We will be offering grants of £5,000 to build power and take collective action on mental health and racial justice within an abolitionist framework.  

Collectively we hope to dream, build and practice being in the world we need for our liberation from carceral structures of care. 

Synergi’s fund will work to support grassroots campaigning at the intersection between abolition, mental health and racial justice. 

We see how the work in this space, which is grounded in the lived experiences of people and communities, will often bridge traditional policy silos that tend to focus on reforming the Mental Health Act. Grassroots campaigns are addressing a range of issues, such as securitisation and Islamophobia within the Prevent programme, immigration detention and the hostile environment, the criminalisation of distress, surveillance and mental health data, or the gatekeeping of mental health services based on migration status. 

We see Democratising Policy, as the recognition that policy work is everything the community does, even if it is not recognised as such. Moreover, the work done at community level is being used, without financial compensation, by State institutions, larger charities, and donors to create policies based on research that is not co-produced nor is it for the community it proports to serve. We see the tension between hypervisibility and invisibility, which can either result in problems of representation and homogeneity or being remarginalised again and the lived experience not having any real value to those who co-opt it. These systems of power and normative practices dilute our voices, instead of uniting them, or legitimising them.​  

We know this work does not usually see itself as policy work, it is not viewed in that way, and is under-resourced and under-valued. It is also the campaigning work which has energy.​ This work needs to be resourced, connected, and amplified. This work needs care and needs to be trauma informed not trauma led. 

As part of this work, we are seeking to shift resources to collectives who work at the intersection of racial justice, mental health, and abolition.   

This round of funding is open to groups led by and for those racialised as Black and as people of colour, with lived experience of mental ill-health, distress, or trauma.

The Purpose of the Fund

  1. The fund exists to support communities who are racialised and have been harmed by the mental health system, incarceration, policing, prisons, psychiatry, and forensic settings and/or the immigration system. 

We hope to support community and collective power and advance abolitionist action led by grassroots groups working towards transforming carceral systems that harm communities who are racialised as well as those groups who are building community-based alternatives to care.  
 

  1. We want this funding to reach those communities experiencing the most extreme forms of discrimination or injustice, including state violence, incarceration and detention. This might include, for example, anti-Blackness, the hostile environment, anti-trans legislation or policies, Prevent or harms caused to Disabled People. 

  1. We recognise that people who are racialised as Black or as people of colour, are not a monolith, and based on individual positionality and geographic location will experience racism in different ways.  
     
    We know from the data that anti-Blackness is particularly prevalent within the mental health system and as a result we are radically inviting in groups led by communities who are racialised as Black and will ringfence 50% of the funding for these groups. 

  1. We also want to counter the historic underfunding of this work. We know that groups with a high income, and those that are registered with the Charity Commission, find it easier to attract grant funding. Therefore, our fund is also open to Unregistered Groups (by which we mean groups that are not formally registered with Companies House or the Charity Commission). However, groups must have a yearly income of under £50k to be eligible to apply.  
     
  1. We hope to help cultivate solidarity and build coalitions across the movement by supporting groups working together to resist and challenge harmful and oppressive systems. We will be awarding grants to groups that are engaging with an abolitionist framework, working towards transformative change over and alternatives to standard ‘service delivery’. 

Eligibility criteria 

To be eligible to apply for funding you must meet all of the following criteria: 

  1. Your group will be based in England. 

  1. Your group will be led by people racialised as Black or PoC that are based in England and who live with mental ill-health, trauma (including racial trauma), and distress.  

  1. Your group will benefit people, service users/survivors and communities who have been impacted by, or work on, one or more of the following areas: 

  1. Your group engages in abolitionist activity: 

  1. Your group is interested in coalition building across the grassroots racial justice and mental health and or disability movement. 

  1. Your group has a yearly income of under £50k.   

Groups which have some white members and/or members without experience of mental ill-health are still eligible, provided those members are neither the main decision-makers nor the main people who benefit. 

We want this funding to reach those communities experiencing the most extreme forms of discrimination or injustice, including state violence. This might include, for example, the hostile environment, anti-trans legislation or policies, or Prevent. We want this funding to help you build community, and to resist and challenge. We want to counter the historic underfunding of this work.  


In this context, we encourage applications from: 

Examples of what we can fund: 

We have listed below some examples of what can be funded, this is only an indication and not an exhaustive list. 

Groups focusing on campaigning, such as direct action. This could include protest, work to create change on a local or national level, sharing information and skills such as community organising training, or creating resources for members of your community to better advocate for themselves. This could also include relevant research. We are aware there is less grant funding available for campaigning work, and so we encourage groups to use the fund’s flexibility in this area. 

Experimentation and dreaming – we recognise that one of the ways in which colonisation and white supremacy operate is by limiting and attacking our imaginations. By keeping us in survival mode, we are denied the time to reclaim old and dream up new ways of doing things. We want this funding to support doing things differently, this might look like time for visioning, piloting new ideas and sometimes learning from the stormy times / our “failures”. 

Organisational development – this could include training and development, tech subscriptions or equipment, reflective practice or coaching, or business planning. Anything needed to help you increase the resilience and sustainability of your group.  

Costs to deliver your support and activities – this could include staff or freelance costs, rent for space or room hire, materials for your activities (art supplies etc.), equipment, and volunteer and group member expenses. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and you may have other needs! 

Innovative ideas for coalition and movement building engaging a broad cross-section of grassroots communities and activists who are racialised to mobilise and amplify organising at the intersection of racial justice and mental health.  This could include anything from skill sharing, connecting with, and unarchiving movement history, to collaborative joint actions.  

 For example, you might be: 


We cannot fund: 


How to apply: 

You can begin the application process via our online eligibility form here. Applications to this fund will be closed at 5pm on 30 May 2024. You are also be able to download the form as a Word document here and send the completed document to synergi.grants@nsun.org.uk.

If you’re not able to fill out the form, we can arrange a phone call with you to fill it out with you. If English is not your first language and you would like to have an interpreter, we may be able to pay their costs. Please email  synergi.grants@nsun.org.uk or call us at 020 7820 8982 for help. 

After you have applied: 

  1. Longlisting – we will review your eligibility form to see whether your group and proposal meets the eligible criteria and a good fit with what we are trying to fund. If it is, we will send you a link to complete a full application. Some of the information need for the full application can be transferred from the eligibility form. 
  1. Checks and shortlisting – your full application will be reviewed to check we have everything we need. If it is missing anything we may send it back and ask for more information and/or we may arrange a short call to hear more about your work and the difference the funding will make. If you don’t receive a call don’t worry it just means that we have all the information we need. Following this process, all applications we think are a good fit with what we are trying to fund will be shortlisted and seen by our decision-making panel. You will find out whether your application will be seen by our panel before the end of July.  
  1. Decision making panel – your application will be seen by our decision-making panel (see ‘How we make decisions’ below for more information). We will let you know if you have been successful or not by mid-Aug. If you have been successful, you will be sent a grant offer letter outlining the terms and conditions of the grant to sign and return.  
  1. Project start – once your offer letter and supporting documentation has been returned, we will get our funding to you as soon as possible so you can start spending it! The offer letter will also include expectations about group attendance for coalition building. We will contact you at the midpoint of the grant and again towards the end of the grant to hear about the impact of the grant and what you have learnt. 
  1. Groups will be expected to attend quarterly sessions to share learning around how we can build collective power and transform systems of power. At the end of the year these learnings will form part of our Remembrance as Resistance work stream. 

How we make decisions 

Questions we ask ourselves: 

Below are some questions we will ask ourselves as we review your application. There isn’t a scoring system, and these questions are meant to guide discussion rather than be strict criteria.  

  1. Is the group led by the people or communities it is working alongside? 
  1. Does this proposal strongly benefit people who are racialised as Black and or as people of colour who live with mental ill-health, trauma, and distress? 
  1. Does this proposal match any of the priority groups we encouraged to apply?  
  1. How significant and achievable is the impact of the proposal? 
  1. Is there anyone else funding this work? 
  1. Does it challenge us and open up wider opportunities for learning?  

Who is involved? 

The grant making panel will meet in early August to consider applications shortlisted by the Synergi grant team. Members of the panel will be people who are racialised with relevant lived experience. You can read more about the panel here.

The grants team will initially shortlist applications as we are expecting significantly more applications than we can fund, and our panel does not have the capacity to read and assess every application.  


FAQ’s  

Language  

We recognise that not all people and groups will be familiar with, or will use the word ‘abolition’, however, we use this word purposefully to mean dismantling harmful practices found in UK mainstream mental health systems. There are a significant proportion of people who experience mental health care as coercive and carceral, especially those who are racialised due to their background. 

We use the term ‘carceral systems’ to mean state systems within society that control and punish individuals and communities, contributing to mental ill health, distress, and trauma. This can include psychiatric hospitals, the wider health system, prisons, policing, national borders, Prevent, surveillance, and the education system. 

We are not limiting our understanding of the different types of sectioning that are associated with being kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983. Rather we see this as a broader term that encompasses the experiences of those who forensic settings will be associated with those also in contact with the Criminal Justice System (CJS) i.e. following court proceedings and will be associated with a ‘need to keep the public at large safe’.  

We mean here movement building and there is a long tradition of civil rights campaigning and organising within marginalised communities. We see this with Mad Pride, Black Lives Matter, and LGBTQIA+ Pride  (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, or asexual). We are not reinventing the wheel, but continuing the legacy of the survivors, activists and community workers that laid foundations for us to build on 

Synergi’s work, like all abolitionist work, involves ‘reimagining‘. We use this word to signal the need to experiment with new structures of care and support. We need to build alternatives to traditional systems so that communities and individuals living with mental ill health, distress and trauma, can experience hope and healing, justice and joy. 

The problem of language is abundantly apparent when using words around race. Different people and communities will use different words to talk about their identities, and there is no one word or phrase which will capture everyone’s experience.  

We use language such as ‘racialised people’ to highlight that people are categorised into races; and have been othered and marginalised by white supremacy. Race is a social construction without genetic or biological background; however, race has a far reaching and real impact. 

We sometimes use the term ‘global majority’ to highlight that there are more black and brown people in the world than white, to reframe this linguistically without centring whiteness. 

Sometimes we use the acronym ‘BPOC’ to mean ‘Black and People of Colour’ and will link to references that use ‘BAME’ meaning ‘Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic’, ‘BME’ Black Minority Ethnic, or ‘ethnic minorities’. However we know that some people experience this framing as unhelpful, as different communities experience racism and discrimination in different ways. 

There is a tendency to limit and locate disability to the body and that it is permanent and visible. Being ‘able bodied’ is a current state as everyone will experience a form of disability that may or not be visible. For example, the natural aging process, illness, disease or an accident can impact our minds and body. Disability justice seeks to broaden an understanding of how we view disability to include how mental ill-health, distress and trauma is debilitating but also what we see as the ‘normal’ mind and or body. Disability justice means a refocus on inclusion rather than exclusion and that abolition is not just about the naming the violence caused by the carceral and mental health institution but creating the world we want for our liberation which includes all forms of violence. 

Criteria  

We know that this work has and is under resources, invisible and communities racialised as Black, are significantly impacted and experience negative interaction with carceral systems. 

We know from the data that anti-Blackness is particularly prevalent within the mental health system and as a result we will ringfence 50% of the funding for groups led by and for communities racialised as Black.

 

The work being done at the local level has a long history and is able to meet the needs of the community because the work with rather than against those who experience marginalisation.  

Where more mainstream policy work in this space might focus more on detentions under the Mental Health Act, grassroots campaigns, grounded in the lived experience of people and communities, will often bridge traditional policy silos.​ 

We feel it is important to build solidarity within and between groups who may be working on similar issues but are not connected due to living in areas of the UK where there is a low population of racialised groups. We do not live single issues lives and capitalist and neoliberal structures are built to support individuality rather than collective power and we recognise the importance of being in solidarity with other communities who are racialised, including but not limited to disabled people, queer and trans people, religious communities, people with experience of the immigration and asylum system and working-class communities. 

No – you can also apply for your running costs. 

We mean groups that aren’t established as a registered charity or company. This can include:  

Can we apply as a collective of groups / organisations?  

We would welcome an application like this, please just make it clear on the application form who the lead contact is and who will hold the funds if your application is successful. If this is the first time you are collaborating, we encourage you to think about how you might work together and to reach out to us if we can support you in this.   

Yes but your income must be under 50K  

Yes, if you meet the eligibility criteria, and the grant is not directly to fund the practice of religion or activities that promote a particular religion. 

This fund is only open to groups working in England, as that is where NSUN carries out its work. However, as many groups are now online, we understand that some group members may be based in other nations, and that is fine. Please contact us at synergi.grants@nsun.org.uk if you have any questions about this. 

We would really welcome your application. Follow the guidance and let us know about your work and why this money would help, in your own words. If you need help, feel free to contact us at: synergi.grants@nsun.org.uk 

We’ve previously been funded by NSUN. Can we still apply? 

Yes, you can still apply for funding even if you have previously been funded by NSUN, and you will be at no disadvantage when we are assessing applications. However, if you received funding from Synergi round 1 and did not comply with Grant terms and condition then you may not be eligible for funding from round 2.


Process: pre applications  

The easiest way to apply is the online form, which will be linked above (and can be accessed from the 1st May). You will also be able to download the form as a Word document and send the completed document to synergi.grants@nsun.org.uk  

If you’re not able to fill out the form, we can arrange a phone call with you to fill it out with you. If English is not your first language and you would like to have an interpreter, we may be able to pay their costs. Please email synergi.grants@nsun.org.uk 

You can apply for up to £5000. In the application form we will ask you to give a brief breakdown of how you intend to spend the money.  

All groups will be informed of a final decision by mid-August at the latest, with funding received by the first week in September. 

No, you won’t have to provide any personal details about anyone you work with. We will just need the name of one person within your group on the application. At the end of the funding period, we will schedule a call to discuss how the funding process felt for you, and how it supported your work. This is for our learning, as we will be running a grants programme once per year. You will not need to provide any personal details in this process either. If you have any questions or concerns, we are happy to work with you to ensure you feel confident and comfortable with how we handle your information.  

All of Synergi’s work, including these grants programmes, is funded solely by Lankelly Chase Foundation. We have not and will not accept funding under Prevent or from the Home Office.  

The Synergi grant team will initially shortlist applications as we are expecting significantly more applications than we can fund, and our panel does not have the capacity to read and assess every application. Following this, the grant making panel will meet in early August and will decide which applications are successful. All members of the panel will be racialised people with relevant lived experience.    

If you are successful, you will be sent a grant offer letter for you to read through, sign and send back. Once this has been processed, we will release your payment and then you will have 11 months to spend this. Around 6 months into the grant, we will contact you to see if you are having any issues. At the end of the grant, we will arrange a phone call to discuss the impact of the grant, what you have learnt, and if you’ve spent all the funding. 

You will receive email confirmation. Capacity is limited and we are expecting a lot of applications and so unfortunately feedback may not be detailed. However, we will do our best to explain the reasons why you have been unsuccessful. 

Process: post applications  

You will receive grant funding within a single grant payment at the start of the project. This will be sent to your chosen bank account. If you do not have a bank account, then we will discuss together the best way of getting funds to you. This may be through a preloaded card with your funding on it or paying invoices on behalf of your group. If your bank account is in an individual’s name and not in the name of your group, we may also decide to administer funds in these ways too. 

We will not ask for any written information, except for confirmation of your final spend, unless you want to provide this. We will arrange a phone a midpoint and a call at the end of the grant to discuss the impact of the grant and what you have learnt, and so you may decide to record certain information during the grant if you want to share this with us. We may invite you to contribute in a paid capacity to blog posts, vlogs, podcasts or reports, but there are no obligations to do this. 

Once you have provided your bank details, you will receive funding within one month.  

All funding must be spent within 11 months.  

We understand this is a possibility as circumstances can change. If the overall impact of what you want to do still fits within the priorities of the funding, then this should be fine. If your plans change get in touch with us at synergi.grants@nsun.org.uk  


Other 

You can make a complaint by email or letter. https://www.nsun.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/nsuncomplaintspolicy.docx