Towards equity - A report into how we can improve funding opportunities for disabled-led organisations
James Lee has carried out a piece of research for the fund exploring how funders can be more accessible for disabled-led organisations. He has summarised his thoughts in this blog.
You know the line about great power and great responsibility? There is no denying that funders like The National Lottery Community Fund wield great power: whether that power is used responsibly can be open to interpretation.
We may agree on many principles of responsible funding, but we will also have differences of opinion that are driven by our backgrounds; our beliefs; our lived experience. Our definitions of responsibility are not all equal because we are not all equal.
For too long, a laudable commitment to equality within philanthropic funding and in particular the processes around obtaining philanthropic funding, has inadvertently led to a landscape of inequality. This is because an approach based on equality in the process of applying for funding fails to acknowledge that organisations applying for funding do so from different starting points and face different challenges.
Some organisations are better equipped than others to access funding and this excellent blog by Fozia Irfan explains why universal funding programmes do not reach people equally. People such as Fozia are at the forefront of a changing mindset amongst philanthropic organisations in the UK: moving beyond equality and towards equity.
The distinction between equity and equality is something that has been at the heart of the disability rights movement for many years. If you understand the Social Model of disability and recognise that people are disabled by their environment rather than impairment: it is not a huge leap of understanding to see that it is funders rather than applicants for funding who need to adapt.
That is why I applaud The National Lottery Community Fund for asking questions about how it can better support Disabled People’s Organisations. In doing so, it will become a more effective funder that acknowledges the differences of its applicants and seeks to offer the right support for the right situation: it is moving from equality to equity.
Amongst the many organisations that compete for funding, it is perhaps little surprise that Disabled People’s Organisations are often starting from a place of significant disadvantage. Thanks to a history of institutionalisation and lack of access to education, employment and other opportunities: disabled people are often at the very bottom of most measures of socio-economic equality, something which is especially true for disabled people who face intersectional disadvantages.
Better support for Disabled People’s Organisations will not arrive overnight and it is not a case of flicking a switch. Providing funding through the lens of equity is an iterative journey of constant learning. The report that I have written is intended to prod and poke, it does not prescribe the path to take. The content is based on conversations I was fortunate to have with a range of DPOs from all over the UK; large disability charities; government officials; other funders and colleagues within NLCF. I have also added a fair sprinkling of my own lived experience as a disabled person that has worked in the field of grant funding for several years now.
The National Lottery Community Fund is, arguably, the most powerful funder in the UK and I hope this work will be a positive step towards fulfilling its responsibility to Disabled People’s Organisations across the UK.