You may have seen that the Lankelly Chase Foundation has given a grant of £100,000 to distribute to the community to help our borough during this crisis. As a funder, they are interested in how power is shared and how systems can be changed to address issues in society which cause harm to people and put them at a disadvantage.
One of the ways that Lankelly Chase is exploring system change is by seeing what happens when people who have experience of the issues facing their community take ownership of solving those issues – in that spirit, we decided that the Rapid Response Fund (RRF) needed to be directed by the wider community of Barking & Dagenham.
In the spirit of collaboration, B&D Giving partnered with B&D Renew to create a co-design process for the fund, where people from the community would discuss and decide what the fund should look like and how it should be used. We put out an open call in the first BD CAN meeting and across social media for people to join this process, and the response was incredible. While we initially had about thirty people interested, we ended up with a group of around twenty people due to time constraints as we held the design meetings at fixed times a week apart.
The group reflected the strength and passion of the borough. We had lifelong residents and recent arrivals. We had long-standing pillars of Barking & Dagenham and new faces. We had community workers as well as people supported by their work. Through their combined efforts, they shaped what the Rapid Response Fund will do for the borough.
In each meeting, the group was given a brief introduction before breaking off into three groups. In groups of six or seven, they worked through five questions which explored who the fund should target and how it should be distributed. Throughout the discussion, the groups had access to online shared notepads where they could collect their thoughts and contribute in a different format.
After each session, all of the notes were compiled and we tried to see where people from across the groups were agreeing as well as where they were diverging. From this, we came up with a list of about ten questions which we then put back to the group using the online forum tool consider.it – this is an open-source website where you can put forward statements and people put themselves on a line to show how much they agree or disagree with the statement. All of the data was shared with the group, as well as a summary of how we arrived at the ten questions so that people could see that their contributions were actually shaping the process in a meaningful way.
Except in cases where capacity was an issue (there are only two of us working on the RRF), we followed the suggestions of the group when realising the process and fed that back to them for final thoughts. We ended up with a simple Google Form which only asks people for the information that the group said would give them confidence in giving out a grant.
At the end of the inaugural Barking & Dagenham Giving Week, the fund was officially launched. Grants ranging from £100 to £5,000 have been made available to support individuals, voluntary and community groups who are responding to a need during the crisis.
To further build on the work of the design group, we asked the community to step up and join a panel of decision-makers to vote on the applications. As this would require a considerable time commitment, the design group felt that this time should be fairly compensated, in recognition of the value of that time.
The Rapid Response Fund will do a tremendous amount of good, we are sure, but it represents something much bigger than £100,000 – it was the catalyst for bringing together people from all over Barking & Dagenham to work together for the common good of the borough. The lessons we have learned over the last few weeks will shape the work that B&D Giving is doing, sharing power with communities about decisions which impact them.
We are delighted with how the process has gone so far as it shows that there is a shared desire in all corners of Barking & Dagenham to improve the lives of everyone in the borough. As B&D Giving continues to grow, it will be constantly bringing in people from the community to make important decisions about what we do and how we do it. When we are given access to resources like the Rapid Response Fund, we want you to tell us how to use them. If you missed out on this process, don’t worry about it as there will be many more opportunities for you to get involved with our work, and we will always be exploring ways in which we can make the work more accessible.
Please keep checking this website for more information and follow us on social media for all the latest updates.