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Skoll, Ford, and BRITDOC Launch Flex Fund to Expand Impact of Storytelling

April 14, 2016

By Sandy Herz

Every social entrepreneur dreams of telling the perfect story, the one that inspires not just people who see the potential of their vision, but also those so deeply entrenched in the status quo that they can’t imagine other possibilities.

At Skoll, storytelling has been an important part of our work since the foundation was established. We have developed partnerships with some of the world’s most compelling media and storytelling organizations to drive awareness, engage stakeholders, and move the needle on key issues. But this is the first time we’ve partnered directly with another foundation to align our strategies for funding storytelling and achieving our intended impact. It’s about time.

Skoll and Ford Foundation | JustFilms are working with the BRITDOC Foundation to launch the Flex Fund, a new film fund that offers second-stage funding for joint projects by social entrepreneurs and filmmakers.

The fund is open to projects that are well positioned to further, widen, or deepen their impact, and projects that propose to explore new arenas of experimentation informed by rigorous data and evidence. The first funding round will be focused on Skoll and Ford’s common grantees, with the goal of giving promising storytelling projects a boost to the next level of impact.

Why do we need the Flex Fund? Storytelling for impact remains more art than science, with expertise fragmented across a small number of funders, artists, and impact producers. Like many in the not-for-profit world, filmmakers often must assemble a mosaic of funding from different sources, each with their own agenda and expectations. Knitting these together into a coherent whole is difficult enough. Actually leveraging the story and effecting change in the world is hardly a foregone conclusion.

But what if we could experiment with alignment, and do so with some of the smartest visual storytellers? Create a portfolio of promising storytelling projects, partnered with some of the most effective social entrepreneurs in the world, and give them not only funding but also access to the knowledge, experience, and contacts they need. What if we built on existing efforts, like Sundance Stories of Change, rather than competing with them? This is the promise of the Flex Fund.

For now, the Flex Fund is a pilot project that expects to make four to five grants in its first year, each ranging from $25,000 to $75,000. Ford and Skoll are funding the project equally. BRITDOC will bring its remarkable acumen and network to bear, providing direct management of the portfolio in consultation with Skoll and Ford.

Through JustFilms, the creative visual storytelling initiative led by Cara Mertes, Ford will offer deep knowledge of storytelling and impact, along with insights from its extensive global team. And Skoll will contribute expertise on catalyzing large-scale social change, bolstered by our portfolio of Skoll Awardees and deep commitment to storytelling.

The Flex Fund is an experiment in alignment, risk-taking, and stakeholder collaboration. The potential pay-off—in the form of social change—is high. While these first few grants may be baby steps, we believe they point to the potential for funder collaboration to chip away at inefficiencies in financing storytelling projects and shed light on what works—and what doesn’t—in storytelling for impact.

The Flex Fund has invited eligible grantees to apply for funding—there is no unsolicited application process at this stage. Skoll, Ford, and BRITDOC will post updates on the fund as it evolves. 

Banner photo: VFS

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