The objective of this study was to map current practices in philanthropic support for child and youth led work at the community level and provide strategic advice to donors on how to strengthen their funding modalities through participatory approaches. The recommendations from this process will pave the road for members to challenge their own practices; build on momentum to shift money down to the grassroots level; explore ways to influence the broader sector; and influence and shift the wider donor community thinking and approaches.
Shifting money to the grassroots level (especially to youth themselves) has the potential to transform communities. Here are six concrete things funders can change to better support child- and youth-led grassroots groups:
1. Acknowledge & rebalance power. Ensure that youth perspectives inform all phases of programming.
2. Bear the burden. Take responsibility for the time, resources, and adaptations required to transform the funder-grantee relationship.
3. Amplify their voices. Support movement building and ensure that the voices of young people are taken seriously.
4. Offer flexible funding. This demonstrates that children and youth are trusted and believed in.
5. Implement participatory grantmaking. Shift power in grantmaking decisions from foundations to those most affected and with first-hand knowledge & experience.
6. Engage children and youth beyond the grantmaking cycle. Children and youth who participated in our study greatly valued funder relationships that went beyond the transactional.
These all have one thing in common: a focus on centering child- and youth-led community groups in decision-making. To shift power, we must recognize the agency & transformative power of youth-led work at the community level.