Diana Samarasan, Disability Rights Fund
The Disability Rights Fund (DRF), which operates as a pooled fund that combines the resources of multiple governmental and private donors and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund (DRAF), enables donors to harmonize their efforts and learning in this new rights arena.
In the seven grantmaking rounds since the launch of the Fund in 2008, nearly $7 million has been distributed to 258 different disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs) in 18 countries. Grants support a range of activities, including: ratification campaigns for the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD); development of legislative proposals to ensure implementation of the CRPD domestically; alternative civil society reports to the CRPD Committee; documentation of abuses of rights; CRPD training across multiple groups of stakeholders; and DPO strengthening (particularly amongst the most marginalized within the disability community).
DRF is informed both by newer philosophies in grantmaking, that strive to include grantee communities in the grantmaking process, as well as by the CRPD, which recognizes participation as an imperative. Additionally, DRF’s unique structure includes a Global Advisory Panel of 12 members, the majority of whom are people with disabilities (PWDs) from the Global South and Eastern Europe nominated by international and regional DPO networks. The Panel makes grantmaking strategy recommendations and helps with monitoring and evaluation. A grantmaking committee of the board of directors composed of donor representatives and four of the advisors finalizes recommendations on grantmaking strategy and selects grantees through a consensus process. They also select boards which have oversight and decision-making functions and are comprised by at least 50 percent PWDs.
The involvement of PWDs at all levels of the organization – advisory, governance, and staff – is a core strength, lending DRF legitimacy as well as access to worldwide networks of PWDs, from which important baseline data can be gathered and through which DRF can spread information about its work. Participation has been key to DRF’s establishment as an innovative grantmaking vehicle operating in concert with the disability community’s slogan, “nothing about us without us.”