Sunday, 23 September 2007

The Golden Rule

As a Chelsea supporter this last week has been depressing, though the departure of the Special One - the most successful manager in the club's history - has been coming for a while as tensions between him and the owner have increased. One report said this was the moment when Chelsea ceased to be a football club and became a rich man's plaything. Once again, in a fight for control, the bloke with the cash has the ultimate power.

When it comes to questions of funding for local social action projects I'm fond of quoting "The Golden Rule" as defined by the Wizard of Id cartoon: "He who has the gold makes the rules". I touched on this in my last sabblog entry... where money goes is dictated by the giver. Certainly a funder should not be coerced to donate where he doesn't want to, but it means for the situation here that the people best placed to work effectively in the community have least say in getting resources to where they are most needed. Worse, funding can be used to back up the latest government initiative or think-tank or knee-jerk reaction. These change frequently so it's not uncommon for a project to find its funding stopped as it is no longer in line with the current fad, or for organisations to have to try and tweak what they really want to do to fit criteria laid down by someone else somewhere else. Worst of all is this seeming obsession with 'innovation' which makes continuation funding for last year's new idea to help it get established long term is much harder to come by. Then there's the bureaucracy... It all means those who don't have the skills for subtly wording huge application forms, or the time, end up frustrated and dis-empowered.

In my limited experience the Church Urban Fund is better at listening to local voices, while the Seedbed fund is unique in giving money straight to the cutting edge of community action with very few if any strings attached. Anyone know of any others?

Still, at the end of the day Brian, football is only a game, seemingly now even more a rich man's one. Trouble is funding is a game too, biased to those who know how to play and excluding those who don't, or won't. In both, he who has the gold makes the rules. Can that be changed?

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