At the end of June this year, we announced a new funding and support programme – a pilot partnership between The National Lottery Community Fund and IKEA UK. The programme, Places Called Home, aims to inspire and enable activities to build connected, resilient and sustainable communities and places – you can read more about it here.
Why we wanted to partner
It was last June that we initially came together to start discussing what a partnership between the National Lottery Community Fund and IKEA could look like. We at the Fund were interested in how we could work alongside the power of business – particularly a social business that aligned with us in terms of values and purpose – to achieve some of our key goals around supporting powerful and thriving communities. In addition, as The National Lottery Community Fund is also part of the MOIN network (Mission Oriented Innovation Network) we are also looking at how to design and fund community-scale missions in practice and know that the private sector will play an important role as partners in that.
Through those early exploratory conversations, we discovered an overlap in our core values and purposes as organisations, first and foremost of which being that we both care deeply about and are committed to improving the everyday lives of people and communities. Working together, we saw, could help us do that better – reaching more people, helping more communities to thrive.
We also found common ground in the ‘everyday-ness’ of our two brands, and the fact that we each exist with the purpose of being ‘for everyone’. The National Lottery and IKEA are prominent within the public consciousness – we are on street corners and in peoples’ homes across the country – we’re features of everyday life that people are familiar with.
Finally, we share a belief in the existence of creativity and ingenuity within communities across the UK. During the pandemic, we have seen all across the country how people have come together to do all they can for their communities. Whether it was local government, local grassroots groups or local businesses, or a combination of all three, people came together regardless of their ‘sector boundaries’, united by their shared humanity in the face of crisis. At the heart of so much of this work was the coordination of effort and resources around a common cause and common values.
These shared values and purposes, we quickly came to realise, meant that we could build stronger networks with shared goals – not only by providing funding but by creating a field of action where powerful communities can thrive. We all have a role in shaping the conditions for new approaches and forms of action to emerge and the partnership between the National Lottery Community Fund and IKEA hopes to contribute to that.
What the partnership is beyond the funding
Beyond the deep alignment of our organisational values, there were other reasons that we wanted to form this partnership – other assets we each have that, when brought together, we want to utilise to strengthen communities across the UK.
First and foremost, our staff teams – our own internal communities – are crucial to the success of our partnership going forward. Staff at the National Lottery Community Fund and IKEA live within communities across the UK and have a wealth of collective experience and wisdom that will breathe life into the partnership.
We also each have access to diverse networks – by cross-pollinating between these we can enhance not only the resilience and strength of our own work but also that of the initiatives and communities who are funded through the collaboration. By coming together, other people, organisations and communities we partner with and fund will gain access to a broader range of spaces and key people and businesses within their communities.
We will work alongside Participatory City, learning from their Everyday Streets programme, to make sure our work – and that of the communities we fund through the partnership – sparks meaningful, participatory, creative activity.
Fundamentally, of course, one of the key aspects of the partnership is funding, and this is another area where the Fund and IKEA bring diverse, yet complementary assets to the table. The National Lottery Community Fund’s contribution consists of public money, given by National Lottery players; IKEA contributes private money generated through their social business. By partnering with each other and designing shared missions we can blend those different types of money and put them to good use together.
For those communities which are not successful in applying for funding, we will provide the opportunity to join IKEA’s Live LAGOM online platform. We hope to encourage communities to be part of this partnership and to be more active in their engagement and action, regardless of the outcome of the initial round of funding.
What we hope the partnership will explore and the ambitions of the partnership
Over time we also want to explore new models for and approaches to resourcing communities, ones that enable the longer-term systemic shifts that will see communities across the UK more connected and resilient, invested in caring for their communities, and able to adapt to future shocks.
In relation to community-scale missions, we hope the partnership gives us the opportunity to test out on a small scale how the largest UK Funder of community activity works with one of the largest international brands. We will be navigating new territory in seeking to understand what success looks like for such a long-term partnership between the private sector and civil society. In doing so, we will explore what it takes to establish a growing community of best practice that invites other partners into the collaboration over time. We’re not the first to do this work and have been inspired by the private sector partnerships funders like Impact on Urban Health and Esmee Fairbairn have initiated.
For this reason, alongside the funding partnership, we are also creating a Learning Lab – beginning in November we’ll be opening up what we are learning and looking for fellow travellers who are already, or who want to explore, what it means to build shared community missions, across sectors, and drawing on different kinds of capital and assets.
Cassie Robinson is the Deputy Director of Funding Strategy at The National Lottery Community Fund. If you want to get involved with the Learning Lab please contact email@example.com.