Smarter and faster together: the power of partnerships in a crisis

At The London Community Foundation we recognise the crippling effect that rising costs are already having on our local charities. Now more than ever, it is vital that we draw on the experience of the pandemic and the partnerships forged in a crisis situation to offer support to those in need. Knowing that we can rely on trusted partners like the National Emergencies Trust, if we need to, reassures us that, together, we have the power to work rapidly and effectively to help London's communities get back on their feet.

With this in mind, it will come as no surprise that when we asked them to describe what our partnership means to them, they stepped up – you can read their thoughts below.

When bad things happen, we need our friends around us. People we trust to have our best interests at heart. People who know us, who understand us – and who can help us move on with our lives.

At the National Emergencies Trust we recognise that good friends are as important in a professional context as they are in a personal one. During domestic disasters, being able to spring into action with partners we know and trust means we can work faster and smarter to support those whose lives are changed irrevocably. It means we can streamline unnecessary processes and play to one another’s strengths so that the needs of emergency survivors and their loved ones come before absolutely anything else.

It’s because of our belief in the power of partnerships that we started to make friends before we needed them back in 2019, even before we launched as a charity. We travelled around the UK building relationships. With survivors from past UK emergencies who know how it feels, and can tell us what’s needed, when the worst possible happens. With local resilience forums and other emergency responders who can provide invaluable insights and networks in the heat of crises. With organisations who can offer vital volunteers at speed.

We also established a partnership with UK Community Foundations (UKCF) and its network of 47 local foundations, including The London Community Foundation, right across the UK. A funder friend who we knew would be uniquely placed, through local knowledge and connections, to distribute funds to help those in great need during the next national emergency. What we of course couldn’t know was just how quickly we’d be putting this new friendship to the test.

On 18 March 2020, just four months after we launched as a charity, we activated the Coronavirus Appeal – a nationwide fundraising and fund distribution effort to support those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Suddenly, and at great speed, our friendship with UKCF and its network was being put through its paces – and proving its worth. Within a week of the Appeal’s launch, the first million pounds had been distributed to communities UK-wide.

In the Capital, The London Community Foundation could not have responded with greater agility. Before the end of March the team was already awarding grants to groups making a world of difference on the ground and, over the coming months, would go on to award more than £7.5 million in Coronavirus Appeal funding from our National Emergencies Appeal to more than 671 incredible local organisations. By the end of the pandemic, they had deployed a total of £13.4 million in COVID-19 emergency funds through the combined generosity of individuals, companies, foundations, the public sector and the National Emergencies Trust.

Mutual trust and respect allowed for a fully flexible funding criteria, which meant grants could go simply and quickly to where they could have the biggest impact.

For Twickenham-based Skylarks Charity, who offer a supportive and active community for children living with disabilities and their families, funding enabled them to employ more counsellors to support children’s mental wellbeing when the pandemic brought changes to their usual routines. It also meant that the service could be extended to include parents.

For Doorstep Homeless Families Project, based in Camden, funding supported weekly food and care packages to homeless families living in hostel room accommodation, and meant they could offer devices for children to help with the challenges of home-schooling.

Hundreds of stories like this simply wouldn’t have been possible if we weren’t working as true partners. Mutual trust and respect allowed for a fully flexible funding criteria, which meant grants could go simply and quickly to where they could have the biggest impact. They also allowed for minimal reporting requirements, so The London Community Foundation’s team could focus on harnessing their local expertise to make a difference; not talking about the difference they were making.

With UKCF’s support, we saw this same partnership success story play out all over the UK, in other cities and remote rural areas. More than £76 million in Coronavirus Appeal grants was distributed via UKCF and community foundations to many thousands of grassroots groups, across all four nations. So it’s no surprise that ‘trust and flexibility’ within the partnership play out as key success factors in an upcoming independent evaluation of the Coronavirus Appeal by Nottingham Trent University, to be published this Autumn.

Today, as we look ahead to the next domestic disaster, we’re busy building new friendships and moving our existing ones to the next level. With The London Community Foundation, for example, we’re looking at how we turn a powerful partnership into a tremendous team, alongside London Emergencies Trust, the Evening Standard, UKCF and others. We’re putting the work in now so that everyone will be best placed to play to their strengths when the next national emergency in London arises.

Today, as we look ahead to the next domestic disaster, we’re busy building new friendships and moving our existing ones to the next level.

History suggests we should expect major UK emergencies every 2.4 years, but the present economic and environmental volatility point to a future in which crises are much more frequent, and much more likely to exacerbate inequities. Within this context, trusted partnerships that can connect national fundraising firepower, with nuanced knowledge of communities’ needs will become ever more important.

So here’s to the next chapter of our partnership with The London Community Foundation and their 46 fantastic peers. With UKCF and a growing number of national funder friends. With emergency responders and emergency survivors. We look forward to pooling our knowledge, playing to our unique strengths, together – and making sure that nobody is left behind when the worst happens again.

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