In 2021 our Trustees approved a three-year pilot grants initiative to focus on supporting the personal and professional development of Black people in Chicago who demonstrate a commitment to nature and/or the environment. This initiative was aligned with the recommendations of our racial equity consultants ThirdSpace Action Lab (TSAL) to get more proximate to the communities Prince seeks to support and to involve Black and Brown residents in decision making. The work of the Small Grants Initiative (renamed The Aya Initiative by the group) entailed identifying and convening an advisory group of seven community stakeholders who met monthly from September 2021 to March 2022. Senior Program Officer Mignon Stewart served as the eighth member of the advisory group and Consuella Brown served as consultant and facilitator.
This was a highly participatory process. The advisory group, which renamed itself the Aya Wisdom Council, identified the principal goals of this grantmaking program and wrote a request for proposals (RFP) that centered around four specific program areas (healing the village, strengthening the village, amplifying village voices, and fostering village creativity and imagination). It also settled on a grant range of $2,500 to $7,500 and the geographic focus area of Chicago, and decided to fund Black-led and Black serving organizations. The first Aya RFP was released in February 2022.
On March 16, 2022, the eight members of the Aya Wisdom Council reviewed twenty-six responses to the Aya RFP and reached a unanimous consensus on twelve recommendations totaling $75,000 which were accepted at Prince’s April Trustee meeting.
In 2023, a new Council was convened consisting of new and returning members. They completed a similar process to that followed in year one and recommended eleven grants totaling $75,000, all of which were approved at Prince’s April 2023 board meeting.