Research and development COVID-19

Collective responses to emergency COVID funding

2 December 2020
3 min read

Stephen Bediako OBE, from The Social Innovation Partnership, shares the approach to our new project to distribute emergency funding to support organisations in our place through the pandemic.

Over the last eight months, we’ve been working on a range of emergency responses to COVID-19. From funding meals for school children, to supporting local mutual aid groups and contributing to the initial waves of the London Funders Emergency Response Fund.

Most recently, we’ve been working on a major new project to distribute emergency funding to support organisations in our place through the pandemic, focusing on Black-led, LGBTQ+, women’s-focused and disability-led organisations.

In this blog Stephen Bediako, our lead consultant on this project, talks about our approach to this work.

Deploying resources to organisations, with confidence and trust

Throughout this pandemic, I’ve had the privilege of doing my bit to help as we build better forward. 

In San Francisco / Oakland, USA I supported Fab City in setting up a PPE production operation with hiring and employment services for 15 volunteers leading a team of 300 producing thousands of masks, gowns, shields and more via my coop staffing agency, Turning Basin Labs

In the U.K. I’ve supported behind the scenes as TSIP have developed their approach to a Community Research model. With friends at the Barbican we’ve started to steer the organisation to be more and more inclusive with staff and leadership. However, it’s with Impact on Urban Health where we’ve started a piece of work that has the potential to change the way we all do things.

Since September 2020 we’ve been delivering a programme of work to support diverse-led organisations in Lambeth and Southwark. Focusing on Impact on Urban Health’s four programme areas – we’ve established a project that provides leadership support, mentoring, access to resources, and, in some cases, emergency funding. 

In two months, we’ve deployed £500k to organisations supporting local communities across Lambeth and Southwark. We believe this will increase to £2m by next April 2021. Whether it be supporting parents and children, running food banks, helping communities to access statutory services, to tackle energy poverty or helping communities to stay safe and healthy during COVID.


Why have we done this?

The moment demands it. The global pandemic has disproportionately affected some communities over others. In Lambeth and Southwark, Black residents and those from Spanish and Portuguese speaking communities have been hit the hardest. 

We know that there is a reason for that disproportionate representation. The same structural inequities play out in the funding world too. As a social entrepreneur myself I’ve lost track of the times I lost support, got turned away or got questioned about my fit for a piece of work, when I was in fact over-qualified and over-experienced to do the work. It still happens today.

With this in mind, the project has sought to find other Black and minoritised community leaders in Lambeth and Southwark, to support them with authenticity, intentionality and sensitivity.


What has been our approach?

We’ve tried to be different, with a new flexible, trusting, and adult-driven approach. We’ve focused on conversations and relationships, reaching out to organisations to understand who they are, their needs and whether we could support them. We didn’t make people fill out long application forms – in fact we did that work including developing cases for investment. 

We’ve sought to understand people’s finances, and the impact of COVID-19 and we’ve focused on putting in place a more relational and less anachronistic approach to monitoring. Alignment to our themes has been key and a commitment to diversity in both the work they do, and how they do it.


What’s been tough?

The work these organisations do is critical. Trying to manage the power and risk aversion that comes with being a funder is difficult. It’s important to say no when it’s not the right fit, and it’s important to move quickly and effectively when assessing and making decisions. Every decision we make has an impact. 

We continue to learn and seek to improve, and we will make mistakes, we will get things wrong. But our view is it’s better to try, and make mistakes, rather than never to try at all, or to be so risk averse you do too little.


What next?

We keep going. We are pushing to deploy our support and resources, and think about what more we can do for early and emerging organisations. We want to enrol tens of Lambeth and Southwark leaders on to our leadership programme. We want to find organisations whose work (and outcomes) speak to our focus on children’s health and food, slowing progression to multiple long-term conditions, air pollution and children’s mental health.