Centre – the collaboration prioritised and almost exclusively funded organisations led-by-and-for groups experiencing structural inequality.

In April, we announced the first grants funded through Propel – you can explore this further in our interactive grants map here.

How decisions were made in the first round

We know that writing applications takes a lot of time and effort. In the first round of Propel, the response to the funding opportunity was high, meaning funders had to turn down many strong applicants and we understand how disappointing it is not to be funded. We want to offer as much guidance and support as possible to applicants and be transparent about the decision-making process.  

In the first round of funding, 100% of the Explore Grants and 82% of the Deliver and Develop Grants were awarded to organisations led by and for the communities they support. Propel was always about prioritising applications from equity-led organisations (i.e. being assessed by funders first), in particular from: communities experiencing racial inequity, Deaf and Disabled people, LGBT+ people, and women and girls (to read more about our definition of led-by-and-for, please refer to page 4 of our funding guidance).  

In the first round, grants to non-equity led organisations were mainly to infrastructure or network organisations, leading partnerships that involved equity-led organisations, or where the organisation was able to reach a specific community that wasn’t otherwise reached through the portfolio of grants.  

Successful applicants (particularly those who applied for Explore Grants) proposed projects which focused on understanding the root causes of the issues they face and how it impacts the communities they work with. Many successful applicants do this through collaboration with partners, communities and across sectors. 

How we are using feedback from applicants to trial new approaches

We’re pleased about the proportion of funding that has gone to equity-led organisations, but recognise that there is more to do. Across the collaboration, we’re working on the balance between the desire to make more grants available and the opportunity to learn from the ones we’ve just made. Immediately we can see opportunities to improve, based on feedback from applicants, which includes shifting to a two-stage application process. This is where the further round of funding under the New Deal for Young People mission comes in.

It’s an opportunity to immediately test some of the suggestions made by applicants as well as by funders and equity partners: a two-stage application process to reduce the time that people spend working up their ideas before knowing if they are on the right track, as well as exploring how we can further strengthen our equitable approach to the assessment of applications.

On the Propel application portal, there’ll be a short expression of interest form, which we hope won’t take applicants longer than an hour or so to complete. Successful applicants will then be invited to complete a longer second-stage application. Applicants are welcome to copy and paste content from previous Propel applications and won’t be penalised for repeating answers.

We’re also building on the experience of involving young people in assessing applications in the first round, who said their involvement enabled them to “develop new skills and participate and be a voice for young people”. In this round, young people will be involved from the start of the application process, coming to information sessions for applicants to explain how they will be involved in the assessment process and supporting applicants to ensure their proposals are informed by young people.

What you need to know about this round of funding

This additional round of Deliver and Develop Grants opens on 13th June. Please note, however, that this is only open to applicants applying under the New Deal for Young People mission.  

Projects must be centred on increasing the quantity and quality of mentoring for young people (aged between 10-24) from communities experiencing structural inequity. Grants will be between £50k – £750K a year, with a maximum grant value of £1.5m, and funding is available for projects of two years in length.

We’d encourage you to begin any application by reading the guidance, and then bring any questions to one of our two information sessions, on 16th June and 22nd June.