A locally-led model of community development, and a new way to fund Palestinian creativity.
What is Rawa?
Rooted in collective community decision-making, Rawa is a funding and support model that aims to raise hope, build trust and dignity, and promote successful alternative local solutions generated by Palestinian communities.
In an initial three-year pilot (2019-2021), Rawa’s model entrusts local people to set funding priorities and allocate resources for innovative community development. In moments of political urgency, grassroots groups are the first to lead community mobilization, but are too often at the margins of philanthropy. Rawa brings progressive Palestinian community voices to the international philanthropy table, while at the same time working to fix a broken funding model.
Working in (and between) local grassroots activism and international philanthropy, Rawa aims to incite new thinking on how best to foster organic, effective, and community-determined resource allocation and social investment. Leveraging and amplifying the impact of international philanthropy and community groups, Rawa fuels civic engagement, funds creative solutions, and raises social capital among communities and grassroots organizations across Palestine.
To date, hundreds of people have come together to shape this unique initiative with their time, expertise, advice, ideas, vision, and solidarity.
In October, 2014, two dozen philanthropy and development professionals from Palestine, Europe, and the US attended a convening in New York to discuss the need for the initiative and its initial parameters, establishing a working group to help steer activities and progress. The results were overwhelmingly supportive and productive, creating a mandate for a radically inclusive and open fund that values and mobilizes Palestinian creativity. Read the report.
In the spring of 2015, Rawa held consultations in Jerusalem, Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, Gaza, Nazareth, and Ramallah with several dozen Palestinian community leaders and activists. Over 60 individuals working closely with communities on the ground spent a day in reflection about urgent and ongoing needs, funding experiences, and their desire for a new platform of support for their work. We explored the potential of grantmaking as a creative and developmental process with the potential to devolve power and resources to local leadership and often ignored initiatives, and examined various models of resource distribution that might be suitable for Rawa to adopt. Meetings were convened with the technical and hosting support of A.M. Qattan Foundation, NGO Development Center, Dalia Association, YWCA, Al Feniq, Aida Youth Center, Al Maamal Foundation and the Arab Academic Union. An additional 50 local activists and community leaders were interviewed by the Coordination team. Read the report.
Throughout 2015 and 2016, Rawa facilitated meetings with recruited community participants based in Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza, and ‘48, establishing a strong network and foundation for a series of workshops and retreats and forming Rawa’s first Community Clusters—the heart of this novel participatory funding model. We also participated in working groups and conferences in Europe and the US to learn from and contribute to a growing movement from the grassroots to large philanthropies increasingly exploring and championing participatory grant making.
In 2016 Rawa commissioned a feasibilty report, produced by Nancy Smith, to assess the general financial viability of the Fund and inform the early decision-making process in the Fund’s development stage. The scan was based on desk research as well as comprehensive interviews with 24 philanthropy and program experts from North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Rawa’s planning and exploration period has been supported in part by Rockefeller Brothers Fund, The Open Society Foundations, The Middle East Children’s Alliance (our fiscal sponsor), Global Fund for Community Foundations, Al-Maamal Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.
Why Rawa Now?
Today more than ever, it is critical to support the community-based and civil society groups that form the bedrock of Palestinian society.
Since the 1990s, an influx of international aid in Palestine has largely prioritized emergency and humanitarian relief, creating aid dependency. At the same time, increasingly bureaucratic and measurement-driven processes have shifted resources away from alternative, community-owned solutions to the problems caused by decades of occupation and structural discrimination. Foundation resources allocated to Palestine have shrunk, particularly as other regional priorities have intensified, and donor fatigue has worsened in the face of a seemingly intractable situation on the ground.
Grassroots groups—the traditional pillars of Palestinian society—risk losing the tenuous ground they currently have; if they are to survive, they need urgent, simple, flexible support to move toward self-determination and steadfastness at the local level. Since international aid has largely blocked creative problem-solving at the local collective level, Rawa, along with a growing movement in philanthropy and amongst communities concerned about aid models, believes it is time to try a new approach.
Toward a vibrant, self-determined, self-sustaining, and open Palestinian society.
Vision and Values
Rawa’s participatory funding model supports creative Palestinian community development and inspires a new culture of international aid and local resource mobilization.
An expansive and diverse network fuels Rawa’s intensely participatory and community-based model.
Who We Are
Rawa was initiated by a group of independent community development and social justice philanthropy professionals with decades of experience in Palestinian civil society development. It was developed into a working pilot model through consultation with dozens of local community-based leaders, activists, NGO staff members, and others on the ground in diverse parts of Palestine. The initiative has garnered a network of friends, colleagues and advisors in Palestine, Europe, and the US who have been providing advice, assistance, and leadership.
Today, Rawa maintains a transparent management and governance structure:
To learn more about our current Team, Advisory Committee, Community Cluster members, Fiscal Sponsors, and Friends, see our Network page.
Rawa’s funding policy guidelines ensure we remain true to our mission, including targets for funding diversity (no more than 25% of our annual budget should come from one donor, and annual individual donations are capped at $35,000 per individual) and political and ethical concerns (we will not accept funding that comes with political pressure or undermines Palestinian rights).
Budget and Financials
After several years of groundwork that started in 2014, in 2019 Rawa launched its community-led alternative to traditional donor aid, with grants & support for creative, grassroots development projects across Palestine. Over time, we built a dedicated and well-networked team that is passionate about participatory grantmaking as a tool to support Palestinian society. Our team positions are part-time, and much of the work behind Rawa has been done as a labor of love and with a spirit of volunteerism amongst people collaborating across divisions and silos created by the post-Oslo development paradigm and despite Israeli occupation, siege, violence, and discrimination.
Although the challenges to mobilizing resources for Palestinian grassroots- led community development are great, we have been incrementally growing with the support of our institutional and individual partners and supporters. Learn more about our financial and organizational journey below (click the graphic for option to zoom in and/or download).
Rawa thanks the following generous donors for current and/or past support:
Global Fund for Community Foundations
Golden Rule Foundation
Institute of International Education
Middle East Children’s Alliance
Open Society Foundation
Rockefeller Brothers Fund