Inspired. Humbled. Angry. - Initial personal reflections from the Grenfell Tower Funding Response, by David Warner

Inspired. Humbled. Angry. - Initial personal reflections from the Grenfell Tower Funding Response

These are three emotions that have been a feature of every waking hour of the last 23 days, after London Funders was asked by the Grenfell Tower Response Team to help. Our role has been to lead on the coordination of the charitable funding response to the tragic events of the 14th June. [1]

Inspired - by the way that the funding community across the country has responded with thoughtfulness, energy, imagination and humility. Humbled - by the power of voluntary social action that has been present in the response from the start driven from within and for the community of North Kensington. Angry - that the system we are all part of, that we all have to take responsibility for, failed so catastrophically with such devastating consequences.

All of those involved are aware that the time ahead is going to be long and inevitably difficult. There is much to be done to support the community to rebuild - not just physically and practically.

It is essential that as part of the process we continue to harness those initial emotions and focus on the community at the centre of the event. It is their voices that must be heard at the heart of the process of healing, reflection, reconciliation and rebuilding that is required.

So, having had the opportunity to step back a half-pace, I thought I would share some (very) initial reflections.                                                                               

I am very aware that during this immediate phase of crisis response a lot of the attention has focused on the unique role that independent trusts and foundations play within the London funding ecology: their ability to invest over decades and to move quickly (when needed); their freedom to operate in a way that many other parts of the ecology can’t (however much they may want to); and their ability to give voice to those needing to speak truth to power. All of these are precious assets that have been used to great effect.

This week also saw the launch of Building Bridges new research from NLGN commissioned by London Funders and supported by City Bridge Trust. Building Bridges calls for independent funders and local authorities to work in better collaboration, putting London’s communities and civil society at the heart of future conversations. It also reinforces the vital role that London Funders plays in bringing together independent funders, local authorities and investors from across London’s diverse funding ecology to think, share, learn and act together.

As we move ahead it is imperative that all the different assets within that ecology, from across the public, social investment, and corporate sectors work together on the ongoing local response, and across London in those places where, like North Kensington, the voice of the community has been lost in the system.

Somebody once said “Crisis moments create opportunity. Problems and crises ignite our greatest creativity and thought leadership as it forces us to focus on things outside the norm.”[2]

Never has this been more appropriate, as we struggle to comprehend the apparent systemic failures that have led to this tragic injustice.

Systems thinking has been a growing part of the work of London Funders. Already discussions are underway, building on the work that many of us have been doing over the last few years. It is essential that we use this moment in history to redouble our efforts to bring about systemic change that puts people and their communities at the heart of the way we all work, and to amplify the voices of those across the country who, like some of the community of North Kensington, have not been heard for so many years.

That our members were able to mobilise so quickly and effectively was made possible because of the years of groundwork, networking and building collaborative approaches that had already been achieved. It is more important than ever to recognise and celebrate the value of London Funders in providing a safe place to think, share, learn and act together to meet the needs of Londoners. [3]

So, my final reflection, for now, is on the work that many of us have been involved in over the last few years. London initiatives like The Way Ahead , London's Giving, London's Funding Ecology, Vision for Young Londoners  and wider national initiatives like A Whole New World - Funding and Commissioning in Complexity and Civil Society Futures. These and many others have been helping build the foundations of a bridge towards a future that fuses together the best of the public, private and independent sectors to re-empower communities and to return voice to those who have lost it.

When I went to bed on 13th June I knew this work was important, when I woke up on the 14th June it had become essential.

David Warner

11th July 2017







[2] Sam Cawthorn - Sam is a thought leader and CEO of Empowering Enterprises and featured in USA Today and The NewYork Times. He is an expert in not only bouncing back but bouncing forward. He is obsessed with corporate and personal turnaround and is the 2009 Young Australian of the Year for Tasmania.