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Islington Council's Community Chest: A Celebration

Islington Council's Community Chest: A Celebration

Islington Council’s Community Chest is an excellent demonstration of faith in the people of this community. We are privileged that the Council supports the wellbeing and development of our community in this way.

Frances Carter (Vice Chair, Islington Council's Community Chest Panel; Chair, Cripplegate Foundation)

Since 2009, Islington Council has worked in partnership with Cripplegate Foundation to support Islington’s voluntary organisations with flexible, impactful funding and advice. 577 Community Chest grants of almost £1.5million have been awarded to a diverse range of small community organisations. Guided by strong principles of equality and fairness, and stewarded by panel members who have a collective knowledge of the opportunities and challenges faced by people living in the borough, the Community Chest programme helps to make change possible.

Small grants, big impact

The Community Chest funds small, community-focussed organisations with an annual turnover of less than £100,000 with grants of up to £5,000. “It is amazing what can be achieved with such a modest amount of money”, says panel member Lucy Bingham, “especially when combined with the energy and enthusiasm of some truly amazing people.”

The Community Chest Panel has 3 representatives of Islington Council, 3 Islington community representatives and 3 Cripplegate Foundation Governors. The Chair and Islington Council’s Executive Member for Community Development, Councillor Kaya Comer-Schwartz, says the panel is “motivated by a desire to do something about inequality.” The Community Chest provides an opportunity to celebrate “local people doing things for their community.”

Panel meetings are an opportunity for Islington organisations to present the impact of their work. These presentations are vital to ensure there is continual learning from and with the local community. This learning informs the Community Chest’s strategy, and helps to improve the application process.

An effective partnership

The partnership between Islington Council and Cripplegate Foundation builds durable and versatile connections between different members of the community. Many organisations supported since 2009 exemplify this approach of working in partnership to make positive change.

Small grants enable organisations to test innovative approaches and support local residents. St Luke’s Community History Group meet once a fortnight to research the history of Finsbury. Its members, mostly older residents, feel comfortable socialising and working on projects together.  That feelings of isolation and mental ill health are reduced as a result of their participation is an indirect side-effect of their involvement. 

For some organisations, a Community Chest grant is a valuable first step towards growth, replication, or the implementation of a new idea. Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation’s first grant was awarded from the Community Chest in 2012. The organisation now works with hundreds of women from the Middle East, North Africa and Asia living in London. 

It is an important feature of the programme not to expect every organisation to want to upscale their ideas. The essence of the Community Chest is that it allows local people to do things to help other local people. That is enough of a measure of success. 

Frances Carter, (Vice Chair, Islington Council's Community Chest Panel; Chair, Cripplegate Foundation)

Reaching the community

Organisations can apply for funding once a year. Some organisations have received Community Chest funding more than once.

The openness of the Community Chest to continuous funding is just one of the ways in which it differs from other small grants programmes. It is so important for some organisations to feel supported across a number of years, especially when their work involves long-term relationships and sometimes supporting people who experience different vulnerabilities. 

Lucy Bingham, Islington Council's Community Chest Panel Member

Continuous funding helps to mobilise the support of Islington’s dedicated and passionate volunteers, some of whom have been helping organisations and communities for years (or decades). Hayley has lived on Crayford Road for over a decade, and has worked with her neighbours to transform life on the road since 2012.

Organisations supported by the Community Chest are often providers of proactive support. For some people, the opportunity to socialise with neighbours and friends around a specific issue or interest is a positive way of engaging with life. The dedicated mentors of YES Outdoors provide a sense of adventure, learning and motivation for young people whose lives have been affected by crime, gang violence, and family issues. Their sensitive approach to working with young people takes place both in the city and the great outdoors.

A dialogue of guidance and support

Being able to call upon the expertise and friendly guidance of Cripplegate Foundation’s Programme Team is a great source of confidence for many applicants.

Councillor Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Chair, Islington Council's Community Chest Panel

Cripplegate Foundation provides additional support to applicants and recipients of Community Chest funding. Visits and phone-calls to organisations provide valuable learning for the Foundation’s team, who receive an up to the minute measure of local need.

Continuous dialogue with organisations helps to maintain the accessibility that is so vital to the programme’s success. Some funding programmes are complex and can be daunting for organisations just starting out. It is important that people know that they can have their queries understood and answered in person, by phone or through email. As a resource for the most densely populated borough in England, the Community Chest needs this flexibility to effectively reach as many people as possible.

*The Community Chest started life in 2002, when Cripplegate Foundation was asked by the Government Office for London to run a small community grants programme. Until 2009 it was supported by a range of different funders.

See the list of organisations currently funded by the Community Chest here