The London Community Foundation has been in existence, in various guises, for over 20 years. As you’d expect, the idea that communities should be supported to tackle local issues is ingrained in our DNA.
When something is so ingrained - so normal - you can sometimes forget that not everyone thinks the same. Investing in communities? Who could disagree with that!
Several of the issues that the London Community Foundation tackles are entrenched societal problems. Violence, addiction, poverty, social division: what difference could a small community group make in the face of these great social ills? Surely it needs Government to act.
It might surprise you, but in an era of big challenges, the answer is likely to be very local, not national. Communities can mobilize quickly, making the best use of their talents and resources to meet need in the here and now. Unless they are responding to a crisis, governments often struggle to do the same.
These talents and resources are drawn from the very fact that these groups are local. They are often staffed by local people, drawing upon local volunteers to fill the gaps where funding cannot pay for salaries. Because they are run by local people, they have a deep understanding of how the issue is affecting their community. This means they tend to design services around the needs of people, rather than the needs of their organisation.
Locally run and locally designed services tend to lead to the high levels of trust needed to really engage the people that need help.
With no end in sight to the big squeeze on public finances, community-based organisations provide an essential safety net for society. Ask yourself, if you were a refugee, newly arrived to London, who would you want to support you? A group of 40 compassionate, committed local volunteers, or one overstretched local authority employee?
Community-based action is in the DNA of LCF and the entire Community Foundation movement. For the past 12 days we have showcased the great work of 12 small community organisations making a big impact across London. But, we need to be louder about why it is important, so expect to hear lots more from us in the coming months about how small groups are making a big difference across the city.