Funding Without Borders
Updated: Nov 12, 2020
*Thinking out loud about ideas excluded from third sector community.*
*By: Kane Dodgson. A guy from the edge of nowhere.*
Imagine a community no longer defined by funders. Picture instead, one defined by ideas of goodness. Imagine a community where funders have no borders. No boundary restrictions or archaic governance orders. Places where innovation, humanity and goodness become our focus. Where ideas & stories matter, always above the control of third sector structure. Imagine the creative explosion of tools & ideas where social change sweeps through our innovative nation. Imagine a funding system that is inclusive of all. Not just for those with the paperwork to take part under third sector control.
An innovative story might look like this?
There is a café in my story with its steamed-up windows. It is a rainy day in Blackpool where you and I begin a quiet tea-drinking revolution. We connect inquisitively like two inspired storytellers. Telling stories about us, not just what we do. Pressing footprints into each of our souls.
I tell you about my passion for stories and self-help therapies, for art, culture, people and places. I explain my journey from broken to self-healing; You share the beauty of rawness equally unique, equally appealing.
I explain my history in the community. How I started my first community magazine aged 11 on a hard, gritty northern council estate. Growing up on the edge of nowhere. I explain the death of my spirit through a life-changing injury. You begin to understand why I matter to me. It is a tale of an existential death of identity and my descent into Hades. It was a dark and brutal climb out to recovery.
I explain my work as a psychotherapist, community activist, who I have worked for & the Not for Profits I have set up. You listen with intent to the reasons why I left the third sector structure. We talk of the people that work outside of traditional systems that I have met on my journey.
I tell you about my community work of ‘The Grumpy Tea Club’ I set up for men I met doing my NHS suicide project. You are interested in how a friend opened a community space with zero funding. You are fascinated with how we both ran it for eighteen months. I show you the figures of 2000 visitors who came for lunch. Not a single investment from funder’s or authorities because we were outside of the club.
I explain a new idea, one that takes my self-therapy journal course and turns it into a digital project, to be free, especially to those on long mental health waiting lists. It will take me two years probably to learn to code. If you funded my idea, I could pay someone to build it with me in just a few months.
You debate with me, add ideas of your own, and together we turn an idea into something reborn. I explain I do not wish to be anything other than freelancer me, because like most therapists & artists we work at our best when we feel free. That does not mean we do not come together to form impermanent collectives to solve problems together. I explain the support I have for my idea, the people who already benefit from the self-funded course I deliver.
How The Story Really is.
Outside of your bubble, there is an entire world of people, businesses and movements like me, helping our community. They are mostly invisible, often ignored by community systems & officialdom of the third sector system. Not because they are silent, but because accepted third sector systems are unconscious of their bias echo-chamber thinking.
There is no conversation or support without the official governance papers. This bias is all over our “all in this together” third sector corner. It feels like a club only for those wearing the right shoes and carrying official papers being careful of language and talking about rules.
I cannot access community support, left out of third sector meetings, not invited to “we are community”. Yet here I am, still working for the community, partnering up with free-thinking people. We are opening community centers creating strength-based stories. Piloting ideas into community infrastructure. We turn lives around daily while having to fund it all out of our own low-level savings.
We are passionate about people but not invited to your party. As an artist, you will fund me as anything else you will ignore me. Unless I form a legal entity that removes my identity, suffocating every inch of my story of recovery. Killing my creativity.
I know many of you wish to tell me how wrong I am. How those governance structures are there to protect people, your power and money. Hoops of the trade include double signature bank accounts, a legal identity a minimum of 3 people to manage a project but more the happier. So Kane your mutual aid mapping project, or your human library tree sound very interesting to me, but we cannot fund you individually.
I have heard this many times, and my counter argument is simply this;- The Arts Council and until recently UnLtd.
The artist side of me does not need a constitution, a governing body, or double bank account signatures. It wants to fund and support people and their ideas. Is Arts Council funding not just a sister of the Lottery?
Why as an artist am I listened to, trusted, invested in, yet as a psychotherapist, storyteller, community developer I am not fundable? Is my good idea somehow not the same unless I tool up to your prescriptive look at the world? I can receive a commission (as the NHS recently did for my project ‘Suicide, A different Story’). Yet I am outside of support from the third sector system.
My option then for my Curious Library Project (community mapping mixed with a co-produced human story and assets) has only one road. Find a group of people that can share and be on the same forward-moving page. Organise meetings, paperwork briefings. Write legal structure and governance. Opening accounts, building new websites, having new emails. Set up roles and responsibilities, build frameworks, apply for funding, then start again trying to build an audience and trust with other organisations.
Months pass, maybe longer, forcing a group of people together in some legally binding structure that already works together collectively without all that bother. We then have to run two businesses, this new one and our already established own. Your process ignores the work we already safely do. The real irony of this story is ‘The Curious Library’ can run from my kitchen table. Seems a lot of overkill, doesn’t it, really?
Be The Bridge Between Communities.
Things are changing outside of the third sector bubble. People movements, businesses and freelancers, one-man bands to international tech companies are seeding and growing everywhere. Many innovative ideas sadly, are also disappearing. There are words said about community inclusion and co-production. From the outside, nothing is really changing. Change in sandbox safe mode is not very radical or invigorating.
Contrary to how these thoughts may seem, I am not advocating the ending of your system. I have managed and even set up my own constituted organisations before. But I am asking you to consider widening the door.
I will leave you with what may be a simple, radical or foolish idea. Funders could end the mental health crisis in our country. Not in a generation or two, but right now this coming year. If not end, it at least dramatically reduces those long NHS waiting lists. Giving our family a real chance of wellness.
I once put this proposal to the leader of Blackpool Council. I had calculated it would cost Blackpool approximately 15 to 20 million pounds to provide deep therapeutic work to 50% of all its people. Instead, a lot more than that got invested in things that did not teach our community to fish for themselves.
You could open a fund for the tens of thousands of qualified therapists, psychologists, CBT specialists, hypnotherapists, Psychotherapists Gestalt Therapists, Art Therapists Et al. You can if you choose, fund their work free to those in need at the point of source. They are already part of legally required governing standards, professional bodies with a robust disciplinary complaints systems and safeguarding structures. It would not be, in the grander scheme of things, that difficult to do.
You have the power and the freedom to be the bridge builders between communities. Widening doors, thinking creatively.