Nothing about us without us. This declaration has become a rallying cry for the disability rights movement.

It could just as well be a call to arms for participatory grantmaking — the practice of giving more power over philanthropic spending to the people that it is supposed to help.

Has the time come for participatory grantmaking? It seems so. That question is the title of an excellent report commissioned by the Ford Foundation and written by Cynthia Gibson, a consultant and practitioner of participatory approaches. Gibson will follow up with a how-to guide on participatory grantmaking that GrantCraft, a unit of the Foundation Center, plans to release next year.

Participatory grantmaking fits this political moment: It reflects a populist distrust of elites and experts that, among other things, fueled the Trump and Sanders campaigns, as well as Brexit, anti-intellectualism, the idea of “fake news,” and the like.

It seems probable that participatory grantmaking is not only the right thing to do but the smart thing to do. That said, it’s not easy to do. Questions abound: Precisely who gets to participate? What does “participate” mean, in practice? If grantees get to divvy up pools of money, how can funders guard against log-rolling or conflicts of interest? It’s all too easy to imagine participatory grantmakers getting bogged down in process.

Read the full article by Marc Gunther about participatory grantmaking from Nonprofit Chronicles