Latin America is experiencing an unprecedented rise in youth-led grassroots activism — across the region, activists are noisily challenging the world they’ve inherited, and demanding that things should work differently.
These activists are natives of today’s connected world, and have a greater infrastructure to create change than the generations before them. Despite this, the potential of these activists remains limited; mostly due to lack of funds to support their work. Whilst grants for activists are available, the digital platforms used to apply for them are not youth-friendly — they are often jargon-heavy, bureaucratic, and near-impossible to navigate without the support of a more experienced mentor.
Our brief was to create a platform that can facilitate discovery and access to relevant funding opportunities, while fostering collective action amongst youth activists to tackle the world’s most challenging issues.
In order to fully understand the needs and challenges activists face in securing funds, our team travelled to Latin America to conduct two design Sprints; the first in Sao Luis, Brazil, the second in Guatemala City and Jalapa, Guatemala. Working directly with activists, youth workers, and subject-matter experts; facilitating collaborative workshops and user interviews to better understand the lived experience of activists in this region, we learnt about the following challenges:
- Lack of trust - youth activists described experiences of being involved in applications for funding in collaboration with larger NGOs where they had been shunned by the NGOs when the funding came through.
- Fear of judgement / backlash - youth activists are at risk of persecution for their race, gender, sexuality, beliefs or way of life.
- Low internet connection, unreliable access to electricity and internet, access to data credit and digital literacy.
- Political restrictions around activism, and lack of access to safe resources and information knowledge building
The product: Equality Accelerator
The result is a new digital platform called Equality Accelerator, a trilingual platform, operating in English, Spanish, and Portuguese which brings together funding, resources, and networking opportunities under one roof.
Using the platform, activists can search, filter, and discover the opportunities that are relevant to them — reviewing details, eligibility criteria, and information about how to apply for each. This process is designed to be accessible to all activists, no matter their level of digital literacy, experience applying for funding, or environmental circumstances (e.g. intermittent internet connectivity). Equality Accelerator houses a wealth of learning materials and resources for activists — capacity building them across key subject matter areas such as crowdfunding, resource mobilisation, and defence of rights.
The platform also hosts Plan International’s own flexible fund, which has been designed to provide democratised access to funding for youth activists from all backgrounds, with specific focus on ensuring that groups whose activism focuses on the rights of Indigenious girls and women, the LGBTQI+ community, and other marginalised groups are funded. Groups are able to submit their applications directly via the platform, with a voting functionality open to all users of Equality Accelerator, ensuring that the youth can direct funding to the causes that matter most to them.
As well as funding, Equality Accelerator builds communities that collectively tackle the world’s most challenging issues. The platform’s community is a space for activist groups to raise their profile, and network. Like-minded activists can strengthen relationships by stating ‘What they can offer’, or ‘What they are looking for’.
The platform — Equality Accelerator — was recognised as one of Spindle’s ‘30 Most Inspiring Digital Innovations’. It is live in both Brazil and Guatemala, and is being used by activists to access funding, resources, and partnerships. Our work with Plan International is ongoing, with immediate plans to scale the platform into further geographies.
100% of young activists surveyed would use Equality Accelerator for their activism and 75% said Equality Accelerator was easy to use. 90% of surveyed fund applicants agree that the application process is easier and faster than alternatives.
Equality Accelerator has enabled Plan International to achieve their goal of breaking down barriers for activists, particularly those that are unregistered, under 18, and led by minority groups.
“I believe that the more people discover the importance and functionality of the platform, the closer we will be the dream of equality.”
Young Brazilian activist
“It is an organized site that contains several opportunities, making it infinitely easier to search for collective financing.”
Young Brazilian activist
“It is a wonderful tool since it is adapted to our needs and it is a very innovative way to manage funds virtually.”
Young Guatemalan activist
The next stage of the project is to amplify change by increasing the scope of the funding provided to youth-led groups, providing long-term sustainable funding, strengthening the community network of activists, and delivering more innovative resources to activists in Brazil and Guatemala. Due to strong interest from other regions, EA will also scale in 2021 to reach activists in West and Central Africa, Germany and to launch a global fund with funder Purposeful as part of the historic Generation Equality process.
Special thanks to Plan International, and all of the activists involved in this process.
Plan’s Equality Accelerator can be found here.