Applying for funding, part 1

In may 2011 we started to talk more concretely about Project of How.  Emelie and I met up many times that summer. Google docs and Skype was the tools we continuously worked with during the application phase. Google docs allowed us to work simeoltaniously on the text together sitting next to each other or having a parallel discussion on Skype. These two where valuable tools in shaping the project. (later I have also been a fan of having facebook groups for small project updates).
As we wrote the applications new questions and new ideas came up. It was a long process and the progress of shaping the text also developed the initial ideas and the vision regarding the project. In July we sent in the first application to Kulturbryggan. But we proceeded to write the other applications throughout the summer.

We had many ideas regarding funding options but mainly we decided to go for applying for government funds. The primarily reason for that was that we wanted to create an open independent platform without ownership that made us blindfolded or demanded commercialization of the open library we wanted to create.

 Over the past years I have been writing numerous applications and I would say there are a couple of common pitfalls that hinder you to get funding:
  1. The project is not good* enough.
  2. The project is unsuitable for the fund where you apply.
  3. The idea is not described in clear way in text (application), speech (presentation/pitch) or/and visual shape (graphic design of application/presentation or process descriptions).
  4. the funders don’t feel confident about that you could carry out the project in a good ways.
Checklist to avoid the common pitfalls:
  1. Develop the idea, develop again, and again! understand (what, how, when, where, who and why). Could you describe the project in one sentence?
  2. Check the goals for the fund. Is the project corresponding to the focus areas of the fund?
  3. Work hard on describing the project in a clear and good way. If you yourself understand your project idea it becomes much easier to write the application. (see my ideas about the seven starting points.
  4. Be good at describing and be sure to find out WHY you would be competent enough to carry the project out!
Creating a raw project description with the seven starting points!
After doing all this a sat down this winter and drawn down my ideas about the process. Something that have been key in shaping the project and the application has been the Starting points. To define the starting points are a bit like having raw material for creating an application for funds but it would also suit as a good point to create a business plan, a project plan or any presentation of the project. The starting point describe your project. And it answers ALL the journalistic questions (what, how, when, where, who and why)
I would build a raw description from seven starting points:
  1. Problem (what)
  2. Vision (what, why)
  3. Target group (who, why)
  4. Motivation (why?)
  5. Competences (what?)
  6. Partners (who, what, how?)
  7. Solution (where, how, what, who, when), this last one has to be built upon the other starting points!

This is an illustration that illustrates the Starting Points as a part of the process.

If i would shape a new project i would go trough these steps to be able to define the project.
Checklist to define the seven starting points, preferable in a workshop format:
  • Map up and understand the underlying problems (problem mapping)
  • Understand and map up the visions. What do you want to achieve?
  • Understand your drive and what motivates you in the project
  • Understand your competences and what you are good at, your role in the project (which skills you lack)
  • Map up the needs for partners or funding. (are you lacking skills or funding to be able to carry out the project?)
  • Who is the target group, do you understand them and what they want? Is the solution relevant to them does it solve their problems?
  • Explore Possible places methods and tools to carry out the project and go from problem to vision. This is the actual solution.
Ask yourself if the idea is the perfect solution, turning today’s problem into tomorrows vision.
If you can describe the idea in a clear manner that makes the idea easy to grasp your home! Can you describe the project in an oneliner?
 We decided to go for four different funding tracks.
Kulturbryggan (Swedish Ministry of Culture for innovative culture)
Innovativ Kultur (City of Stockholm’s fund for new thinking culture)
Youth in Action via Ungdomsstyrelsen.
More advice to come in part 2.
Ola Möller
Co-founder of Project of How
Working at Idea Society