On June 1st, DCDD hosted its Exchange Session on ‘Disability Inclusive Grantmaking’ with participants from 10 different consortia. It was the second of a series of sessions, organised by DCDD in collaboration with the We Are Able! consortium and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The aim of these sessions is to explore the most effective ways to make disability inclusion happen within various civil society programmes that are receiving funding from the Ministry. These sessions are meant to facilitate the exchange of experiences, tools and resources.

Guest speakers Esther Kiyozira (CEO of the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU) and partner in the We Are Able! programme) and Katiya Sakala (Regional Head of Programmes Africa at the Disability Rights Fund) shared a wealth of experience on how to ensure access to grants for (small) organisations of persons with disabilities through participatory and inclusive grantmaking.

Barriers to funding

Common barriers people with disabilities face in accessing funds are the donor requirements that are often difficult for organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) to fulfill. Such requirements include: contributing a percentage of the budget from their own funds, having elaborate administrative systems and policies in place or being officially registered as an organisation. Moreover, disability is often not mentioned in grant frameworks, let alone prioritised, so OPDs feel discouraged to apply. And online application forms are difficult to access for OPDs in rural communities as well as formats or languages used are often not accessible to all persons with disabilities.

How to ensure access for all

No matter what the programme’s focus is, grantmaking should consider the needs of people with disabilities throughout all its processes and policies. As Esther highlighted, “Ensure that as a grantmaking organisation you have a very deliberate disability inclusion policy, so that barriers can be identified and addressed. When disability is not made explicit in policies, it easily gets overlooked.”. Both Esther and Katiya shared key tips on disability inclusion for grantmakers and donors. Firstly, it is important to include people with disabilities in the grantmaking committee, so that their point of view is represented throughout the whole process. In addition, be explicit in grant frameworks on the willingness to fund disability related/inclusive projects or on making disability a priority area. Some quick wins could be in simplifying the application process and formats, and making sure these are accessible. Allowing for oral reporting instead of written reports, also makes the process more inclusive.

Create space for growth

Be flexible and participatory, rather than rigid, in giving emerging OPDs the opportunity through a first grant to work towards fulfilling requirements, so that they will be ready for the next grant application. You can also think about engaging well-established OPDs to play an intermediary role in strengthening the capacity of emerging OPDs and embed budget lines for organisational strengthening within the grant (based on capacity gaps identified together). Or provide the opportunity to OPDs who do not yet have their registration and/or administration systems in place to apply together with a fiscal sponsor who acts as an intermediary for fund management and capacity strengthening. Alternatively, OPDs can be encouraged to partner with well-established (mainstream or disability-focused) organisations from whom they can learn in areas where they have a capacity gap. However, always make sure that the OPD stays in the lead of their own project. Dividing the grant in instalments with certain conditions they need to fulfil can also help OPDs grow in strengthening their internal systems. And finally, it helps to embed operational costs in the grant, rather than funding activities only.

Exchanging good practices and challenges

After hearing from Esther and Katiya, we invited all participants into breakout rooms to share their organisation’s experiences with disability inclusive grantmaking and to discuss what (tools) work well and which methods they use to ensure inclusion. The main takeaway was to always make inclusion explicit in grant frameworks. It was suggested that meaningful participation of people with disabilities in grant committees requires from grantmaking organisations that they become disability inclusive at all levels. Some practical tips included to make sure a budget line for reasonable accommodation is included in project proposals and to allow applications and reports to be send in alternative ways. Grantmakers also saw meaningful learning taking place between grantees, when they facilitated learning sessions, not only regarding organisational capacity but also intersectionalities between e.g. disability and gender. One advice to conclude with was to collaborate as a partner instead of a funder.

Katiya shared one last key message for all to take home: “Respect the principle of nothing about us without us. Do not make any assumptions about disability. There is no one size fits all, there are many intersectionalities to consider, so always be in conversation with persons with disabilities as experts on what works for them.”

We look back at another inspiring exchange session of this series. If you want to know more about this topic, feel free to contact us at dcdd@dcdd.nl. And in case your organisation is part of a strategic partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you are welcome to join the next sessions!

For more resources on Disability Inclusive Grantmaking that were shared during this session, visit these websites:

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