APCOM as an LGBTQI Intermediary Funding Mechanism for the Region

By March 23, 2023 March 24th, 2023 Advocacy, Newsroom

Reporting back from Sydney WorldPride 2023 on resourcing LGBTQI movements for change in Asia Pacific

This is a summary of the session that APCOM was able to profile our partnership with the Canadian Government through the ‘Supporting LGBTQI Rights in Asia: Connecting Voices for LGBTQI Socio-Economic Inclusion and Human Rights in Asia’ project, and was facilitated by Nicky McIntyre (she/her), CEO Foundation for a Just Society (FJS). 

One of the key goals of this session is to highlight the role that APCOM as regional LGBTQI funding intermediaries play in ensuring that donor government and private foundation resources reach civil society organizations working at the national or local levels, especially organizations serving the most marginalized and under-resourced within LGBTQI communities, and of how intermediaries contribute to stronger LGBTQI movements in the Asia Pacific region. 

Cheryl Urban, Director General Economic Development, Global Affairs Canada talks about supporting APCOM through ‘Supporting LGBTQI Rights in Asia: Connecting Voices for LGBTQI Socio-Economic Inclusion and Human Rights in Asia‘ project.

Nicky McIntyre (she/her), CEO

Foundation for a Just Society (FJS)

(bio and information about FJS is at the end of the article)

Let’s pause for a second on the word “intermediary”. For those of us who are working in, or have worked in, different kinds of community funds, women’s funds, public foundations, there is a lot of discomfort with this term, and that of “regrantor” too. That is because these terms suggest that intermediaries are simply technical, that their role is transactional when in fact they are playing more complex, transformational functions that I know we’ll hear about today. Please forgive this short-hand. 

What do we mean by an intermediary? 

  • It’s an organization that receives funding from one or more donors (usually a government, multilateral agency, or a private foundation), and makes smaller grants to grassroots and mid-sized organizations. Some intermediaries also focus on rapid response grants
  • Intermediaries often provide non-financial support to grantees too, including capacity strengthening and assistance with compliance; but also supporting alliance building 
  • And they strengthen the enabling environment by doing things like research or advocacy to leverage more and better funding to an area of work. 
  • Intermediaries can be transformational—if they genuinely are accountable to the communities they serve.
  • There are two main types of intermediaries: public foundations and non-governmental organizations. 

Intermediaries’ key advantage is the depth of their work, but they are already delivering at scale too. Don’t get me wrong, they can do much more if they had more funding. In the Asia-Pacific, the latest data shows that 39% of funding for SOGIESC issues was delivered via intermediaries. It’s important to point out, however, that only 3 of the top 20 intermediaries in the world are based outside North America or Western Europe and half the groups in the top 20 are not LGBTQI-led. 

We heard a little from Cheryl about the partnership between Global Affairs Canada and APCOM. Is there anything else you’d like to add to or clarify about the description of the partnership?

The support that we are receiving from Global Affairs Canada is for “Supporting LGBTQI Rights in Asia: Connecting Voices for LGBTQI Socio-Economic Inclusion and Human Rights in Asia” – a multi-country project which will be implemented in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, the Philippines and Thailand.  

Expected project outcomes:

  • Improved organizational management, programming and sustainability of 15 LGBTQI organizations and 1 regional organization to advance gender equality and empowerment of women and girls in Asia;
  • Improved effectiveness of platforms, advocacy, networks, and alliances of 15 LGBTQI organizations & 1 regional organization in influencing gender-responsive socioeconomic policy and programs in Asia.

The project has sub-grant components for the national and sub-national country partner organizations with 15 sub-grants for 15 LGBTQI organizations, three each from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Philippines, and Thailand, for a two-year period – with APCOM acting as the “intermediary”. Five of these sub-grants will be for women-led LGBTQI organizations.

These sub-grants aim to respond to high-priority organizational challenges of the LGBTQI organizations in the region, including support for institutional and operational support, funding and capacity building.  Organizational diagnosis will inform the required technical assistance that the sub-grants would fund.

APCOM started as an HIV/AIDS regional advocacy organization working within the UN system and governments in Asia and the Pacific region and then it evolved to become more broadly focused on human rights issues for LGBTQI people. Can you talk with us about why APCOM decided to begin operating as an intermediary and what the value-add is of this role you play for LGBTQI organizations and movements in Asia?

We learned from our experience in the HIV sector, with over a decade of work we started in 2007 that we have to deal with the patriarchal system, structural issues, laws and policies to uplift the health, rights and wellbeing of LGBTQI people in our region.

In 2017 when APCOM turned 10 years old, we had a Rights, Resources & Resilience Asia Pacific Summit when we developed a new strategy and the Rights of LGBTQI became one of the main pillars of the new strategy (TENACITY).

At this important juncture, we also made an intentional decision as our added value as a regional organization to become an intermediary – to be an organization that can receive and channel more than just project-based funding to other LGBTQI groups in the region to respond to their needs, including for groups that are not registered.

There isn’t a mechanism like this in the Asia Pacific region – beyond the project-based sub0-granting. As APCOM already has plenty of experience with sub-granting, we can build on this knowledge and become a common good for the region. Covid-19 really did magnify the lack of such a mechanism in our region, and having to rely on mechanisms outside our region to do this.

Can you talk about the significance of this grant being one of the first examples of a donor government awarding a grant to an LGBTQI intermediary based in Asia versus to one based in the global north that funds in Asia?

APCOM is entering into a partnership directly with the Canadian Government – through Global Affairs Canada. This is BIG for us and for the region. Through the Canada fund, we in the Asia and the Pacific region are the first, and we are also LGBTQI-led.

We hope to build a long lasting partnership with Global Affairs Canada – and bring in LGBTQI partners from the region as well. This is an exciting development that we hope to also bring the voices of our partners to affect regional and global policy for the Government of Canada to support the resiliency and sustainable community-led actions to ensure equality for LGBTQI people.

This grant also gives legitimacy to APCOM, having gone through rigorous due diligence process that has satisfied the government system – and to have such a system based in the region ensures we can respond quicker to our communities, strengthening the relationships and footprint we already have in the region and now there is a mechanism based and run by LGBTQI organization in the region.

What is the journey APCOM is on to reach the full spectrum of the LGBTQI community and how do you see yourself engaging with feminist movements?

Midnight: Our organization is embarking on an exciting journey toward greater inclusivity and engagement with the LGBTQI community as well as the feminist movements. We were able to hire two dedicated staff members who specialize in human rights and gender equality thanks to Canada’s support. We are committed to taking a critical look at our organization and its operations, as well as working with our partners to develop policies and actions that promote gender equality. We are also working hard to reach out to more LGBTQI groups, as we recognize the importance of providing support and resources to all members of this vibrant community.

As Canada has an international Feminist Policy and has committed 15% of its bilateral international development assistance to advancing gender equality and improving the quality of life for women and girls across all action areas, and our GAC-supported gender-responsive project aims to strengthen Lesbian, Bisexual, Transwomen, and Intersex women or women-led LGBTQI organizations in five countries.

From your perspective, what does it take for bilateral funders to fund LGBTQI movements well?

The community has always been in the frontline, and their presence is ensuring that issues of LGBTQI is not forgotten, that our community is not forgotten.

Donors should look to invest in the resiliency and sustainability of the organization and intuitionalise it – rather than just a project-based relationship. Multi-year funding, and funding core costs that fully supports the overall functioning of an originations is what the community needs.

Funding should be flexible -based on the needs of the community, and that the reporting should not be too onerous to take away from the work of the organisation.

Bio of Nicky and FJS

Nicky McIntyre (she/her),
CEO Foundation for a Just Society (FJS)

My name is Nicky McIntyre, my pronouns are she and her, and I’m the CEO at the Foundation for a Just Society (FJS). 

FJS is a private family foundation based in New York City. We’ve been around for about 12 years. We support organizations and movements led by women, girls, and LGBTQI people most affected by injustice. We believe that women, girls, and LGBTQI people who experience injustice are best positioned to build and lead movements that bring about deep change. 

Our core work is grantmaking via flexible, general operating, multi-year grants. But we also provide targeted funding for accompaniment that contributes to organizational capacity strengthening of our grantee partners including for their communications and holistic safety and collective care, and we engage in philanthropic advocacy too. Philanthropic advocacy is funder organizing to influence, shift, and transform the funding landscape to bring about improvements in the quantity and quality of funding; in who and what gets funded; and how funding is managed, including how decisions are made.

Over the last decade or more, FJS has sought out and built close funding relationships with numerous intermediary funds and organizations in all the regions in which we provide resourcing. We did this given our location in NYC and our desired reach to the regions of South and Southeast Asia, Francophone West Africa, Mesoamerica, and the Southeast of the United States, as well as our global program; we did this given our commitment to reaching organizations led by marginalized and under-resourced communities (including LGBTQI communities); and we did this given the fact that we have a small team, relatively speaking, and a need to make grants that are middle or large in size. By working with intermediaries, we take advantage of their tremendous knowledge, expertise, and understanding of context, as well as their networks and deep local engagement. We prioritize self-led intermediaries. 

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