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BD Giving Notes #4 – Working in partnership

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Our role is to hold a space for others to step in and work together, including funders and donors, and we do believe that our experience in delivering participatory processes can help with this.

In my notes from last week, the joys and challenges of partnership working, and an exhibition that fills me with pride. 

But first, an admission. It’s my fourth week since I began publishing BDGiving Notes and I’m still looking for my feet in terms of tone, format and content. Questions like: How to balance my own personal voice with that of the organisation? Is my writing too formal? What does the feedback (or lack of) I’m getting tell me about the content I am sharing publicly? I even came across a quirky problem, due to the frequency of publication of these notes, which means that the news section on our website is at risk of being flooded with… pictures of me! And don’t get me started on the technical issues we’re having with said website! So please bear with me while I explore and test various ways to approach and resolve these challenges. 

Last week I received an email from a local organisation, which made me reflect on how we communicate our role as a ‘social infrastructure’ organisation in Barking and Dagenham. That email was asking clarifications about the purpose and drive of a new initiative we are exploring. While still early stage, this initiative aims to address a well known issue in the borough, an issue on which other groups and organisations have developed extensive experience over the years. The point of this email, was that BD Giving did not have the knowledge, skills or experience on this particular issue. So why was it that we felt the need to be the conveners? 

This isn’t the first time we’ve been asked to justify our work, and I appreciated the honesty of this person. The truth is, as a local funder that gives members of the community the power to make decisions about money, we regularly convene on issues that arise from our community engagement, and seek to provide or attract resources to tackle these issues. Whilst we all bring our own experiences, our role is to hold a space for others to step in and work together, including funders and donors, and we do believe that our experience in delivering participatory processes can help with this. 

Behind this argument lies another concern, that I have come across many times in working with the local social sector. In a context where funding is scarce and competition high, there is a genuine fear from established/specialist organisations to see others diverting funding away from crucial services, whilst delivering little or no benefits to the local community. This is certainly not our intention. Being a local social infrastructure organisation we are committed to Barking and Dagenham, and we see it as our responsibility to hold the space for as long as it’s needed and work creatively to properly resource any issue we seek to address. It isn’t easy or straightforward but then, neither is the job of incredible organisations and volunteers who work day in day out in support of the most vulnerable in our community.

On a separate note, I also wanted to share the joy of being able to travel to Brussels to attend an exhibition on my dad’s work last Thursday. As a graphic designer and illustrator of ‘Bandes dessinées’ (the Belgian-French equivalent of comic books) this was the consecration of years of hard work. I’m really grateful to have been there with him in what was a fantastic and well-attended event. 

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