Daniel Ferrell-Schweppenstedde

Former Policy and Public Affairs Manager

Charities Aid Foundation

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Growing place-based giving – what have we learned so far?

21 August 2020

CAF recently hosted an event on “The role of place based giving in rebuilding communities post Covid-19”, which saw a fascinating discussion among a panel of speakers who brought a wide range of perspectives and insight, including the current Minister for Civil Society, Baroness Barran MBE.

The event marked the publication of a series of reports detailing the findings from the Growing Place-Based Giving Fund; which CAF delivered on behalf of the  Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). These were a main report, as well as two short reports aimed at those who are interested in setting up a place-based giving scheme in their area, and at funders who want to support these schemes).

The Growing Place-Based Giving Fund programme was set up following the publication of the Government’s Civil Society Strategy in 2018, and provided £100,000 of funding to six place-based giving schemes in England, alongside additional support and capacity building from CAF and an external steering group we convened for the project.

CAF has been exploring the potential of “civic philanthropy” for a number of years. Our starting point for this interest is a recognition that many towns, cities and regions around the UK have suffered a long-term post-war decline as traditional industry and manufacturing have disappeared; and that as a result many are seeking to reinvent and recalibrate their economic and social identities for the future.

Philanthropy, however, has been notably absent from these discussions; despite the fact that many of the places in question have rich histories of local giving.

We are keen to keep exploring, therefore, what role place-based giving and philanthropy can play in the re-imagination of places for the 21st Century, and this event provided some great insights and food for thought.

Insights from the speakers

Civil Society Minister Baroness Barran MBE highlighted that one of the main drivers for giving is a personal link to a cause and a sense of connection, which can come through place. Covid-19 in particular has made people more connected to the areas they live in.

The government is therefore keen to understand both what can be done to build on the apparent upsurge in social action at a local level that we have seen throughout the pandemic and also how this can contribute to their ambitions for “levelling up”.

Baroness Barran stressed, however, that whilst central government has an interest in supporting the growth of place-based giving, she recognised that developing momentum around a scheme at a local level requires building a sense of ownership and that there is a need to understand the broader assets and aspirations of communities when looking towards mobilising individuals (their time, giving and shared vision) around place.

Baroness_Barran_Official_Portrait im275
sue turner
Sue Turner, CEO of Quartet Community Foundation (Bristol) spoke about the impact of City Funds Bristol (one of the schemes that was part of the Growing Place-Based Giving programme.

For her the difference that being part of the programme made was quite profound: she highlighted in particular the impact of the core support received as well as pro bono advice around fundraising, communications, governance, strategy and other topics. It allowed the City Funds Bristol scheme to move from a theoretical to a practical model and gave them the opportunity to talk to other place-based giving schemes and groups around the country to share knowledge and experience. It also led them to focus on developing hyper-local action and involving expert citizens and particular communities (BAME, disabled, older people etc.).
Mike Greene, Chief Executive of Scarborough Borough Council outlined how community involvement has also been at the heart of their efforts when it comes to building a better borough.

He spoke of the need to get place-based giving more embedded in the public sector – working in partnership with the voluntary secto and moving away from a paternalistic approach in providing local and public services.

There is a huge potential to leverage the deep connection of people to their area and place-based giving is a mechanism to do that so it can a valuable tool in developing resilience in communities. Building on an asset-based approach and working with the community has been at the heart of developing their scheme (Yorkshire Coast Catalyst).
mike greene
Dr Geraud de Ville de Goyet
Dr Géraud de Ville de Goyet, CEO of Barking & Dagenham Renew (London) explained that whilst one of the practical drivers for engaging with place-based giving may be the reduction of available resources to the third sector, there are also many added benefits in terms of the high commitment to partnership working and community engagement that it brings.

Place-based giving can be a focal point for brokering new relationships between givers, local actors and businesses and those who deliver services (civil society and Council). The scheme in Barking & Dagenham was also involved in wider strategy setting by the Council (e.g. the Social Value Policy).

Taking part in the Growing Place-Based Giving programme had provided a vital ‘incubator space’, much needed core funding and the freedom to develop the process. The process of setting up the scheme and running it had also brought immediate benefits because it had been highly participatory and generated trust and new information from the community for decision-makers.
James Banks, CEO of London Funders stressed that place-based giving is about giving power to communities, enabling to them to tackle their own problems. It is ultimately a collaborative approach and needs to be based on direct personal relationships and trust – bringing people together and responding to their needs through really listening to them.

Some of his main takeaways were that solutions are unique to each place; that place-based giving approaches need to be effective continuously because they are often aimed at people for whom living in crisis is a permanent state; and that time and resources are needed to engage with place-based giving, but it can pay a dividend in terms of future impact being amplified.

Emerging themes for future development

Speakers agreed that place-based giving is not merely transactional in nature, and should not be simply as simply about moving money. Partnership and trust-building between the stakeholders involved is essential – and the approach to ‘ownership of the scheme’ needs to be flexible and accepted by the local community. There is also not ‘one right approach’ that can be applied - a plurality of models is inherent to place-based giving and schemes need to be given the space to develop in ways that reflect their locality.

However there do seem to be some early indicators of success. Models need to offer civic engagement and agency as well as distributing money effectively on the ground. There needs to be a clear narrative about philanthropy at the local level and the role of place-based giving within that, as well as clarity around what it can achieve (and what it cannot).

The development of a strategy (or strategic view) is crucial in order to understand where a scheme fits in the local context, what its capabilities and aims are, as well as developing a shared understanding of governance. The availability of early funding to map local needs and priorities (or some lower-cost exercise that provides similar insights) right at the outset is also paramount.

Reflecting the learning from CAF’s report, speakers also highlighted the importance of long-term core funding and the need for longer time frames for processes to take root. There is also a strong focus on the value of local (and social) infrastructure that place-based giving can help develop and maintain, so that there is something which can be build upon when the next crisis hits.

place based giving caf report aug 2020
place based giving report august 2020

What’s next?

Being part of the implementation of the Growing Place-Based Giving programme was an immense learning opportunity, not only for CAF, but for all partners involved and we saw that the initiative by DCMS made a big difference to the development of the schemes that took part in it.

We hope that future work around this topic will emerge from this programme. We have already seen that schemes managed to pivot their work in response to the crisis – which is to show that place-based giving as an approach is of relevance not only community revitalising, but can also provide much needed impulses for a post-pandemic recovery or even future preparedness and resilience when the next crisis comes around.

Despite place-based giving being focused on being particularly contextually relevant, there is a lot of added value in exchanges of information and learning across schemes. We are therefore looking forward to continue the conversation around place-based giving with the pilot (and other) schemes, local and national decision-makers and any interested parties.

If you have any questions or are interested in collaborating with us please reach out to Campaigns@cafonline.org

The six pilot schemes

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