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4 Big Ideas in Human Rights and Philanthropy, Explained by Fund Staff

Want to learn more about the latest topics in human rights and philanthropy? In our Fund 101 series of explainers, experts from the Fund break down big ideas and tackle tough questions about civic space, participatory grantmaking, and more.

If you’ve ever been curious about why flexible funding is so important for grassroots activists, scratched your head when we talk about the importance of legal empowerment, or wondered what civic space actually means in the real world, our Fund 101s are your one-stop shop for answers.

Fund 101: What Is Civic Space?

You might have heard that civic space—the beating heart of any open society—is under attack. But what actually is civic space? Who can participate in it? And why is it in danger?

Our Enabling Environment for Human Rights Defenders Program helps activists around the world defend and expand civic space by pushing back against growing restrictions on their work and threats to their safety. Program Director James Savage and Senior Associate Lydia Cocom explain what civic space really is, who is trying to shut it down, and what we can all do to help.

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Fund 101: What Is Flexible Funding?

Here at the Fund, we talk a lot about flexible funding. It’s central to our grantmaking, our mission, our relationships with grantees, and our approach to furthering human rights. But what makes flexible funding—and the Fund—so different?

To learn more, we turned to the experts. First, we asked Vice President for Programs David Mattingly, who has over 15 years of experience funding grassroots activism, to break down what flexible funding means. Then, we asked frontline human rights defenders themselves to tell us why it’s so important to their work.

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Fund 101: Intro to Participatory Grantmaking

One of the most talked-about new trends in philanthropy is participatory grantmaking—the act of asking affected communities to decide who and what gets funded. But how does that really work in practice?

John Kabia, who leads our Children’s and Youth Rights work, spent two years piloting a successful participatory program with youth activists in Sierra Leone. We asked John about the ins and outs of participatory grantmaking, from what it is and who it helps to how we evaluate success in this nontraditional approach.

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Fund 101: What Is Legal Empowerment?

Last year, we launched the Legal Empowerment Fund (LEF)—the first-ever initiative dedicated solely to supporting grassroots activists using legal empowerment strategies to put the law back in the hands of the people. But legal empowerment isn’t exactly a household term—yet.

That’s why we asked LEF Senior Associate Aimee Seligstein to explain what legal empowerment looks like, how it differs from other types of justice reform, and what the LEF hopes to achieve through its massive investment in this groundbreaking work. Learn more about this exciting new area of work!

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Do you have a question about human rights and philanthropy that we haven’t answered? Send us your suggestions for future Fund 101s to press@globalhumanrights.org.

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