Communities know best what they need to flourish

At the heart of every thriving community you will find the most incredible people working relentlessly, to create a better, safer, happier place for the people around them.

However, funding opportunities and support is so often inaccessible or completely unavailable to them, meaning they have to work twice as hard to achieve half as much for their community.

We believe that communities know best what they need to flourish. That’s why we partnered with BUD to launch the Community Leaders in Motion programme (CLiM), funded by Impact on Urban Health.

The programme provides practical support and no-strings-attached funding to community groups across Lambeth and Southwark.

In the coming weeks, we will share some of the stories of people who are making a real difference. For the first article in this series Rachel Krengel shares what Community Leaders in Motion is all about and why it’s so important to support community leaders.

Why it’s so important to support community leaders

I joined the Social Change Agency the week before the first lockdown. Little did I, or anyone else, know what the next two years had in store. Whilst this time has been marked for many by grief, loss and rage, I think for a lot of us there’s been hope too.

Over the course of the pandemic we saw a rise in community activism and volunteering that could be described as ‘unprecedented’ (if you can still stomach the word). That’s true, to a certain extent, however it’s not the whole story.

I’ve learnt how important it is to listen to the people who’ve been supporting their community for years

In starting our grant giving programme, the pilot project that would become Community Leaders in Motion, we set out to connect these new and exciting (and excited) community groups with funding via our then very new fiscal hosting service.

We were working across Lambeth and Southwark, targeting areas that were chosen for having the highest levels of inequality and deprivation. What we very quickly found was that, yes, there were new and exciting groups in these areas, but in many instances the work was already being done by community leaders who had been working in that same area for years.

Everyone values the new people and groups, those with fresh energy and new ideas, yet over the years I’ve learnt how important it is to listen to the people who’ve been supporting their community for years. People like my grandma, who raised money and influenced decision makers to build a community centre in her rural community in the North East and never let them get away with building things that were *just* for the tourists. Or people like her mother, one of the many we lost in 2020, who was volunteering at the day centre “to help out the old folk” long into her 80s. Or my grandfather who ran a village folk club since before I was born and who’s name you’ll still find on the posters for shows in the village museum. They’re all gone now, but what they built is still there.

This would become a cornerstone of our Community Leaders in Motion programme where our aim would be to support and amplify the impact of those who were already active members of their communities.

Listening to the needs of the community

During the pandemic, we didn’t want to end up in the same pitfalls that we’ve seen so many funders and funding programmes fall into because they didn’t properly engage or listened to their grantees. Instead we worked with and alongside the community providing the support that they felt would be most helpful.

At every turn, we assumed that they knew better than we did what their community needed

We helped local Tenants and Residents Associations (TRA) chairs convert their TRA halls into food banks, faith communities to set up soup kitchens and activists from the mutual aid network (the one that predated the pandemic) set up solidarity funds. We also helped new groups like Melanin LunchBox set up and find their feet. We helped the grandparents and parents of my new community care for their neighbours the way my grandparents did. At every turn, we assumed that they knew better than we did what their community needed.

As lockdowns ended the context changed, the groups changed, and so has the Community Leadership in Motion programme.

Now halfway through its first two years. We’re still helping unincorporated community groups with funding, fiscal hosting and organising support and advice.

However, with our partner BUD we’ve also been able to run the first round of a leadership development course. We’ve taken eight brilliant community leaders through a course about collaborative leadership and sustainability to ensure their work remains at the heart of their communities for generations to come.

We’ve set up funding for their projects and a system for them to manage their money so that they can implement real change in their community. Importantly our funding model comes with no strings and minimal reporting requirements, because we trust the leaders we work with absolutely to know where that money is best spent.

If you are a funder and would like to run a similar programme to support your local community get in touch.

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