Fenomenal Funds is a feminist funder collaborative using a shared governance model and participatory grantmaking to support the resilience of women’s funds who are members of the Prospera International Network of Women’s Funds.

Collaboration Lab - Refine
Refine - Fenomenal Funds

“Knowing will be more valid—richer, deeper, more true to life and more useful if…our knowing is grounded in our experience, expressed through our art, understood through theories which make sense to us, and expressed in worthwhile action in our lives.”

— Peter Reason, “A Laypersons’ guide to cooperative inquiry,” University of Bath, 1998


Women’s funds came out of the Define phase triumphant about the visions they had created, but also exhausted by the demands of the process. So they needed time to take a break and tend to all the other demands of their funds.

During that period of rest, the Advisory Committee had to do its part—review the 13 plans, consider what excited them, what intrigued them, and if there were opportunities for connections across collaborations. They also identified potential areas of risk—ambitious plans; the need for additional support; budgeting for translation; and the opportunity to learn from another women’s fund in the network that had been doing work on that topic or theme. Their review surfaced the collective wisdom that emerged from this process. 

The Advisory Committee shared their reflections as offerings to women’s funds collaboratives. Each group had the self-determination to decide how and if they would engage the offering from the Advisory Committee. What was clear was that they valued the work that the Advisory Committee had put in to review those proposals and offer their insights.

In giving each group the autonomy to decide if and when they would engage the offerings from the Advisory Committee, we respected and honored their self-determination as well as wisdom. Some groups used the offerings to refine their plans. Others acknowledged that the offerings from the Advisory Committee aligned with areas of work they still planned to do. They decided to do it as part of the launch of their collaboration. Some groups declared their plan from the Define phase as their final plan, while others submitted revisions to their plan or budget.

Nine months after it began, the Collaboration Lab process ended with a joint meeting of the Steering Committee and the Advisory Committee to explore insights from the process, as well as highlights of the proposed collaborations. During the discussion the group debated whether it was more important to allow adequate time for women’s funds to connect or to get the money to women’s funds as quickly as possible. Both visions have merit. A middle ground, perhaps, would have been to resource women’s funds for their participation in the process, which responded to their needs.

We learned much from the process. We value those lessons and we celebrate the 13 amazing collaboratives that emerged. We are excited to see what wisdom emerges from the collaboratives over the next year!

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