Beyond Institutions: Investing in individuals for sustainable change

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We recently attended the Festival of Learning session Partnering for investment in individuals: collaborative approaches for empowering the future. The session was presented by Co-op Foundation alongside speakers from the Global Fund for Children and Restless Development. In case you missed it, we’ve summarised some of our key takeaways below…

Funding individuals to drive grassroots change

There’s a significant gap in funding available for individuals, especially young people. Traditional funding models often overlook the potential of individuals to drive grassroots change, favouring more established organisations instead.

But by investing directly in changemakers, funders can tap into the innovation, passion and lived experiences of individuals, who are often directly embedded in the communities they are looking to serve. These funding models support individuals to shape and lead initiatives that resonate with their unique contexts and needs.

Forming partnerships for greater impact

By partnering with people in the community, funders not only have access to invaluable local knowledge and networks but are also better positioned for the sharing of resources and expertise. 

As Emma Crump from the Smallwood Trust explained, ‘It’s about looking at how the funding could have the most impact. Rather than us delivering support remotely, we decided to work in a partnership.’

By working closely with communities, funders and charities gain valuable insights based on real  lived experience, .

‘They bring their lived experiences, their passions and their interests… I think that’s really key’ – Keith Short, Restless Development

Sustainability and going beyond financial support

Providing  more comprehensive all round support to the individuals receiving grants can make a big difference. This support can take various forms, ranging from personalised 1:1 guidance and mentoring to capacity building initiatives such as training, networking opportunities and legal or financial guidance.

Keith Short from Restless Development highlighted the organisation’s structured support system, which includes dedicated contacts for each grantee, tailored training sessions and a focus on well-being.

‘It’s really important to support them and make sure that we’re not setting them up to fail or to encounter challenges and problems because [of] things that they may not have had the experience [with].’ – Tim Owen from the Global Fund for Children

Additional approaches to ensuring sustainability can include: follow-on funding opportunities, alumni networks, or signposting individuals to other funding sources following the completion of their initial grants. This ensures that projects can continue to flourish even after the initial funding period.

Trust-based approaches to monitoring and evaluation

It’s better to focus on trust-based monitoring and evaluation approaches that focus on outcomes and impact rather than rigid reporting requirements. 

‘It may be tempting to add additional layers of bureaucracy. But I would challenge you to actually think about it in the opposite way. It’s a real opportunity to streamline your processes and make them as flexible and open as possible.” – Emma Crump

This approach not only reduces administrative burdens but also acknowledges the unique contexts and journeys of the funded individuals, allowing for more meaningful evaluation of their achievements. Funders can utilise tools like narrative reports, focus group discussions, and site visits to gain a deeper understanding of the impact created.

What’s next?

While traditional funding models play a vital role, a significant gap exists in supporting groups and individual changemakers who are deeply connected to their communities. By investing directly in individuals and communities, funders can tap into a wealth of passion, lived experience, and innovative ideas. 

If you’d like to chat more about how to fund individuals and community groups then check out our sister organisation The Social Change Nest. They have a range of services to help get money into the hands of individuals, communities and grassroots groups.

Thanks again to the following for running this insightful webinar: Emma Crump (Smallwood Trust), Catherine Gilmour (Global Fund for Children), Tim Owen (Global Fund for Children), Keith Short (Restless Development), Zof Esland (Co-op Foundation) and Dr Asimina Vergou (Co-op Foundation).

To learn more about their work visit:

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