Research Project

Councils and independent funders must collaborate to put residents at the forefront of activity
10 July, 2017

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Research published today by NLGN has shown that as society undergoes rapid social change, independent funders are crucial to the future of placemaking.

The research, supported by the City of London Corporation’s charitable funder, City Bridge Trust, found that due to local government budgets coming under increasing pressure, service delivery has reduced as need has grown – and with this comes an increasing role for civil society to secure the wellbeing of communities.

Building Bridges found that councils need to work more closely with other funders of civil society, and communities, to enable change. To achieve this, local authorities should ensure there is a senior officer responsible for developing funding; and elected members should see their role as key to building bridges between the council and independent funders.

In turn, independent funders, such as charitable trusts and endowments, should work collaboratively with councils in order to define what ‘good’ service delivery looks like.

Abigail Gilbert, lead researcher on the report said:

“It’s news to no one that following nearly a decade of cuts to local government funding, many councils have scaled back their activity to ‘statutory at the highest levels of need’. In practice, this means that the boundaries demarcating responsibilities of state and civil society have shifted.

“This demands two things. Firstly, that all funders of civil society engage in realistic conversations about how outcomes can still be secured at the local level. Secondly, that funders and councils acknowledge their new role as enablers – putting civil society in the driving seat to define what good looks like, and drive innovation.”

The report also recommended that:

  • Councils and funders should work towards a common understanding of need by engaging communities thoroughly, together
  • A database of all independent funders should be held and maintained by a single, central body
  • Councils and funders should work towards greater clarity about how services should be funded and delivered in the future

David Farnsworth, Director of City Bridge Trust and Chair of London Funders said:

“Given recent events in London, this report couldn’t be more timely. We welcome its call for independent funders and local authorities to work in better collaboration, putting London’s communities and civil society at the heart of future conversations.

“London is an extraordinary city, but still has considerable social and economic divides. City Bridge Trust is committed to tackling disadvantage across the capital and making London a fairer and better place to live.

“As Chair of London Funders, I am acutely aware of the vital role that it plays in bringing together independent funders, local authorities and investors from across London’s diverse funding ecology to think, share, learn and act together.”

In particular, local government and the funding sector should have further discussions on areas such as youth, crime, health and wellbeing, skills and cohesion. These should be held at a regional level to ensure a place based approach.

Publication Date: 10 July 2017
Authored by: Dr Abigail Gilbert