Innovative Grantmaking: Giving Voice to the Marginalised

by Marian Nell; Janet Shapiro

Jan 1, 2009

In reality, this is the beginning of an ongoing story. MAGI is a relatively new venture but there has been time enough to see its potential and share its learnings. In an increasingly polarised world, where the gap between the haves and have-nots is fast becoming a chasm, there is no time to be lost in providing support to the marginalised so that their voices can be heard in mainstream debates about development and human rights and their lives can take centre stage in understanding the challenges faced.

  • Multi Agency Grants Initiative (MAGI) is an exciting model despite, and perhaps because of, its evolving status.
  • The number of initial donors has been doubled, and there is potential to increase this number if this is seen as strategically advisable. With Multi Agency Grants Initiative (MAGI) now an established entity, there is time to look more at what the composition of the consortium should or could be to make the grant-giving as effective as possible.
  • The focus on the form or logistical model has borne fruit because it has enabled grant-making to happen, money to be distributed, small organisations to work. The learnings from this now need to be fed back into more in-depth strategic thinking and consolidation of both the model as an implementing tool and the model as a support to strengthening the civil society sector.
  • There is an argument for the strategic rationalisation of sectors, with an emphasis on cross-cutting issues. This would enable Multi Agency Grants Initiative (MAGI) to gain a greater understanding of those sectors on which it does focus. All consortium members agree on the importance of gender issues and the initiative is gender-sensitive in implementation. There are other areas that could be cross-cutting rather than a separate sector focus. Sustainable economic development, for example, could be incorporated as a theme in all the other sectors.
  • There is more scope for linking CBOs to strategic partners to increase their understanding of the structural impediments to addressing broader issues such as poverty and patriarchy so that they can become part of wider civil society advocacy around these issues. The assumption, for example, that more women participants, and even more women leaders, will automatically lead to greater understanding of the many-faceted ways in which women are disadvantaged in all sectors, is misleading. The positions women take on important issues are at least as important as the positions they hold.
  • The Multi Agency Grants Initiative (MAGI) model can be implemented with a small, competent staff provided good use is made of strategic partners, there is good administrative back-up and the computerised system is adjusted and used with commitment by staff.
  • The responsiveness, non-bureaucratic style and genuine partnership established with grantees are crucial ingredients of the Multi Agency Grants Initiative (MAGI) model. Through the consortium, additional money has been leveraged for use with CBOs. The challenge is to leverage more and be able to make more grants in a useful and responsible manner that strengthens civil society.
  • Within the consortium, applicants have been linked to other donors and information has been shared. The collaboration model clearly enhances the grant-making process. Given the mix of different types of donors, consortium meetings also have the potential to provide a forum where development and grant-making issues can be discussed and debated so that the consortium is itself a learning community of those with shared concerns.
  • Capacity-building is taking place in a number of ways which are innovative in terms of the Multi Agency Grants Initiative (MAGI) model: these include the direct capacity-development done through contact between POs and the grantees, the way in which Multi Agency Grants Initiative (MAGI) is making use of strategic partners, and through the simplification of the procedures for applying for, and accounting for, Multi Agency Grants Initiative (MAGI) grants.
  • To some extent, small Band Aid-type projects are being linked into bigger debates, giving the more marginalised in civil society an opportunity to be heard.
  • Now that Multi Agency Grants Initiative (MAGI) is more established, this is an area to which it can give more attention, thus magnifying the impact of the work being done by consortium members in the relevant areas.
  • The evolving system for managing the project cycle and the monitoring and evaluation process so that it complements the Multi Agency Grants Initiative (MAGI) model is a distinctive element of the whole which requires relatively small adjustments to make it, potentially, state of the art.
  • Multi Agency Grants Initiative (MAGI) is a new grant-making initiative. It still has to make good on all the potential its model shows and in the next three years this will be its focus.
  • Multi Agency Grants Initiative (MAGI) needs to clarify its longer-term purpose or goal and develop indicators for measuring its success in achieving these.
  • Multi Agency Grants Initiative (MAGI) needs to clarify the differing roles of the secretariat and the AC.
  • Multi Agency Grants Initiative (MAGI) needs to focus its grants and capacity-building efforts towards the achievement of its goals.
  • Multi Agency Grants Initiative (MAGI) needs to develop and strengthen its electronic systems to support a cost-effective way of managing small grants that is also accountable and a source of learning for the grant-making sector.
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