A community fighting back: Save London Lives insights

By Harriette Tillott

Interim findings of the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund - Save London Lives programme

The Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund (ESDF) was set up in 2010 to help grassroots charities tackling poverty, inequality, and exclusion across the capital. Back in August 2018 we launched the ESDF Save London Lives programme to build a better and more robust community response to youth violence in London by increasing the impact and resilience of organisations.

The premise behind the programme is that community organisations have a vital role in supporting young people and reducing violence through locally based solutions. The London Community Foundation (LCF) report, The Violence Virus, explored how environmental factors can coalesce to produce reinforcing cycles that appear to spread violence and trauma. Community organisations can break the cycles by providing help in prevention, crisis intervention and aftercare. This initiative champions the public health approach, that considers the wider social framework.

Four rounds of funding

Over the last two years, Save London Lives included four rounds of funding, totalling £2.1m committed to 57 organisations across London. The grants are multi-year and a mixture of project and core funding, which provides organisations with freedom and flexibility to maximise impact.  

  • Round 1 was funded through the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund, Mohn Westlake and the Dodds family, and supported organisations responding to youth violence under the themes of Trauma, School and Family.
  • Round 2 was funded by Citi Foundation and supported organisations responding to youth violence under the theme of Employment & Enterprise.
  • Round 3 was funded by L&Q and supported organisations responding to youth violence under the themes of Trauma, School, Family and Employment & Enterprise.
  • Round 4 offered additional funding from the Home Office. 55 organisations from the previous three rounds received core funding to enhance their organisational resilience and develop best practice for fighting youth violence.

Additional support received

The range of projects funded varied from youth work to family support, anti-knife workshops in schools to trauma training for staff at a youth centre. All projects benefitted from a package of capacity building support, including training days on subjects such as Evaluation, Fundraising, Safeguarding, and further networking opportunities.

Following the first external interim evaluation in June 2020, the fund’s capacity building ethos was seen to been relevant now more than ever. 74% of grantees responded to a Needs and Evaluation Survey, of whom over 90% said the programme’s networking meetings were well organised and effective in strengthening networks, and 80% found the training well-structured and useful.

One tangible method of measuring impact of the programme is its financial leverage, with 61% of grantees receiving additional funding because of their ESDF Save London Lives grant award. The collective amount raised was £2.56m, which is an impressive average leverage of 5.4 across the programme. This will be monitored over the lifetime of the programme.

The effects of Covid-19

Covid-19 created unprecedented challenges for the Save London Lives grantees, which meant the programme's ability to foster resilience was placed under the pressure. Over the last 6-months, we have seen community groups working tirelessly to support the most vulnerable in our society. Third sector staff, volunteers, and trustees have indisputably been the unsung heroes during the Covid-19 lockdown. 91% of respondents to the Needs and Evaluation Survey said that their organisation was still delivering services during lockdown. While not in their charitable aims, grantees were extending services to include emergency care relief support for residents and NHS workers.

A clear message from the survey indicated that due to the flexibility of the funding, and its focus on core costs and organisational development, the impact has been significant. Core funding not only allows time for reflection, identifying development, which contributes to organisational resilience and cohesive services. These characteristics are essential for grassroots organisations to be responsive enough to operate within the public health model of the prevention of youth violence. Findings from the external evaluation has identified a visible positive cycle of organisational change.

Organisations highlighted their main areas of need, which will be vital in a post-Covid world, from technology support; organisational adaptability; evaluation; networking and holistic working. Not only is core funding vital to protecting the third sector, but from the evaluation there are several non-financial elements to consider: mentoring, training, advice, and communication. The Save London Lives Programme has been the main or most important source of training and organisational development support for more than half of the respondents.

Insights from the grantees

“We have really valued some of the workshops that we have participated in through Save London Lives.”

“All of our engagement with Save London Lives has been helpful.”

“Save London Lives’ capacity building programme has been supportive and has helped the organisation to adapt and also to secure a small fund to support the mental needs of our BAME beneficiaries.”

“Save London Lives is very important, particularly for grass roots organisations and how we can collaborate and work together to addressing youth violence and harm. This will be needed even more as we move forward out of the lockdown.”

“Individual team members receive information and support from different sources. For myself, Save London Lives has always been a reliable and pro-active resource which I happily share with my team.”

Further insights

David Cohen, Investigations and Campaigns Editor on the Evening Standard, said:

When we launched Save London Lives in 2018 with a deep dive into the lives of young people trying to escape the world of criminality and gangs they had been groomed into, we quickly realised that a trauma-informed public health approach was needed to make them - and London - safer. Our subsequent campaign not only brought about a welcome U-turn by City Hall but raised £2.1 million to benefit 57 brave organisations tackling youth violence across the capital. Now this interim evaluation of our work vindicates our response in three powerful ways. First, we hear that our grant awards have enabled these groups to leverage additional funds of £2.56 million, impressive in itself. In addition, more than half the groups told the evaluators that our capacity building workshops have been the most important source of their organisational development. And finally, our funding model - supporting their core costs as well as key programmes - has given them the flexibility and resilience to cope in an unprecedented year. There is so much to do in this enormously challenging area of tackling youth violence, but it is gratifying to hear that the organisations on the frontline have been raised up and made stronger by our efforts.

The interim findings are an opportunity to reflect on the ESDF Save London Lives programme, and to ensure LCF is implementing effective and impactful grant making. Key findings highlighted the capacity building as a vital component, which will now continue for the programme lifetime focusing on the topics suggested by grantees. There are also wider lessons for LCF around the efficacy of in-house monitoring reports and creating a wider understanding about evaluative thinking and methods within the context in which LCF operates. LCF has established a working group focused on data to make improvements to the current database. The ongoing evaluation will continue, with the final report due in August 2022. And we look forward to continuing our partnership with the grantees over the next two years.