New Year, New Trustees - Shabana Aslam

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 Shabana Aslam's (VCS Funding and Commissioning Partnerships Manager, London Borough of Islington) thoughts...
Shabana is VCS Funding and Commissioning Partnerships Manager at the London Borough of Islington.  She manages delivery of the VCS Partnerships Grant Programme which launches 1 January 2021 and sees £2.7m of funding per annum to organisations working in the voluntary and community sector in Islington.  She also works with other funders, key partners and the VCS to support development, innovation and growth, ensuring that communities are able to be empowered, resilient and remain independent.

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?
The work of the team in bringing together funders, investors and local authorities to share learning, knowledge and collaborate in the face of the pandemic was inspiring and essential to our response in the borough where I work.  This made me keen to get more involved in the work of London Funders in order to ensure that moving into 2021 I was able to be more flexible as a funder, innovative and could best support the sector to come out of the crisis.

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 have been at Islington Council for just over a year, and during what has been an unprecedented time for all of us. Working with London Funders has enabled me to connect with other funders and local authorities to share intelligence, approaches and support. Through the establishment of the Covid-19 Funder Statement and the London Community Response, Islington Council have been able to work with the voluntary and community sector to draw in essential funding to the borough in order to respond to the crisis and support residents during this challenging time. Collectively we have also been able to understand those communities who have been hardest hit or who may not be able to access information or support, this has meant that we can prioritise where funding goes, and also support the sector to capacity build and adapt.

Looking ahead to 2021, what ambitions do you have for your organisation and the work that you are doing to support communities?
At Islington we want to ensure that there are opportunities available for all residents to live fairer together.  In order to move towards this, we will need to work with civil society and communities to adapt, draw in funding, be innovative and collaborate as we know 2021 will bring with it many challenges for the community. It will be important to be flexible as a funder, and look to work with the sector to capacity build and understand the changing needs for organisations and also residents as we come out of the crisis.  Partnership working will be essential, and at Islington through our VCS Grants Programme and programme of capacity-building support we want to ensure the sector is supported to thrive and develop.

And what ambitions do you hold for London Funders this year?

  • To continue to work with funders and investors as we look to adapt and be flexible in our support to civil society.
  • To continue to provide useful insight into the impacts and effects of this pandemic on the community so that funders and local authorities can understand where help is needed most and how best to work with the voluntary and community sector.
  • To work with us to lobby government for support to the charity sector, and work with investors/funders to ensure longer term core funding is made available.  
  • Providing guidance and also collaborating to find innovative ways of capacity-building and bringing the sector together for partnership working.

As we look towards recovery, what lessons will you take forward from the covid-19 crisis?

  • The need to work collaboratively and in partnership with other funders and partners.
  • The need to understand the challenges and opportunities available and work to assist capacity-building of the sector.
  • Appreciation for the hard work and dedication of colleagues, funders, and civil society.
  • The need for innovation and flexibility in how we work, making information and funding more accessible, less confusing and more partnership based to ensure that communities truly benefit.
  • Supporting groups in the community to access information/funding/support by working together.
  • Challenging the status quo where necessary and looking for new ways of working which are collaborative, supportive and innovative.