Community members are leading this participatory grantmaking project — here’s how it works.

The WES Mariam Assefa Fund’s new participatory grantmaking pilot project is shifting funding power to the community

Why It Matters

Traditional philanthropy is often criticized for its power imbalance where the funders usually call all the shots. So who gets left out? It’s the communities and people within it who are actually impacted by the funding. Bringing community members to the decision-making table can give them the power to determine, through their lived experience, what areas they think need funding.

This story is in partnership with the World Education Services (WES) Mariam Assefa Fund. 

Back in 1970 when Najma Iqbal immigrated to Canada, challenges for newcomers were vastly different than they are today. She laughs recalling her experience during those days, when ESL programs weren’t the norm and she was the only person of colour in her school. 

At the same time, Iqbal notes that a number of settlement issues have stayed constant throughout the years. Finding a job, housing issues, and getting international credentials validated are just some of the things she says many newcomers still struggle with today. 

Iqbal now lives in the Peel Region of Ontario, in Brampton, where she retired last year from working as a community labor market manager for the City of Toronto. As a recent retiree, with free time on her hands, Iqbal came across a new grantm

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