What is Redistro really about?

It’s not just about the money

On the face of it, Redistro looks like an organisation that gives £1,000 grants to community groups in Bristol. Which it does, but that’s just a small part of the story.

We live in a world where we have little control over our own lives. At home we have a landlord telling us we can’t paint our walls. We go to work and we have a boss, and maybe even a boss’s boss, telling us what to do. Politicians decide what public services we have, where we can travel to, how much money we can have, and make a whole host of other decisions that affect us, often without ever having walked in our shoes. Corporations are also having an increasing impact on our daily lives and have even less accountability. 

The funding world is no different. Large foundations with millions in the bank pick and choose which organisations are worthy of their money and dictate how that money should be used. Often they impose their ideas and values onto others and projects fail because they are not workable for the community they’re supposed to help. The rich often give money to charity to avoid tax, improve their reputations or even to influence government policy. 

What if we lived in a world where we had control over our own lives? How would we collectively make the decisions that are currently imposed upon us? There are lots of models of doing this, such as workers’ co-operatives, companies that are run by the people who work there, as equals. Within grantmaking there is a growing trend to use participatory methods which put the decisions about funding into the hands of those affected by them. Redistro is modelled on Edge Fund, which was set up in 2012 and was one of the first funders to use participatory grantmaking in the UK. 

So Redistro is about power. The people with the power to decide who receives our funding are the people on the ground doing the work: people who know the communities, what they need and what’s going to work because they are part of the community themselves. 

The process itself brings so much more to grantmaking than the distribution of money. By reading applications and meeting other applicants we not only learn about people’s lives that may be very different to our own, but also discover the multitude of ways communities are seeking to change their own circumstances. We may discover we have skills and resources to offer others and that they can in turn help us. This process helps build empathy and solidarity between communities and aids us in taking a more intersectional approach to our work, where we more fully understand and take into account how our identities and struggles are connected. We might identify some common enemies along the way. It also gives us hope and inspiration to meet others who are as dedicated as we are to creating change for, and with, those around us.

Lastly, Redistro is about challenging ourselves to acknowledge that when we have wealth we have power, and when we give away money we are often perpetuating that power. Philanthropists the world over use their money to further their own interests. Charity rarely brings about justice, as why would the rich want to change the systems that made them so? But when someone donates to Redistro they don’t get to say how their money is used, the power is passed on to others who wouldn’t normally get the privilege to decide. So here we have the chance to support projects that challenge the systems that cause harm. 

Redistro is a small experiment in how a just and equal society could work. In this case we’re sharing out a pot of money. Maybe one day we’ll live in a world where we could use similar processes to share out other resources, a world where the only people who get to make decisions about our lives are us.

Round 5 is open – apply before midnight, 1 May 2023.

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