New Year, New Trustees - Rohan Martyres

At the end of 2020 the London Funders membership elected (and re-elected) five new trustees. This week we're sharing their views on lessons learnt from the covid-19 crisis, what a 'good' recovery looks like, and what is needed to ensure that funder collaborations are effective. Here are Rohan Martyres' (Portfolio Manager, Guy's and St Thomas' Charity) thoughts...
Welcome (back in some cases) to the London Funders board. What was it about the work of London Funders that made you want to get more involved? 
London Funders keeps expanding the ‘realm of the possible’ for practical funder collaboration. The team have also shown real commitment to helping funders find ways to do more, faster, more flexibly to support marginalised groups.  It’s inspiring and a privilege to be involved, and I think I can contribute to help take this further.
To be on our board, you have to be a London Funders member – over your time in our membership, how has London Funders influenced or supported your organisation? 
I’ll give two examples. The London Community Response (LCR) helped us to quickly respond in the early stages of the covid-19 crisis, while we developed our longer-term response strategies.  This involved us delegating some funds to two ‘LCR-aligned’ funds:  the Southwark Community Response Fund managed by United St Saviour’s Charity, and the Lambeth Community Response Fund managed by Walcot Foundation.  I understand that these are also innovative models of collaborative place-based funding that could be useful for funders elsewhere.  Thank you to London Funders, United St Saviours and Walcot for making our contribution to this possible.
Second, London Funders are helping to facilitate a group of funders particular to Southwark (Southwark Funders Forum).  This helps strengthen the infrastructure for independent funders to learn from and collaborate with each other, which we have already benefited from.Looking ahead to 2021, what ambitions do you have for your organisation and the work that you are doing to support communities? 2020 was obviously a big year, with covid-19 and Black Lives Matter to name just two points of attention.  These rightly prompted us to consider how we could be more effective, and as a result, we have accelerated work in some areas, and paused work in others. For instance, we have just launched our new brand for our urban health programmes, Impact on Urban Health, to help us connect better with those around the world who are also interested in improving health equity in cities. And in 2021, our two newest programmes, on the health effects of air pollution and adolescent mental health, will hit their stride with a range of new projects and strategic partnerships.
And what ambitions do you hold for London Funders this year? 
I’d like us to help our members make a step change in how we individually and collectively address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. We all know of communities in the UK that have been historically marginalised and discriminated against.  But we suspect that addressing this can benefit from clear analysis and focus.  For example, in our place in South London, the term BAME can sometimes obscure more than it reveals, as there is sometimes greater variation in health conditions and health risks within the ‘Black’ community than between ‘Black’ and other communities. More generally, in response to covid-19 and the continued and worsening health inequities experienced by specific communities in our place, we at Impact on Urban Health have made some changes and found some ways to do things differently.  However, we need to do more, and we want to join other London Funders’ members in learning to do better. I’d like to see London Funders do more to facilitate its members to do more work on equity and inclusion.  This includes finding practical ways to include more diverse voices in decision-making, and learning how best to alter some of the power imbalances within which funders and their staff often operate.  I’d like to help support this.
As we look towards recovery, what lessons will you take forward from the covid-19 crisis? 
I’ve seen so many organisations find ingenious ways to help Londoners manage the crisis as best they can.  It’s humbling.  It’s also taught me a lot, but here are three things. First, that working in a crisis is hard, and takes determination to work through the immense suffering and even death that many of us have either witnessed or experienced ourselves. Second, that the actions and attitude of everyone can make a difference.  Yes, people with political power, but also everyone I meet, and me as well. And last but not least, that a surprising number of us in the wider London Funders community share a love for… 70s glam rock.