Addressing social exclusion is fundamental to creating vibrant and sustainable communities. To do so, you need to set goals, explore how your existing practices may perpetuate exclusion and enable your programs to be more inclusive.
What is social exclusion?
Social exclusion is a complex phenomenon where individuals, groups and even whole geographic areas are excluded from rights, opportunities, relationships and activities such as:
- access to resources, both material and social
- participation, both economic and voluntary (including employment and social interaction)
- culture and education
- political life
- quality of life (including health, wellbeing and safety)
- consumption (as a result of lack of income).
People who are excluded in these ways often experience disadvantage in terms of income, housing, crime, health, disability, information access and family breakdown.
Socially excluded population centres often lack access to infrastructure and services such as business, employment, housing, education, training, transport, health services, justice and policing.
What does this have to do with grantmaking?
If people are socially excluded they are usually also excluded from grants processes and from the benefits of the projects and programs grantmakers do fund.
Population-wide approaches to grantmaking - programs that are open to applications from anyone and everyone - can in fact widen the gap between the outcomes for rich and poor. Those with more resources are able to submit stronger and less risky applications than those facing economic, geographic, social and cultural disadvantage.
How do we make our programs more inclusive?
You do not necessarily need to overhaul your program immediately or completely. Start small and strategic, and take it from there. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Make statements of commitment to social inclusion at the highest level.
- Establish social inclusion objectives. Anecdotal evidence suggests that change is dependent on setting social inclusion goals.
- Ensure there are opportunities for individuals within your organisation and within the organisations you fund to learn about social exclusion.
- Actively consult with socially disadvantaged groups and within socially disadvantaged localities.
- Gather information and data about groups, localities, organisations and program outcomes, and analyse them to help identify socially excluded localities and/or groups.
- Identify barriers to a socially inclusive program and where they occur in your system. Consider your guidelines, your application process, your assessment process, your service models, and your requirements of organisations.
- Be aware that you have to manage your own privilege (most grantmakers are not socially excluded themselves).
- Be aware of your own prejudices, and overcome them.
- Be willing to investigate the causes of social exclusion, not just the symptoms.
- Go out and actively target applicants for your programs rather than waiting for them to find you. Set up a road show, or use word of mouth to your advantage.
- Be prepared to work with people on refining their ideas and applications.
- Be prepared to alter your own processes, including guidelines, application forms, and the venues where you stage information sessions.
- Consider a two-stage application process. Calling for expressions of interest might help unearth groups who have great ideas but lack the capacity to present them.
- Allow applicants to pitch their application to you verbally (rather than online or on paper). You just need to take notes according to the application form you would otherwise have asked them to fill out. You can ask questions to help fill gaps.
- Consider requiring applicants to detail on your application form how they would include target groups in their program design.
- Consider offering a project development grant for under-developed ideas
- Run submission writing workshops before the opening of a grants round
- Consider requiring applicants to provide evidence that they've consulted with target groups in their project design.
- Accept that funding socially excluded groups, or activities that include the socially excluded, is one of the most risky grantmaking activities - and commit to funding social inclusion regardless. Find a way to manage the risk.
- Build in the risk of not funding people who are socially excluded.
- Broaden your sense of what makes a successful grant. Even when a project fails, there are lessons to be learned that can be captured and shared.
- Think creatively about how you can help to address social exclusion. It does not have to be about creating housing or jobs or opportunities for socialising (although all of those things are necessary). You might:
- support research and development efforts
- facilitate dialogue among potential partners (particularly between larger and smaller organisations)
- support planning efforts
- provide seed money to leverage further financial commitments
- support the work of advocacy organisations
- support public outreach and education efforts (which can help turn the tide against "not in my backyard" attitudes).