London Funders 2015 AGM and Panel Discussion

The next five years in London: What’s got to change? The panel and audience discussed the key issues facing London’s civil society

London Funders 2015 AGM took place on 23rd July. The formal business meeting was followed by a lively panel discussion on the theme of:

The next 5 years in London: What's got to change? 
The key issues facing London’s civil society...

A full report of the discussion is available here. 

Our expert and informed panel was:

Kathy Evans – Chief Executive, Children England
Bharat Mehta OBE – Chief Executive, Trust for London
Simon Parker – Director, New Local Government Network
Karl Wilding – Director of Public Policy, NCVO

Some of these thoughts and challenges emerged through the conversation: 

  • London is a world class city providing huge opportunities - but not for everyone. There are particular issues for young people in London. On childcare, property and jobs, London isn’t working for our children.
  • The social contract is changing. The role of the state is refocusing - moving away from provision, and moving towards facilitating jobs. The objective is for people to earn more, pay less tax, and draw on less welfare.
  • In light of this change, local government funding is in decline. Local authorities are responding with new approaches, some highly innovative.
  • Grant-funding for the third sector from government has declined in favour of tendering contracts. However, income from some services in London is not sufficient to sustain the service. Operating costs for areas such as children’s services are too high to make it profitable, even for large private concerns.
  • While funding models may need to change, the wider voluntary sector also needs to think differently. Voluntary organisations need to welcome disruption, in particular by learning some of the lessons of technology and social entrepreneurs, and embrace change rather than have it forced on them
  • There is a ‘scarcity culture’ being felt as funding declines, but London has an abundance of human capital in the form of skills, energy and motivation.
  • Third sector collaboration needs to increase and improve. There is no longer a simple division of responsibilities between state, commerce and third sector. Civil society needs to collaborate better across these ‘divides’, and also collaborate better with itself  for example between large and small organisations, and grant-makers need to collaborate more effectively with grantees.
  • Giving voice to people who are underrepresented is an essential role for the third sector.
  • Taking risks and innovating remains an essential contribution that independent funders can provide. Civil society has played a big part in delivering new ideas and changes, such as alternative funding models, social investment, shareholder action and coproduction.
  • There is a need for ‘heroic philanthropy’, akin to the contributions made by some of London’s great historical philanthropists, such as Peabody, Shaftesbury, Tate and Garrick - who gave assets for ordinary people in London, giving them a stake in London’s society.

A full report is available here, which details the panelists comments and contributions from the audience.  

London Funders would like to thank all the panelists for their time and contributions, and the attendees for their contribution to what has been described as “a really engaging debate, with a good mix of contributions from the floor and thoughts from the panel - very well chosen panel members, and well brought together by your chair. I was cross, excited, optimistic and challenged in equal measure - surely a sign of a good discussion!”

We will be finding a number of ways and opportunities to continue these discussions over the months ahead.