Report: BEARR’s 2022 Small Grants Scheme webinar

When the deadline for this year’s Small Grant Scheme was approaching, BEARR held a webinar for prospective applicants on how to write a strong application. Over 100 CSO representatives from across the region where BEARR works joined. BEARR trustee Ross Gill spoke about the application process and shared his top tips as an assessor, before handing over to representatives of two 2021 grantee organisations – TAUR NGO in Moldova and Winds of Change in Ukraine. They shared their experience of the scheme, from writing an application to delivering projects, giving an insight into the challenges faced by small CSOs.

The deadline for this year’s Small Grants Scheme was Friday 18 February, 23:59 GMT.

Since 2006, BEARR’s Small Grants Scheme (SGS) has provided small-scale ‘seedcorn’ funding to CSOs working on a range of social welfare issues in the BEARR region. Each year, the SGS focuses on a different theme, supporting a range of vulnerable groups including the homeless, young offenders, victims of human trafficking, and people living with disabilities.

This year’s theme is ‘projects to improve the social welfare of migrant workers and the wellbeing of their families’. Labour migration is prevalent in the BEARR region, both in terms of the large number of migrant workers and the families left behind. This group has been particularly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with migrant workers often being the first to lose their jobs and struggling to provide for their families back home. In the webinar, Ross Gill said assessors are keen to see projects that take an ‘imaginative or unusual approach’ to addressing the problems faced by migrant workers and their families in local communities.

However, as well as a strong project idea, BEARR applicants ideally need to find a suitable partner organisation with whom to deliver it. A common thread throughout the SGS’s existence has been the emphasis on collaboration. The scheme encourages small and emerging CSOs to work together, with a view to facilitating learning, networking and knowledge exchange beyond the life of the SGS project.

This collaboration can happen across borders and focus areas. For example, during its project to create a sewing social enterprise for Roma women and girls, our 2021 grantee ‘Winds of Change’ in Ukraine collaborated with two other organisations, both of which had also received a BEARR grant previously. The first was the ‘Association of Wives and Mothers of Soldiers participating in the war in Eastern Ukraine’ (ATO), which ran a project to support vulnerable elderly women in remote areas of the Donetsk region through building networks of mutual help. The second was the Office for Initiatives Development (MIR) in Tajikistan, whose project focused on preventing gender-based violence in rural areas through campaigns, community workshops and training to increase women’s economic independence. Despite their differences in location and target groups, these organisations found common ground and supported each other with their projects – an excellent example of the kind of networks BEARR funding aims to build in the region.

BEARR has also added a second strand to the SGS funding this year – ‘projects to improve the welfare of the applicant organisation’s staff and volunteers, and its resilience’. With its grant scheme specifically funding small and emerging CSOs, BEARR wants to support these organisations to become more sustainable.

Indeed, the SGS is a great start for many small organisations, and one which can help them learn valuable lessons and build a longer-term strategy – as was the case for TAUR NGO in Moldova, an organisation which supports people with mobility issues. At the time of applying for the grant, TAUR was a fledgling initiative run by a group of volunteers during the Covid-19 pandemic. After struggling to regroup after the death of its founder in 2017, TAUR had no experience of applying for funding, nor any recent project history. However, motivated by the critical need for disability support during

Covid-19, TAUR reached out to Hope and Health, an organisation working with the mentally disabled and a previous BEARR grantee. Together, they submitted an application to the SGS and successfully won the funding. Having now completed its SGS project, TAUR is looking to the future. Representative Tatiana Roscovan described the project as a “very good start” and one which has given the organisation new ideas and longer-term plans: “We have designed our strategy, what we want to do next”.

With organisations like TAUR given a new lease of life by the SGS project, BEARR wants to build on this momentum and support CSOs to build organisational resilience. Previous grantees can therefore apply for a grant of £1000 to this end.

Ultimately, the Small Grants Scheme is geared towards CSOs’ learning and development, rather than quantifiable outcomes. As Tatiana Roscovan told us, valuable lessons are learned in the process of delivering a project: “Be motivated and don’t be afraid to learn from mistakes”.

Anita Pant


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