A 10-year milestone of impactful change in Islington

March 2023

Image credit: Cripplegate Foundation

The London Borough of Islington has a reputation as a wealthy London neighbourhood, home to high-end restaurants and boutique shops and with some of the highest property prices in the country.1 But away from the high street, the borough is home to some of the starkest social inequality in the UK.

Through a long-standing strategic partnership with Islington Giving, Macquarie has helped to make an impact on the local community of its London office – providing over £1m in the last 10 years with a commitment to future funding for the non-profit.

Islington Giving is a non-profit coalition of local people, businesses and organisations working together2 to address poverty and inequality in Islington and support people and projects that aim to ensure everyone can live a good quality life.

Islington is vibrant and diverse, full of opportunity, but also a place where that opportunity is accessed unequally.”

Lisa Robinson
Director of Development & Communications 
Islington Giving


Addressing unmet community need

In 2012, Macquarie moved into its new London office where the borough borders the City of London and began to look for ways to support the local community. 

It’s important that we work with a trusted local organisation that understands where we can have the most meaningful impact, so we can most effectively address the needs of local communities through our philanthropic activities and our staff’s skills.”

Rachel Engel
Head of the Macquarie Group Foundation in EMEA
Macquarie Group

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. The entrepreneurial approach sets it apart from many non-profits and reflects the culture of many of its funders in taking a ‘collective impact',3 approach to investing locally.

The innovative nature of the collaboration appealed to Macquarie and a partnership quickly formed. From there, the idea for the BIG Alliance (Businesses for Islington Giving) took shape – an organisation that brokers the partnerships necessary for businesses to help the borough in meaningful ways through financial support, pro bono skills and expertise sharing.

In 2012, the BIG Alliance was established; and a decade on, the collaboration has leveraged the involvement of almost 90 businesses across the borough of Islington, and thousands of volunteers in supporting the local community. The Alliance is a collaboration between Macquarie Group, Islington Giving and ELBA (East London Business Alliance) and brings people and organisations together in a structured way to achieve social change.

As Rachel explains, “we felt the support brokered through the BIG Alliance would allow businesses to be more effective if they were to collaborate, share insights, resources and work together with grassroots projects, local non-profits, residents and the council. That is why, as we were establishing the Alliance, we looked at the idea of a collective impact; we needed to hear from the public sector, the voluntary sector and the corporate sector – and then align our approach. These key stakeholders talking with each other and to the residents has been vital.”

“We know that when we work together, we can make good things happen.”

We are thankful for our business partners whose individual actions through thousands of volunteers have brought ‘people power’ to maintain community spaces, mentor local young people and provide them with an insight into the world of work. They have also strengthened our third sector by sharing their skills.”

Ian Parkes
Chief Executive Officer
East London Business Alliance

Facilitating social mobility

In 2014, the Mentoring Works programme was introduced in Islington. The programme supports young people in secondary school by breaking down the barriers often faced by pupils from low socio-economic backgrounds and works to increase access to educational opportunities. The programme enables BIG Alliance partners including Macquarie, to engage with schools in the borough, meaning that staff can offer their skills to support local young people to explore their career goals so that, as Lisa adds, “more people can access life-changing opportunities”.

Each academic year, Mentoring Works supports students who are 14–15 years old, as well as a number of sixth-form students to develop their presentation and networking skills, helping them to make decisions on their career paths and the steps they will need to take to reach their goals. By 2019, across all partners the programme had supported 1000 students, and each year, Macquarie aims to increase the number of its volunteers participating in the programme so that more children will have access to valuable mentoring support.4

Macquarie mentor and a mentee as part of the Mentoring Works programme in our London office.


Improving mental health

Islington is one of the most densely populated boroughs in the UK, with only 13 per cent dedicated green space – the lowest proportion in the country.5 Every year, volunteers from one of the BIG Alliance member businesses refurbish Islington’s 12 playgrounds. For many Islington families, these playgrounds provide outdoor places for children to learn and play together. For just £1 a year, children aged six and over can use these spaces after school every day and during school holidays, providing hundreds of local children with safe, green and fun places for play.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Macquarie worked with Islington Giving and helped to raise over £400,000 for the Islington Giving Crisis & Recovery Appeal, supporting more than 40 local organisations offering services, such as emergency food support and technologies to roll-out hybrid working.6 Macquarie and Islington Giving were able to work with the local council and volunteer networks to enable families without access to computers to move to online schooling, and to mobilise volunteers to make food drops or offer support for local people needing help. “Macquarie’s relationship with Islington Giving and our ability to make decisions quickly meant that we were able to respond swiftly to local needs in a meaningful way,” adds Rachel.

Macquarie staff volunteering in Islington’s green spaces.


An impactful partnership

The partnership continues to grow as Macquarie has committed to future funding to support Islington Giving, which will help the non-profit continue to address the poverty and inequality in Islington as well as help grow volunteer numbers, improve mental health, promote social mobility and enable greater local business involvement.

Islington Council Leader, Councillor Kaya Comer-Schwartz acknowledges the impact the partnership has had on the borough.

“Islington is a fantastic place full of thriving businesses, outstanding services and, most importantly, a rich and wonderful diversity of people, cultures and communities. At the heart of this sits our borough’s amazing voluntary and community organisations.

“As a council, we are determined to make Islington a more equal place, tackling the issues local people face, but we can’t do that alone. I’d like to take this opportunity to recognise the 10-year partnership between Islington Giving and Macquarie, and also the BIG Alliance, on the huge impact to the borough – bringing over 12,400 business volunteers to support more than 1,700 secondary students with mentoring support and over 100 voluntary organisations over the last 10 years. We can’t achieve our ambitions alone, so we’re grateful for the support of these organisations.”4


If you are interested in discussing a corporate membership with the BIG Alliance contact Luke.Brown@thebigalliance.org.uk or if you’d like to learn about how you can support Islington Giving contact Lisa.Robinson@islingtongiving.org.uk.

  1. ‘Islington’s population evidence and statistics’, Islington.Gov.UK, 2023 
  2. ‘About us’, Islington Giving, 2023 
  3. ‘What is collective impact’, Collective Impact Forum, 2023 
  4. Data provided by BIG Alliance, annual monitoring and evaluation.
  5. ‘Camden and Islington Parks for Health Strategy’ Islington.Gov.UK, 2022
  6. Cripplegate Foundation and Islington Giving Funding during the pandemic, Islington giving and Cripplegate Foundation, 2021, Islingtongiving.org.uk