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Funding a fair and equitable recovery: the impact of the Rapid Advocacy Fund

Profile of Claudia Bellote
Written by Claudia BellotePosted on 4/5/2021

When the Covid-19 pandemic first struck Australia, community philanthropy was quick to act. Case in point: the Rapid Advocacy Fund, established in April 2020, raised $100,000 in its first month, quickly distributing $70,000 across 14 strategic advocacy projects.

A joint project from Australian Progress, Australian Communities Foundation and Australian Council of Social Service, the Rapid Advocacy Fund was established as a donor pool to facilitate nimble and responsive funding for grassroots organisations participating in policy debates during the Covid-19 health and economic crises.

To date, the Fund has pooled over $160,000 and funded 25 pandemic-related advocacy projects, spanning the range of issues brought to the fore by the crises: intersecting inequalities across health, social security, access to housing, participation in democracy and more.

“What’s great about the Fund, is that it provides a means for donors to come together and resource grassroots advocacy groups at the critical moment when an opportunity presents itself”

First Nations and racial justice has been another clear focus for the Fund, with First Nations and People of Colour leading 40 per cent of all projects supported by the fund.

More broadly, and true to its ethos of centring lived experience in advocacy, 60 per cent of projects supported were led by people with lived experience of the issue they were advocating for.

Georgia Mathews, Philanthropy and Engagement Manager at Australian Communities Foundation, has worked closely with the Fund and was part of the grant committee that met 13 times between April and November 2020.

“What’s great about the Fund, is that it provides a means for donors to come together and resource grassroots advocacy groups at the critical moment when an opportunity presents itself to push for progress on an issue, or overcome a threat,” Georgia says.

Last year, those opportunities presented themselves time and again.

“Human rights advocates need to be responsive when they’re working on influencing the public, decision makers and ultimately policy”

As the report notes, “the nature of government decision making changed overnight and grassroots communities found themselves needing to rapidly pivot their work to seize new opportunities for reform.”

Given the possibility of policies implemented during the pandemic to shape Australia’s future, it is critical that there is effective support for responsive advocacy to ensure a fair and equitable recovery.

“Human rights advocates need to be responsive when they’re working on influencing the public, decision makers and ultimately policy,” Georgia explains.

“This has never been the case more so than during the pandemic, which created a rapidly changing environment.

“Funding for this kind of work therefore also needs to be responsive, but it often isn’t.”

Rapid Advocacy Fund grantee, the Alliance for Gambling Reform, successfully secured a ban on gambling advertising during live sport and engaged thousands of community advocates in a ban to remove gambling advertising from SBS.

One of the key success factors of the Fund is its “philanthropy and advocacy expert co-funding model” that draws on the expertise of philanthropy, advocates and the Fund’s three partner organisations.

“Because the partnership behind the Fund consists of three organisations with a good knowledge of the landscape, one of the key factors contributing to its success has been the partner organisations’ shared knowledge of the landscape, allowing us to ‘fund at the speed of trust’ and make quick decisions about granting allocations,” Georgia says.

“Turning grants around in a matter of days means campaigners on the ground don’t let movement moments pass by, and this process has proven incredibly effective.”

The Fund’s rapid grants to grassroots organisations helped created a number of policy wins during the pandemic. These include two grants to the First Peoples’ Disability Network which supported the launch of a project calling on the National Cabinet to fast track 100 respiratory clinics across remote and regional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to prepare for the spread of Covid-19. A month later, after sustained advocacy, the Government announced a commitment to establish up to 100 GP-led respiratory clinics around the country.

A significant policy win came from two grants to Impact Fund partner, the Alliance for Gambling Reform, which successfully secured a ban on gambling advertising during live sport and engaged thousands of community advocates in a ban to remove gambling advertising from SBS.

The Rapid Advocacy Fund has also supported the Australian Democracy Network with a grant that helped establish the Covid-19 Civil Liberties Watch group, which successfully secured a Senate Select Committee to oversee the Government’s Covid-19 response.

More information about other policy wins that came as a result of the Fund’s granting is available in the report.

In terms of what’s next, the Fund’s committee plans to reactivate the fund ahead of the upcoming federal budget and election, where relatively small investments in advocacy could have huge impacts on policy decisions that will shape the future for years to come.

For more information about about the Rapid Advocacy Fund, visit the website.

The Tomorrow Movement used their RAF grants to campaign against cuts to JobSeeker.

Rapid Advocacy Fund

The Rapid Advocacy Fund is committed to rapidly injecting funds into strategic advocacy campaigns, especially those responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. Tax-deductible donations.

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