Diana Barrett, The Fledgling Fund

TITLE: Founder & President

FUNDING AREAS: Film, documentaries, "creative media projects"

CONTACTdiana.barrett@thefledglingfund.org, (212) 242-1680

IP TAKE: Barrett is a strong, committed leader with a solid business background that informs the way she approaches how The Fledgling Fund supports the projects it selects. She leads with conviction and looks to forge relationships with the fund's projects beyond just getting the film or media project seen.

PROFILE: Diana Barrett is President of The Fledgling Fund, which she also founded in 2005 after a distinguished career at Harvard University, where she taught in both the Business School and the School of Public Health. She has always been keenly interested in the areas of public/private partnerships for global poverty reduction and, in particular, in addressing the social and personal impact of diseases like HIV/AIDS. She began Fledgling to provide "an opportunity to further those interests by focusing on innovative approaches to complex social issues including the use of media to ignite social change."

The Fledgling Fund's main goal is to provide support to media projects that give a voice to underrepresented communities and raise the visibility of injustice and various entrenched social ills around the globe. "We look at film as a vehicle that can be used to spark or ignite a social movement," explains Barrett. "Potentially to get it to the next stage, potentially change a law, potentially get people to really understand how serious this issue is."

Barrett does this with a skeleton crew of staff and by outsourcing some of the particulars to the Foundation Source, which helps with some of the heavy lifting and paperwork associated with the grantmaking. The fund doesn't hold open calls for grants, but requires that potential applicants submit a Letter of Inquiry, which is reviewed, then qualifying projects are notified and invited to submit full applications. Those selected for grants can get anywhere from $300 to $50,000 for their project, but most grants average around $10,000 to $35,000.

Barrett and her crew are quite media savvy and even though they've only been on the scene for a short while, they've established a strong social media and networking presence and have funded close to 300 projects to the tune of $9.5 million to date.

Having such a strong business background has also allowed Barrett to make shrewd choices about how the fund uses thier money. "We're very specific about what we spend," she says. "We think of ourselves more as [working in] a venture capital mode than as a grantor or charity."

The strategy Barrett has adopted for the fund is a "three pronged approach," where they aim to “include funding for an innovative film or media project, funding for a strategic outreach and audience engagement campaign, as well as financial support for the community-based organizations that are committed to the issues raised in the film.” This wholistic approach is what makes The Fledgling Fund unique and allows projects to have the most impact beyond just the film or media project.

Barrett and her small staff are strongly committed to what they do and look to forge relationships with each project that extend past a simple grantmaker/grantee relationship. They commonly spend anywhere from a year to five years with each project, sometimes from gestation to helping form a movement around a specific project.

“three pronged approach”
“three pronged approach”

Barrett also serves on the boards of the International Center for Photography, the Social Change Film Forum at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the Everglades Foundation, and the Advisory Board of the Acumen Fund.

A list of past films that The Fledgling Fund has supported can be viewed here.