Distributing funds, telling stories and building partnerships: a review of 2020

In this blog, BD Giving’s Cameron Bray shares what we’ve been up to through 2020.

Image resource: Oksana_L on Depositphotos

In September, the country marked half a year in a state of lockdown and I celebrated a full year of working for the charity, which seemed like good enough reasons to reflect on what has happened for us in that time. 

Given the mammoth year Barking & Dagenham Giving has had, it’s going to take us a few articles to do it all justice. 

To begin with, I’m going to bring you up to speed with what we’ve done in that time. Then, when you’re suitably impressed or curious (or both), Geraud will take you through the why and the how in follow-up pieces.


Rapid Response Fund

By any metric we might use, the Rapid Response Fund is arguably the biggest piece of work we have done this year.

Put simply, we brought together people from across the borough to shape and distribute a £100,000 fund.

Members of the community then assessed whether or not applications fulfilled the criteria.

This fund was made available to us by the Lankelly Chase Foundation and built on the participatory work that we were already doing.

What do we mean by ‘participatory work’? 

Our work puts the community at the centre of its decision-making.

In the context of grant-making, it aims to shift power in decisions from foundation staff to the people most affected by social issues.

The exact details of the project can be found across two earlier blog posts. The fund had 43 applications, over half of which were given money. These ranged from supporting community festivals to paying for a local electrician to get his certification renewed.

We are currently in the process of evaluating the work that has taken place, and looking at how we might build upon it and continue to support community participation in what we do.

Story-telling project

Whether it’s the novel coronavirus or the Black Lives Matter movement, Barking & Dagenham feels the impact of events that occur beyond its border and responds accordingly. 

We have our own narratives here as well and we’ve captured a few of these through our story-telling project, which is about half complete. 

Currently, we’re working towards launching an anthology of the local stories in March so there is still plenty of time to have your story told – do get in touch.

This project celebrates the community effort that we have been seeing, while also providing the starting point for interesting and challenging conversations about where we go next. 

We have started to explore story-telling as an evaluation method and will be making our platform available to the recipients and participants of the Rapid Response Fund. 


As part of that project, we’ve also commissioned a number of illustrations based on the stories. This illustration comes from Anna Hickman:

The inspiration behind this was taking the common theme of community togetherness and pride in their home borough that I saw throughout the articles. I made the artwork in the shape of Barking and Dagenham, using the roads to tie everything together to the 'heart' of the borough that you can see in the centre. I took a couple of quotes directly from the articles that I felt best represented the sense of community I felt in the articles and placed these on the river and roads to show the energy running through the community. In addition to this there are smaller hidden symbols to reflect things mentioned in the articles that connected people during this time, for example: a coffee mug, and the Zoom logo. Another issue mentioned in the articles was the recent rise of Black Lives Matter protests as something that also had a huge impact alongside the current pandemic so I thought it was important to include this as well at the top of the image.

Everyone's Business

Last month, we held the first meeting of a new network we are developing as part of a project called Everyone’s Business. This is a pilot project running until March which is funded by ELBA through the London Mayor’s Violence Reduction Unit. 

We are exploring the role that businesses might play in supporting local civic and voluntary organisations that work with young people to help tackle the issue of serious youth violence.

Already, the network in Barking & Dagenham has started to pick apart how we might address the causes of Serious Youth Violence rather than its symptoms. 

These included thinking about: 

  • how we might give young people the support and resources they need to resist grooming
  • how to best support young people who are especially vulnerable
  • trying to understand why young people are drawn into gangs and what our communities can do to make up for those needs.

Renew Funding

Our Renew Fund launched in February this year and offered small seed grants for new ideas. 

The idea behind it was to try and develop a more relational approach to grant-making, where, instead of filling in an application form, people had conversations with me which then became their application. 

While the board of trustees would still maintain a final say over funding, the idea we were testing was if applications and projects were more likely to succeed if they had time to build a relationship with us. 

Over time, we planned for applicants to become part of the decision-making process for future applicants and lend support where they could. 

Of course, the pandemic blew a huge hole in these plans and I had only taken in four applications by the time lockdown came into effect, of which two received funding. The first being a new organisation that has described a huge confidence boost from us taking the first ‘leap of faith’ they ever received.

We’ve since funded another nine ideas using this approach but given how much work we are now supporting, we have made the difficult decision to suspend new applications for this funding. It’s tempting to rush in with our resources and try to plug any leaks that we see but we wanted to do something different with this fund, something that would have an impact beyond the pandemic. 

It is a decision that we will revisit, bringing more people into the discussion to see if there is a better way forward for this funding.

Civil Society Review

Over the summer, the Prime Minister tasked Danny Kruger MP to consult with civil society organisations and make recommendations as to how the government could support the sector.

We wanted to make sure that the voices of the people we had been working with were heard so, in the spirit of collaboration, we sent out a draft response to everyone who had been involved in the Rapid Response Fund. 

We knew that Kruger’s consultation would benefit from hearing from the people who had been part of our process. It also meant that we could demonstrate to all the people who had taken part that we were listening to them. 

Even on a tight deadline, several people came back to us in time to add and improve our response. Others came back later with feedback which was ultimately useful to our overall work.

Some stand-out testimonials from this process were:

We’ve also made the responses we made available to read here and here.

Next time

So that’s a snapshot of what we have been doing

In the follow-up piece, Geraud will be taking you through why we have done all this work and how we intend to build on it. Now you know what we do, you will have an idea of what community participation can look like. 

We’ve got a lot of exciting things in the pipeline and as soon as we are ready to share them, you can read about that on this website. 

You can also sign up for our newsletter and never miss an exciting update.

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