Islington Giving - shining a light on poverty and inequality

Kristina Glenn, Director of Islington Giving and the Cripplegate Foundation, reflects on what makes Islington Giving different and her ambitions for 2015

Islington Giving is about the power of place.  When we launched in September 2010 we wanted to test the difference that unusual suspects could make. Foundations, businesses, voluntary organisations and residents came together to shine a light on poverty and inequality in a borough where many residents feel locked out of opportunities.

So what’s different?

Our programmes challenge public and voluntary services which traditionally close in the evenings and at weekends. We unlock Islington when and where residents tell us they want them. We’ve developed Saturday Nights Out, Friday Nights Out for young people. We’ve asked cafes, pubs, gardens to host get togethers for older people. We’ve funded arts organisations, older people’s groups and Arsenal to jointly develop weekend activities. We’ve developed Family Saturdays for young families to foster friendships and enjoy Islington. Over 1,500 volunteers are giving time.

We show residents and businesses issues facing Islington. Upper Street is often seen as Islington. It’s a shock to find Islington has the 2nd highest level of child poverty in London, the shortest life expectancy of men in the capital and the highest level of male suicide in England. Our Inside Islington tours show a different Islington and the organisations and people who make change happen.

We make the business case for investing in Islington. Businesses for Islington Giving fully launched in 2014 bringing companies such as Macquarie, Expedia and Bank of Tokyo into the borough. We now have a skilled volunteering, employment support and business mentors in our schools.

We ask for money and time to make change happen. Giving is at the heart of everything we do. We ask residents, trusts, businesses to join us and invest in Islington. In 2014 we literally put Islington Giving on the map by Walking the Line- the 13.1 mile borough boundary. Over 300 people walked this half marathon and raised funds. We even had a black cab offering a lift for anyone flagging. Our supporters undertook a 375 mile sponsored bike ride from the Angel of the North to the Angel Islington to raise funds and our profile as far as Lincolnshire and Cambridge. We’ve gathered support from local restaurants, cafes and businesses who our host events. By the end of 2014 we had raised £3.5m.

And 2015?

Islington Giving is different.  It’s about harnessing local knowledge and going beyond traditional stakeholders. This is not easy. You have to be positive, tenacious and make the most of every opportunity. It’s taking time to gain trust from residents and business. It’s about leveraging resources, connections and ideas and testing what works. And it’s giving me the chance to work in very different ways – whether it’s being a tour guide for Inside Islington, making the case to businesses for their investment in Islington Giving or challenging inequality through new programmes.

We’re ambitious. We’re moving from start up to become a permanent part of the Islington landscape. I see Islington Giving as one way for us to go beyond traditional grant making, using all our assets –our independence, long term relationships and knowledge to effect change.   

You can find out more about Islington Giving at www.islingtongiving.org.uk