Participants at this well-attended breakout session at this year’s conference of the UK’s Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) were treated to an absorbing case study of collaboration between the Cripplegate Foundation and Islington Council. The partnership, known as the Residents Support Scheme (RSS), was launched in April 2013 and offers assistance to Islington residents facing multiple disadvantage and hardship. Representatives of the Cripplegate Foundation and Islington Council were on hand to describe their expectations for the partnership and to give some early indications of the impact of the scheme so far.
Several things stood out.
First, it was clear that considerable thought had gone into the structure and organization of the scheme. Governance provisions included quarterly joint strategic management board meetings as well as more informal points of contact. As Ian Adams of Islington Council pointed out, these arrangements built trust and enabled effective working relationships to be established over time.
Second, the ability of each partner to exploit each others assets was striking. For the council this meant benefitting from Cripplegate’s expertise in local grantmaking and their good reputation as a place-based funder rooted in the community. For Cripplegate, the council provided access to data, new funds and decision-makers. Both parties emphasized the added value of the partnership, especially the greater ability to meet a whole range of needs through one approach, while avoiding duplication.
Third, the role of local community stakeholders was critical. This included seven ‘Trusted Partners’ and over 30 referral organizations. This network of stakeholders is helping to bring credibility and legitimacy to the scheme.
Finally, the scheme is committed to best practice. Cripplegate’s Paul Rickard gave an overview of RSS in the wider context of local welfare initiatives and the benchmarks set out by the Children’s Society. The scheme’s flexibility of access, especially eligibility criteria that include benefits to help the working poor, stood out in this regard.
Early indications are encouraging with 2,500 applications in the opening months and a high success rate in handling cases. Islington Council and Cripplegate Foundation have leveraged each other’s capabilities for the good of local residents, reflecting an innovative use of philanthropy with perhaps a not-so-unlikely partner as first imagined.
Charles Keidan is a philanthropy expert and visiting fellow at Cass Business School.