What is participatory grant-making?
In traditional philanthropy, a large divide can exist between the social realities of funders
vs grantees. Through participatory grant-making (PGM), we intentionally shift these hierarchies, to put
decision-making power into the hands of individuals and organizations who could also be grantees.
Activist-centric, feminist, and anti-racist, we believe firmly that empowering grassroots activists,
and valuing their knowledge as experts of the realities on the ground can create powerful social movements for systems change.
What does our (PGM) participatory grant-making process look like?
Safe Passage’s decision-making power over funds and processes is
entirely in the hands of a board of young activists who identify as
women or gender non-conforming. Staying true to our principle that
radical change comes from below rather than from above, our board
brings a diverse range of experiences and perspectives of grassroots
and non-governmental organizations focused on migrant rights.
Our board is international, bridging the divide between Europe and the
countries affected directly by European policies of border
externalization. Currently the board representatives work in the
Western Balkans, Germany, the Central Mediterranean, and North
Each board member stays on for 2 years, after which other feminist
activists take their place. With this rotation cycle, we strive to
de-hierarchize knowledge and collectivize decision-making power. We
have a committed vision of more inclusive board membership with each
rotation round, through prioritizing smaller grassroots organizations,
overlooked geographical areas, and/or representatives with experiences
of migration or forced displacement.
Why do we use participatory grant-making?
Our goal is to shift decision-making power directly to those who are
affected and organizing for the freedom of movement for all. We aim to
influence the classical philanthropic field in Europe, encouraging
funders to work in collaboration with grantee partners, innovating
traditional top-down hierarchies and uplifting the voices, needs, and
experiences of activists and the most impacted.
What has happened?
Over the past four years, we’ve gained lots of insight into the ups
and downs of feminist participatory grant-making. This has included a
handful of crucial benefits: for example, by having representatives of
grassroots organizations sit on our board, we’ve been able to quickly
identify the usefulness and sustainability of many of the
applications. We’ve been able to connect grantee partners to one
another through our embedness in the migration ecosystem. With
on-the-ground knowledge, we’ve been able to anticipate when certain
regions or situations will become urgent and distribute resources
accordingly, even before mass media picks up on it. Our board members
have reflected on how our practices deepen team-building, networking
connections, and allow complex, passionate conversations about
feminist and anti-racist politics to take place.
had some bumps in the road – which we embrace with patience and
flexibility and think it is a necessary part of any learning process.
For example, board members might have limited time capacities due to
their commitments to their activist work, which requires particularly
effective moderation during the bi-weekly board meetings we do have.
We plan to release annual reports of our findings and some
of our tips and tricks that we’ve discovered during our feminist PGM
If you are interested in connecting over our PGM practices, please
reach out to