Support Capacity Building and Capital Investment
As noted above, community-based archives are typically small and/or informal organizations, so capacity building initiatives will go a long way in helping them become sustainable. These initiatives could include grant-writing assistance, management workshops, legal assistance, fiscal sponsorship, or many other possibilities that could be facilitated by local or interest area organizations. Secondly, one common theme with community-based archives that have sustained themselves is the fact that they own their buildings. These buildings might have been gifted or purchased but it often means that the inhabitants can stay even while a local area may be changing around them, and thus, they keep the history of a place and people alive despite displacement or gentrification. Therefore, capital investment could be a critical tool for the true longevity and self-sufficiency of community-based archives.
Require Equitable Partnerships in Funded Collaborative Projects
When developing grant program guidelines or reviewing proposals where community-based archives are included as partners, funders should ensure that the archive is treated equitably in terms of labor and compensation. For example, funders can require that the community-based archive be responsible for a certain percentage of the work of the project and that the archive also be allocated a representative amount of the funding for that work. Just as funders require diversity statements from grantees, they can also require a statement of equity that describes specifically how labor and funding will be equitably allocated on the project. It should raise red flags for funders when reviewing grant proposals where the majority of the funding in a collaborative project goes to the academic library partner and the intellectual, emotional, and physical labor is being carried out by the community-based archive. Funders can also flag collaborative projects where the work to be undertaken seems extractive of the collections, intellectual assets, or networks of the community-based archive. These checks can help to ensure that funders do not continue to support projects that can be harmful to community-based archives.
Promote Community Compensation
Community-based archives often hold some of the only links to the past for specific people, places, or groups. There is a value inherent to these holdings and the human networks that have created them. Partnering organizations often profess to provide help to community-based archives in gathering stories or collections, but seldom put a financial value to those stories and collections. Often a researcher or scholar will be paid to “help” gather the stories for a collection, but the contributor will not receive compensation. Unpaid labor is an issue that must be addressed on a wide scale–and we need to begin by acknowledging that community input in cultural projects is often unpaid work.1 New models for community financial compensation need to be explored and supported at all levels, from partnership design to funding.
Adopt Inclusive Funding Practices
Funders should adopt guidelines and develop new practices for their grantmaking that do not act as barriers to community-based archives and other small cultural organizations participating in the process. Several community-based archives at Architecting Sustainable Futures mentioned how the current funding practices, specifically those around eligibility requirements, the application process, grants management, and reporting, are often barriers for them. Small organizations that primarily function on the labor of volunteers view current practices as unrealistic for the communities they represent. Grant guidelines should reflect that the funder is aware that the cultural heritage field is broad and diverse and that grants are one way that resources can be more evenly distributed across organizations. Because of staffing and financial issues, some community-based archives simply cannot contribute the large number of hours it would take to apply for and administer a grant on their own based current funder practices.
One way to ensure grant guidelines are more inclusive of a diverse range of organizations is for funders to invite community-based archives practitioners to help develop grant program guidelines and to sit on grant review panels. Traditionally, those roles go to professionals working in large government and academic cultural heritage organizations, and that practice has led to the grant programs being designed to mostly benefit those types of cultural heritage spaces. Another way funders can practice inclusivity in their grantmaking practices is to acknowledge that the field is broader than the traditional organizations they typically work with and to actively engage with smaller organizations like community-based archives. Architecting Sustainable Futures was a great example of how that engagement can take place.