Reflections from the first day of the UKCF Conference 2019 and especially the Big Conversations.
I’ve always thought that comparing community foundations by the size of their endowments was a numb way of determining success and today’s conversations all about the power of our convening role has confirmed that for me.
How differently would we look at each other and our impact if, as well as grants made and funds held we also measured success based on the quality of our relationships and the leverage we made with our funds, knowledge and those all-important relationships?
Certainly round our table at the big conversation session it is clear that more and more of us see our role as being supporters and enablers of communities to engage meaningfully with others like funders, public sector commissioners and peers about their issues and what needs doing to address them. But this is not counter to the view, as Andrew McCracken from Community Foundation Northern Ireland said, that many do come to our table precisely because we have got money. Where the magic happens for me is when we can use that trust on both sides, be that intelligent convenor and create a more meaningful difference.
We are doing this in York, where we used a small donation of £30,000 to bring together a number of charities, community groups and churches who were all doing their own ‘bit’ to address homelessness in York, without too much regard or understanding of others’ activity. Using the £30k as a means to engage we have worked with these groups over 18 months for them to come together with a collective solution to helping homeless people access support (including statutory support) based on the respective strengths of the organisations. We are now on the cusp of a hub opening where services support people experiencing homelessness with other funding coming to support elements of the provision.
Without that £30k it might not have happened but it definitely wouldn’t have happened without the time spent by our Programmes Manager meeting and listening to groups, understanding the complex landscape of statutory funding and having the trust of other funders.
And I know we are not the only ones, there are similar stories across the network.
So the challenge is to find a simple way to measure that added value or additional return on investment that we make with our resources, people and partnerships.
Jan Garrill, is CEO of Two Ridings Community Foundation and UKCF Board member