Local giving model drives positive community impact

13 December 2017

In the London borough of Islington, a local not-for-profit organisation is focused on making small but impactful changes to assist disadvantaged people in the community.

When Islington Giving analysed why single mothers had virtually no contact with the community other than dropping their children at school, it found there was simply nowhere for them to go.

“Unless you had money there was nothing to do on the weekends and in the evenings. One of the reasons for this was that the community services would only open on weekdays and then only until 4pm," says Islington Giving director, Kristina Glenn.

Islington Giving helped arrange for community services to stay open on Friday evenings and Saturdays, giving people, including single mothers, a place to meet people and establish networks.

These new networks have given many women the confidence to go into training, and eventually to become employed.

“It really has changed people's lives," says Glenn.

Though often considered affluent, Glenn says Islington is also one of the most deprived areas of London, sharply divided between rich and poor.

"We're at the centre of the most vibrant city in the world. But poverty means many of the residents are effectively locked out from its myriad opportunities," she says.

“It has the third highest level of child poverty, the highest rate of depression and one of the shortest average life expectancies for men in London."

To help overcome this, Islington Giving has spent the seven years since its inception bringing together local funders, businesses, residents and voluntary organisations to better understand the impact of poverty and inequality in the community and develop localised solutions.

“Unless you have deep relationships with those affected it's impossible to know the extent of the problem," Islington Giving Board Member and Macquarie Division Director Amy Veitch points out.

Through this model, the Islington community has developed an integrated approach to three key issues affecting residents: supporting families, investing in young people and bringing isolated people back into the community.

Islington Giving adopts a “fail-fast” mentality, where innovative ways of achieving goals are encouraged and trialled, then refined or abandoned if they don't achieve the desired result.

This entrepreneurial approach sets it apart from many not-for-profits and reflects the culture of many of its funders in taking a ‘shared value’ approach to investing locally. Backers include Macquarie and the 500-year-old Cripplegate Foundation, as well as local and international businesses and Arsenal Football Club.

Macquarie has played an integral role in the borough since founding the BIG Alliance (Businesses for Islington Giving), a program that aims to strengthen links between Islington-based businesses and community organisations, schools, colleges and universities. Since 2012 Macquarie has deployed hundreds of staff into local charities and schools in Islington.

When established in 2010, Islington Giving was the first organisation of its kind in London. There are now 23 place-based giving movements across London supported by London’s Giving.

Glenn says there is potential for this localised model to be applied globally and there is already significant interest from Norway, Ireland, Scotland and other parts of the world.