21 Oct 2021
3 Sep 2021
At London Funders we have long been advocates for place based giving – an approach which uses the power of local collaboration to bring about change. Over the past few years we’ve seen the growth of place based giving across the capital, with more organisations, funders and communities coming together to set up local schemes and pioneer new ways to develop the model. In November, we brought giving schemes together for a day of in-person networking to share ideas, lessons and ambitions for the future. Keen to learn from other areas in the UK, we were particularly pleased to be joined by StepUp Manchester, whose place based giving scheme is focussing on four wards of the city in its pilot phase. Many of the conversations we had resonated with discussions we’ve been having among our wider members over the past few months, and here we reflect on some of the things we learned.
Shifting power and making funding more equitable has been a big topic for funders in the last 18 months. These are issues that have brought challenging conversations about the long-standing power imbalance that exists, as well as encouraging commitments about how to retain some of the changes we saw in the pandemic which helped to create a more open and trusting system. How to build on this commitment has also been on the minds of place based giving schemes as they consider how to put more power into the hands of the communities they work with. At our networking day we discussed what this means in practice.
What we heard is that shifting power means many things. It incorporates what may seem like small changes – such as the design of an application process - as well as wider attempts to rethink how local communities lead change in their local areas, something a partnership of six schemes is currently exploring with support from the Cornerstone Fund. Step Up Manchester and Camden Giving told us about steps they’ve taken to make the funding process easier – from using video applications to supporting first-time grantees to meet due diligence requirements. Like many other schemes, they have also put local residents at the heart of their grant making by working with community panelists who decide where the funding goes.
One of the underlying principles of place based giving is collaboration – bringing local partners together who have a passion and commitment to the places where they live or work. This includes the business sector, whose connections, skills and resources are key components of local place based giving. At our networking day we were delighted to be joined by Rubina Iqbal from Google and Rachel Engel from the Macquarie Group Foundation to talk about how giving schemes can create and sustain meaningful collaboration with the corporate sector.
As we heard, with corporations increasingly looking to achieve social returns, the ability of place based giving to innovate, test new approaches and collaborate to deepen social impact in local communities is particularly attractive. The knowledge of what is happening on the ground, what works and what doesn’t, are the kind of insights that make the investments from corporations much more informed.
The pandemic made us all look differently at the places we live, and have more of a ‘hyper local’ lens. For many businesses this meant their workforce, now based at home, had the opportunity for greater involvement in their local community. People are looking for a local connection in a way they didn’t before, and place based giving schemes are in a perfect position to support this. Rachel and Rubina encouraged giving schemes to “be visible because you never know who is going to see you”. Building on cross sector funding collaborations is something we’ve been exploring with our wider members recently as we move to the next phase of London’s recovery. It was also sentiment echoed at this month’s Centre for London conference, where we heard how recovery will rely on effective collaboration with the business sector. This is certainly something the place based giving movement has at its heart.
A key part of bringing all of London’s Giving schemes together was to map out their ambitions for the future. Schemes are not short of goals - from creating strong relationships with corporations to increasing regular giving and adopting participatory grantmaking to name a few.
The pandemic has put an added importance on our concept of place and being part of local communities – and this carries many implications for funders, as we explored in our recent briefing with Renaisi. For place based giving, there is certainly a sense that the time is right to capitalise on the shifts we are seeing. As Kristina Glenn from London’s Giving said, this is placed based giving schemes’ moment to make lasting social change. Kristina ended the day with some thought-provoking questions for everyone working in placed based giving: “Are we up for our influencing role, do we see social change as our agenda? What can we do together to put our movement on the map? It’s our time and I think we have the skills and knowledge to do this”.
Over the coming weeks we will be sharing some of the other key learning from our work on place based giving and inviting other partners to reflect on what the future holds. In the meantime, please take a look at our learning report produced with our learning partner, Rocket Science, which you can read here.