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Who are the funders?

The data in this report draws on grants from 60 different funders, up from 47 in the first edition.[13]

Our focus is on funders that are active in social justice philanthropy networks of one kind or another and/or that we know are likely to be making relevant grants.  

Not all of the foundations are UK based, but all the grants that we analyse in detail are supporting work in the UK.  

A list of the 60 funders is provided in the Annex, and we would very much welcome suggestions of other funders that might be added to the research in the future.  

For 43 of the funders we have ‘like-for-like’ data that allows us to make some comparisons between their 2018/19 and 2021/22 grants. These funders are highlighted in the list in the Annex.

In this edition, we took a look at the more than 13,000 grants made by The National Lottery Community Fund (TNCLF) in 2021/22. It would have taken too much time to try and read every grant description, so we used a set of 52 keywords to identify a subset of these grants that were likely to be relevant. These are included in the Annex. This subset was then reviewed in detail.  

We used this keyword approach for a number of other funders who make large numbers of grants each year, such as BBC Children in Need, Lloyds Bank Foundation England & Wales, and the Tudor Trust. 

We augmented the results of the keyword searches by reviewing grantee names in a bid to pick up any relevant grants missed through the keywords. While we may have missed some grants by using keywords we think this approach makes sense in terms of allowing us to include grants from funders making many hundreds or thousands of individual grants. 

The challenge of defining social justice

As in Funding Justice 1, the biggest methodological challenge for this work is to decide whether or not a grant is a ‘social justice’ grant.  

There are differences of opinion as to where the boundaries should be drawn.[14]

There are also important conversations happening around expanding traditional notions of social justice to take a more transformative approach. Whereas social justice identifies harm, transformative justice looks more closely at the systems that create and uphold these harms. It prioritises alternative, holistic and community-led solutions. This work is often rooted within Black and Indigenous Communities and Communities of Colour, who are denied traditional remedies. 

Funding Justice 2 does not seek to expand on these debates; this critical work is happening elsewhere. Instead, we aim to identify whether the intention or impact of a grant is addressing injustice and/or working towards systemic change. 

To this end, we have identified five principles of social justice, which are commonly included in definitions. These are included in the Annex and we welcome feedback on them. They do not specifically identify transformative justice approaches, but could include them. 

We have then allocated grants that we consider to be social justice grants to one of four social justice categories:

Category 1: “organising at the core” grants. 

This is an expanded version of the Category 1 used in Funding Justice 1. To better capture the different people-power action funders are supporting, it now includes grants that focus on building power behind a specific thematic issue and grants heavily focused on activism alongside grants that support grassroots community organising, where local people set the priorities and plans of their organising work. 

Category 2: “justice and power” grants. 

Grants where a concern for social justice clearly runs through the work and there is a clear focus on political or social change. This category has been used in the same way as in Funding Justice 1, with the exception that grants to law centres and citizens’ advice type organisations have in the main been moved to Category 4. 

Category 3: “advocating for change” grants. 

Grants that are seeking to change policy, corporate practice, or social norms, but are less focused on the five principles of social justice. For example, a grant towards policy advocacy in respect of management of the natural environment. 

These first three categories cover work addressing the root causes of injustice, and seeking systemic change. 

Category 4: “justice rather than social change” grants. 

Grants that help communities facing injustice, but where the work is not strongly focused on social change. Many of these organisations provide support to individuals. For example, a law centre helping an asylum seeker navigate their rights and status within UK law. 

These organisations often talk about ‘empowering’ the individuals that they are serving, but they are using the term in the sense of helping people to overcome challenging circumstances, rather than encouraging these individuals to get directly engaged in social change. This category also includes some grants geared towards lifestyle change, for example grants to local climate and environment groups. 

Category 4 is a new addition in Funding Justice 2, as we wanted to have a way of capturing service delivery organisations focused on injustice that were largely excluded in the first edition of the research. This gave us a strong basis from which to look more closely at movement ecologies. 

We would welcome feedback on these categories, and suggestions on how they might be developed in the future. We have taken care to be consistent in how grants are assigned to the different categories, but there remain many borderline cases and we know not everyone will agree with the decisions we have made.  

As with the foundational theories of change explained below, our goal is to provide the sector with an initial analysis of where social justice funding is being directed, and then to evolve the methodology in the light of feedback.  

Currently, our coverage of some thematic issues, such as ‘immigration/migration’, ‘gender justice’, ‘racial justice’, ‘climate mitigation’ and ‘LGBTQ+ rights’ is more comprehensive than for other thematic issues, where the boundaries between ‘social justice’ and ‘non-social justice’ are particularly hard to determine. We hope to address this challenge as the research develops. 

The foundational theories of change

Because of the definitional challenges outlined above, in this edition of the research we have attempted to allocate funding to each organisation to one of six foundational theories of change, drawing on research by the Ayni Institute in the United States.[15]

The Ayni Institute uses five foundational theories of change to understand the ecologies of social movements. These are briefly described in the box below.  

We added a sixth theory of change because we feel that projects which provide support to disadvantaged individuals without trying to help those individuals become agents of change are better described as ‘service delivery’ than ‘personal transformation’.

Funding Justice addition:

Service delivery – grants focused on the provision of services, often for individuals.

The Ayni Institute Foundational Theories of Change:

Personal transformation – grants helping individuals to learn new skills and become active citizens or acquire ‘voice’. For example, advocacy training, or grants supporting youth leadership.

Alternatives – work demonstrating new approaches as alternatives to the status quo, or helping to establish new narratives and public understanding of an issue. For example new models of social investment, credit unions, projects lowering community carbon emissions, plus work that reframes issues and helps establish new narratives.

Inside game – grants advocating for change on the ‘inside track’, via legislation, policy, fiscal changes, strategic litigation, or changes to corporate practice.

Structure organising – ‘outside track’ power building, in communities either defined by geographic location or thematic concern (e.g. worker rights, racial justice).

Mass protest – activism, direct action, street-level mobilisation.

This approach moves us beyond the binaries of social justice vs. not social justice towards a more holistic understanding of how funders can support the whole movement ecology that is vital to achieving long-term, systemic change. 

It is designed as a conversation starter, to help funders who have stated social justice aims explore whether they are finding an appropriate balance. We also hope it will spark vital shared conversations about how we can work better together to achieve shared aims.

In order to get through all the grants we quickly reviewed the websites of grantee organisations (particularly ‘About Us’ pages) and we used a ‘rule of thumb’ type approach to apportion the funding across the six categories, striving for as much consistency as possible. 

Our findings shouldn’t be seen as definitive, but as above we hope that they will provide some useful insights that encourage debate and further efforts to map movement ecologies. We hope to refine and develop this approach in future research.

Analysis of the data

In addition to the categories of social justice and the foundational theories of change above, we analyse where the work funded by the grant is taking place, using the devolved nations and standard set of UK government regions.  

We also categorise the grants into one of 16 thematic issue categories, the same ones that were used in Funding Justice 1. These are set out in the Annex. 

It is worth noting that as grants support work that is more intersectional it becomes harder to assign them to just one thematic issue category, but we have adopted what we believe is a consistent approach.

  • [13] Many of these funders publish their grants data on 360Giving, and we have found this to be an invaluable resource in the two editions of Funding Justice.

  • [14] In a 2010 essay, Albert Ruesga and Deborah Puntenney explored these boundaries, surveying 80 experienced social justice grantmakers in the United States. They observe that: “As we studied how they described their craft, we were struck by the diversity of responses. Some described the founding principles of their work; others its methods and its aims. Some descriptions bore striking similarities to one another, while others seemed more distantly related.”

  • [15] The decision to use the Ayni Institute Social Movement Ecology framework came after we had reviewed other similar frameworks from the likes of the Sheila McKechnie Foundation, Bill Moyer, Joanna Macy, The Berkana Institute, Bill Sharpe, Steve Waddell and Zeynep Tufecki. All of these provide useful insights but none are perfect, since all (including Ayni) are simplifying a complex reality. However, we felt the Ayni Institute gave us the clearest basis from which to start to map social justice funding behind specific, intertwined strategies.

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