Passionate about shifting the power in funding?

Join the Losing Control in Funding network to learn and take action with peers

A space for peer action learning among people working in grantmaking who want to learn together and take action to shift power in funding.

TLDR: The Losing Control in Funding network is a collaborative space for grantmakers interested in learning and acting together to shift power in funding. It addresses the challenges of traditional funding models and explores alternative approaches that focus on trust, long-term investment, and empowering communities. The network offers action learning sessions, peer support, and resources to foster meaningful change in funding practices. Membership is open to those involved in funding social change, aiming to facilitate discussions on power dynamics, accountability, and innovative funding strategies. Contributions support the network’s sustainability, with options available for organizations of all sizes.

There is a growing understanding that standard, narrowly defined and prescriptive approaches to funding & commissioning are not suited to addressing many of the social challenges we face.

The world and people’s lives are messy and very often do not follow predictable patterns; set targets can create perverse incentives to achieve them rather than address underlying causes; compassion and humanity can easily be lost in the name of efficiency; there is a tendency to focus on weaknesses and deficits, rather than the strengths and assets of those to whom support is targeted.

Yet finding alternatives is not easy.  It requires a funder or commissioner to live with a great deal of uncertainty; to accept failure as part of the learning process; to trust people and communities more to take a lead; to invest over the long-term and build lasting relationships; or even just decide to get out of the way.  All of this goes against the grain of the pervasive legal, compliance and governance systems of many institutions. There are real challenges too, with finding the right balance between letting go and allocating scarce funding responsibly and fairly.

These challenges can place immense pressure to revert to business as usual.  Worse, perhaps they can also lead to paying lip service to concepts such as ‘movement-building’, ‘coproduction’ or ‘asset-based community development’ without making any fundamental changes .  In the end this can do a great deal more harm than good – promising much, but in the end with the same underlying approaches and power dynamics. This can leave people more disillusioned than when they started, and can crowd out or distract from genuine attempts to rebalance power and control.

The Losing Control in Funding network  is  a chance to hear from, meet, get support from and give support to others that are trying to find effective ways to shift power and rethink accountability in funding.  We believe that sharing stories, opportunities and challenges in safe spaces like this can help to build relationships, raise awareness and encourage critical reflection. For us this is a vital part of bringing about meaningful and effective change on the ground.

How can funders & commissioners do more to shift the power from funders to grantees and people with lived experiences? 
How can we rethink accountability? What are the risks and dangers in this approach? How can they be managed, embraced and enhanced to create impact?  

These are just some of the questions we are exploring together in the network.

What's involved?

The Social Change Agency, Collaborate and Practical Governance will together be:

  • Convening , planning and facilitating eight, one and a half hour action learning sessions* over 12 months (the first session will be on the 14th Sept 2021).
  • Producing a short summary note for each session (with input from funders who have shared their work at the session).
  • Producing and promoting two blog posts (co-authored with group participants), two podcasts and one externally-focused webinar. The webinar will involve connecting with other funders and with commissioners to share insights and explore issues relating to shifting power through how we resource social change.

*sessions will be held online for the foreseeable future

What we ask of you

  • Contributing time and ideas – participants to present once per year, provide an update at later sessions, and contribute to creating a short summary note that will be shared after each session.
  • Get colleagues involved – we suggest that each organisation has two nominated people that are part of the group (ideally in different roles e.g. some combination of senior leader, grants officer, trustee). This will help ensure the group has a range of different perspectives, will give funders the flexibility for one or both people to attend each session based on availability/interest, and will give participants key allies with a shared experience to help apply what they learn in their own organisations.
  • Taking ownership for what they want out of the group (whether this is useful conversations and/or creating practical outputs and demonstration projects).

Member benefits

  • Opportunities to explore themes of power, relationships and collaboration and connect with each other in person or online
  • Drawing in and sharing the skills, expertise, and insights from network members to shape and run the network 
  • Providing spaces and opportunities for network members to support, challenge and learn from each other in practical ways and in a spirit of openness and vulnerability
  • Access to eight action learning sessions for two members of your team

Action Learning Sessions are a powerful process where a diverse group of practitioners come together and through reflection, listening and questioning, members work through issues, share ideas and challenge each other in a supportive environment.

Find Inspiration

Practical examples of different approaches to funding and commissioning of movements, communities and networks. These will be open and honest sessions told from both the funder/commissioner and the movement / network / community point of view which highlight not just with the successes, but also the challenges.

Hold In-depth Discussions with Peers

Smaller circles of no more than 15 people with a common connection (e.g. organisation type, role, impact area) to build relationships by openly and confidentially exploring these questions with peers in a safe and supportive environment.

Work Through Real Life Challenges

Larger workshops with a diverse group of 20 or more people to help bring clarity to a real-life challenge presented by a funder, commissioner, movement, community or network.

Who can join?

The Losing Control in Funding network is open to those who are involved in funding social change

Our current members include trusts and foundations, local authority grant makers who have a particular interest in how to shift power in grantmaking.

Your membership includes space for two people in your organisation. We recommend that these people represent different parts of your organisation to widen perspectives, but it is completely up to you who they are.

  • The first Losing Control events had profound impacts on many of our partners and on our own organisation so we’re excited to make a long-term commitment

    Joe Doran
    Lankelly Chase Foundation
  • Losing Control will help our partners to expand their network, learn from each other, build relationships and collaborate to devolve power to local communities

    Fergus Arkley
    Power to Change
  • Losing Control will support the grassroots groups of lived experience that we are working with to amplify voice whilst at the same time help our internal shift to a new way of working

    Sarah Campbell
  • We are pleased to be a part of Losing Control, joining other people passionate about collaborating and challenging the conventions of how we get things done.

    Sally Byng
    Barnwood Trust

Membership contribution

As partners, we want to run these sessions because we’re passionate about the topic of shifting power in funding, and really value the opportunity to come together and learn with you about issues that impact our wider work and social missions. We aim to cover our costs, rather than make a profit from convening the sessions.

The Blagrave Trust and Lankelly Chase have each generously contributed £10,000 to support the continuation and strengthening of this network.

We recommend a contribution of £600 per organisation. This will provide access for two of your team members or trustees to join all sessions spread over the 12 months. 

Contributions are calculated on a pro rata basis. It’s important to us that membership is accessible to all. If you are a smaller funding organisation, or have a limited budget then please let us know.

How to join

If you’d like to become a member of the Losing Control in Funding network simply complete the application form below. We review applications on a regular basis and will get back to you as soon as possible.