March 5, 2008

Place-Based/Face-Based Grantmaking

David Derbyshire, program coordinator for the Hamilton Community Foundation's Growing Roots, Strengthening Neighbourhoods Program, says that grassroots grantmaking is not just a place-based strategy.....it's a face-based strategy. Bingo! Thanks, David, for this insight. You've hit the nail on the head with a simple way to talk about what distinguishes grassroots grantmaking from other place-based social change strategies.

What is the difference between place-based and face -based? Here's how I see the difference.

With a place-based strategy, the focus is on......place! Yes, residents are part of the place, and good place-based work puts residents center-stage. With a face-based strategy, however, the focus is on.......people! Not people as clients or recipients of services, but people in community - actively connecting and bringing their dreams, talents, skills, frustrations, passion, and energy to community life.

David talks about the different relationship you have with someone when you are actually face-to-face - when you sit together and talk. This is so much more intimate - so much deeper - than reading what someone writes or hearing what they want or are doing. Sending time together - there - face-to-face - is how David does his work as coordinator of the Growing Roots, Strengthening Neighbourhoods program.

Which brings me to staffing. Grassroots Grantmakers has seen the importance of proper staffing for grassroots grantmaking work - enough staff . the right staff, and enough breathing room to spend time in the community. We have talked about grassroots grantmaking as a relationship business -acknowledging the power of relationships between the funder and neighborhood residents, among neighborhood residents, and between neighborhood residents with policy makers and resource providers. The idea of name-based grantmaking puts a whole new ring on the building relationship question.

The type of relationship-work that works best with grassroots grantmaking break down the traditional professional barriers of grantee/grantor, working best as a first-name basis, "have a cup of coffee and talk" type of relationship. If you are staffing a grassroots grantmaking programs, you not only know about funded projects and groups - you also aspire to develop the type of relationships where grantees are comfortable calling to talk or chatting over coffee. In turn, you find that you are comfortable letting your non-work self show. The result? That funder/grantee thing is still there, but moved over the side as much as possible - opening opportunities for real talk about real things between two people.

This sounds easy but it's not. I've found that it's more comfortable for some people - and some funders - than others. It takes time and a real faith in the power and possibilities of people. People - whose faces (and stories) that you know - that is the power of bringing a face-based approach to place-based work.

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