Sustaining the community response: Our response to the review of civil society

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At the end of June, the Prime Minister asked Danny Kruger MP  ‘to consult with civil society organisations, local authorities, our colleagues in Parliament, and across government to develop proposals to maximise the role of volunteers, community groups, faith groups, charities and social enterprises, and contribute actively to the government’s levelling up agenda.’

In keeping with our values, we asked all those who had been involved in the Rapid Response Fund (designers, decision-makers, and anyone who had applied, regardless of whether they were funded) for their thoughts and incorporated these into our response

We welcome this consultation process and the commitment of our Government to support the tremendous community work that has happened since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Barking & Dagenham Giving is a funder borne of the recent DCMS pilot projects on place-based giving. We unite ideas, energy and resources around common causes to make Barking & Dagenham a stronger place as we reset and rebuild.

Barking & Dagenham has the youngest population in London and the UK, and has the second highest rate of unemployment in London (7.7%). It is also a borough with potential, with nearly 90% of schools being rated good or outstanding by OFSTED, and attracting over £1 billion worth of investment over the past couple of years.

We can help you to address two specific points in the Prime Minister’s letter to you:

  1. The role of philanthropy, social investment and business, and what new forms of finance can be used to support communities
  2. Opportunities for young people and the particular contribution they can make
1. The role of philanthropy, social investment and business, and what new forms of finance can be used to support communities

Since September 2019 we have been developing a new form of participatory philanthropy.

We believe local people are best placed to make decisions about how the issues they face should be tackled and that our role as a funder should be about making sure they have the tools, knowledge, and resources they need to make positive and sustainable change.

Our approach also involves the people who are in a position to give resources and helps them to feel confident about their decision to give. By involving everyone in the decision-making processes, we strengthen ties across the community without being condescending or paternalistic.

Since May, we have funded 24 projects to a value of £100,000 as part of a Covid-19 Rapid Response Fund. Those who designed and assessed the process are people you might bump into in the local library, gym, or supermarket, as opposed to someone sitting in an office on the other side of the country. This approach builds the skills and confidence of the people involved and builds their investment in their communities – it is a process that treats them as people that ideas are developed with, not done to. As one of the designers put it: ‘Some of the people working at grassroots levels have for a long time felt ignored, downtrodden and excluded from vital community-shaping conversations. This felt like we were birthing something new – a different way of working.’

Over two online meetings in April, these people set the terms for the fund and the criteria that applications would be measured against. The data gathered from these meetings was shared so that they could understand why decisions were made, offer their insight, and build trust in the process. Then applications were assessed by rotating panels of community members, meaning we had a community-led process designed and delivered in three months in the middle of a pandemic. One successful applicant felt that ‘the process of applying was clear and direct and I appreciate the ease and trust this showed in a time of need.’

Running a highly participatory process develops new networks, crosses sectors and addresses the real issues on the ground. By believing in people and ideas our approach creates new opportunities and encourages entrepreneurialism. We have already seen it result in better engagement and different outcomes, with decision-makers offering to support ideas from younger people that they wouldn’t otherwise have known about. This needs to be sustained.

2. Opportunities for young people and the particular contribution they can make: ​

Barking & Dagenham is a young borough and so the work we do relies on the involvement of young people who are innovating and expressing a spirit of social entrepreneurship that must be encouraged if this work is to have a long term impact on the borough and beyond.

If the young people of Barking & Dagenham can see that they can make a difference in their community now, we stand a greater chance of guiding them out of the cycles of alienation and neglect that have damaged our communities.

We would like to see the government lending greater support for participatory giving methods that involve the whole community, both by providing resources but also to build on the recent DCMS pilot projects on place-based giving.

How we can help​

Some of the people working at grassroots levels have for a long time felt ignored, downtrodden and excluded from vital community-shaping conversations. This felt like we were birthing something new – a different way of working

One of the designers of the Rapid Response Fund Tweet

I hope this letter gives you a flavour of our work and how we can support you to achieve some of the objectives in the Prime Minister’s letter to you. I would be delighted to give you more detail and would like to invite you to:

  • Join a group of people from across the local system to share insights on our participatory giving process 
  • Share in our learning about participatory giving to help build the evidence for new forms of philanthropy that empower local people and communities

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