Why it's important to involve young people in decision-making!

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In this blog Maliha - Chair of the Future Changemakers Fund - shares why, now more than ever, we should put young people at the heart of decision-making.

There is a stigma about young people – that we are too nonchalant about our futures and that we have no true ambition– when in fact, this is far from the truth. Having been part of the Future Changemakers, I am now more than ever convinced that young people truly want the opportunity to be involved in decision-making that will affect us. 

The Future Changemakers is a youth-led panel created by Camden Giving, as a response to the deaths of two young men who had been involved in knife crime. As part of the panel, we were given the opportunity to decide for ourselves, how we would like to use the funding we had been provided, in order to tackle youth crime in Camden. We as a panel, had decided that we’d like to fund youth programmes that met the objectives of educating young people in youth safety, drug abuse – and providing young people with relatable mentors.

The Future Changemakers was an opportunity for young people to take full control over the decisions in funding youth programmes – and we had taken to our roles and responsibilities with ease. Having understood the work that goes into youth programmes, as well as how the charity sector functions – we were better equipped with the knowledge we required in order to make positive changes. It felt amazing to see our ideas and decisions make real, visual changes to the lives of other young people.

As Chair of the panel, it definitely felt daunting to have a large amount of responsibility, but I  was grateful for the opportunity to learn about the issues that other young people face in Camden. It was really refreshing to have understood the different situations that other youths live in, and the perspectives they have. It was definitely difficult to take into consideration, the different issues that we face and then coming up with solutions to prevent, and alleviate them, but I genuinely believe that the difficulty in such tasks are worth it. Although we had to spend some time thinking of plausible solutions to problems, the outcome is that in the long term, we will have funded projects that provide young people with the mental and social support that they need, and are deserving of.

Young people are increasingly portrayed in a negative light in the media, and with this comes an increased need - more now than ever, for young people to have a voice, and become involved in the decision making and programmes that directly affect us. Not only for the purpose of having a say, and exercising the right to participate in programmes that aim to help us – but to destroy the negative perception of young people that we continue to face decade, after decade. I only hope that more youth become involved in programmes like the Future Changemakers so that they can have a positive impact on their own futures.

Shifting Decisions to Camden's communities

Camden’s Future Changemakers discussing the criteria for their fund.

Camden’s Future Changemakers discussing the criteria for their fund.

“The best way to predict your future is to create it”. I read this the other day and thought, although that may seem obvious, for many individuals in Camden it’s not that simple.   

A significant number of people who are affected by inequality in Camden face barriers that are often out of their control and prevent them from creating the change they want. To put this into perspective, Camden is home to some of the UK’s wealthiest individuals yet a third of young people live in poverty; it has the second highest number of businesses in the UK yet 7% of jobs go to local people; and although  it’s one of the busiest destinations in the UK it’s one of the loneliest places to live. So, just think for a second. If you are affected by poverty even when you have a job, you’re living right next to opportunities on your doorstep that seem unattainable, or you do not have close social networks– how do you take the first step to create positive change? At Camden Giving, we believe that by giving people the right tools, a voice and a platform is a simple, effective approach towards creating the future they want. Almost two years on from giving out our first grants, we have invested £1.5million into 55 projects. But we haven’t done this alone...  

Place-based participation is at the heart of Camden Giving’s approach. We incorporate community-inclusion into the development and delivery of all our grant programmes, so that those who it aims to support are included in co-creating funds that are authentic, relatable and accountable from the start. Funders often have the power to dictate what services are provided and grant-givers often lack lived experience of the issues facing communities. But every single grant we give, whether it’s £1,000 or £100,000, are decided by community-led panels – not our staff or board members – because, who is better placed to decide which charities receive funding than those who are affected by these decisions? We recruit residents from across Camden to sit on our panels. Below are our reasons for doing this:

Bridging divides

Alongside the community members on two of our biggest funds sits cross-sector representation, which helps to create enlightening and dynamic dialogues when awarding grants. One of our youngest panellists, an 18 year-old, chaired a recent panel meeting. This was an extraordinary and inspiring moment in our grant-giving, to see the group respectfully listen and cooperate to make the best decisions for the community, despite the age and experience of the Chair. She said “Young people are not taken seriously enough, often shut out of decisions that affect us and not trusted with managing money. I feel it’s so important that people like me, a young person from Camden, to be part of the solutions to create a safer and brighter future for everyone.” During a time of such political turmoil and uncertainty, it’s a privilege to witness people who have contrasting opinions, come together, put aside their views and make brilliant decisions for the community. 

Welcoming people into civil society

This approach to funding enables social mobility and community cohesion through legitimate devolution. It provides an exclusive insight into roles that exist in civil society – which aren’t always widely known about or considered a ‘career choice’. Decisions about funding are often a little mysterious so it’s a fresh way to introduce what goes on “behind the scenes” of a funder, providing increased transparency with how we give our grants - especially in a time where people are somewhat distrustful of the voluntary sector.  

Unlocking potential is also key to our holistic approach to participatory grant-making. We are up-skilling and empowering people who sometimes feel shut out from decisions and accessing opportunities. We equip them with transferable skills that aren’t often taught in education or even employment, such as effective communication, increased confidence and social awareness. But we also try and help community panellists beyond their role with us by removing barriers that may be blocking their route to their ambitions and supporting them to create their own change. We try to find ways they can develop skills and enrich their experience, for example we recently connected some of our young grant-makers to work experience opportunities in industries that they might not be aware of and are not seen as ‘traditional’ routes. I believe that a thriving, diverse civil society is key to the future success of our borough.

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Each of our devolved panels are unique and reflect Camden’s diverse communities and voices which are so vital to making the most informed and meaningful decisions. It is also a powerful approach to enhancing social cohesion and providing opportunities for peer-learning, by bringing together ‘unusual suspects’ and people who may not have otherwise crossed paths. Across four separate funds is a broad representation of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, physical and mental abilities, age, gender, geographic residence, local knowledge, personal experience and expertise. Groups who are often under-represented in decision-making roles, who feel they are not in control of choices that affect them, make up the majority of our panels. We’ve seen that handing over trust to local people is an important step in enabling change from the bottom-up because they know what is best for their community. People are given a sense of control over their future and their community and are empowered to take responsibility for where they live. In the words of one panel member, “ This is an opportunity to drive change where I know it is needed the most and lead by example by working with others to help our neighbours and give back to our local community.” 

Residents bring a unique perspective to the conversations through their deep understanding of the challenges their neighbourhoods face and who often themselves have first hand experiences of these challenges - something traditional grant-makers can rarely replicate. Those with a genuine connection or access to the lived experience of the communities our funds seek to serve is key to the success of our decisions, impact, and legitimacy. 

Keeping it local

We are proud that most of our funding is invested into small organisations that are at the heart of Camden’s communities, have a real sense of community ownership and often led by residents themselves. This is down to local representation on the panel who know these organisations, which are often underfunded but oversubscribed, so they have a desire to invest locally. The combination of community-led decision making plus local people running life-changing projects is powerful.  But sometimes these grassroots, local initiatives or small organisations lack resources and often need extra guidance. As a result, our support does not only come with money, but from specialist support and capacity building opportunities from employee-volunteers. We always make sure our support gets to smaller organisations who need it the most. 

This year we will continue to enable participation and inclusion to be at the forefront of civil society in Camden and bring even more people on the journey with us. 2019 will be a year full of more enriching participatory grant-making as we launch two brand new funds: The Future Changemakers Fund and The Inclusive Community Fund, both co-created and delivered entirely by Camden residents with lived experience of inequality. We are focusing more and more on how we can include Gender Equality in every aspect of our grant processes too, from holding baby-friendly grant drop-ins to covering childcare costs for panellists. Our mission is to build more resilient communities and a stronger Camden and this can only be done collectively and in a holistic way. So, I’m delighted to work with 23 local residents who will invest a further £2million to charities this year and create positive community-led change together!   

We’d love to hear your thoughts on how you think we can empower more local people to make decisions that will help create a fairer Camden for everyone. Or if you would like to contribute to an existing fund, or be part of setting up a new fund, you can get in touch by emailing: admin@camdengiving.org.uk or messaging us on twitter: @camden_giving or   instagram: camdengiving

What makes a Stronger Voluntary and Community Sector?

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Camden Giving has funding available through the HS2 Camden Fund for creating a 'Stronger Voluntary and Community Sector'. The full details of this funding can be found here and in this blog I will share some ideas about applications you could consider applying to us for.

Charities, social enterprises, schools and community groups in Camden are working in complex conditions, in particular:

Fundraising is becoming more competitive and sources of income are shifting. NCVO's Almanac tells us that 14% of the money that civil society spends is on 'generating new income'. For many small community groups, this may seem like a huge percentage. If this applies to you, then the low amount you're spending on fundraising might be putting you in a vulnerable position. "But we can't spend money that we don't have" - I know, and that could be where this fund could help.

Beneficiaries and their needs are changing, sometimes it's getting harder to support them, or on the flip side it's sometimes getting easier to help more people because of collaboration between like-minded organisations or because of technology.

Your Trustees, members or staff, or volunteers may have a list of ideas that they want to try to improve your beneficiary experience or develop new income streams, but if you don't below are some reports and articles that will make a useful starting point. Our aim is to support civil society to be healthy and robust enough to still be doing what it does best - helping people in Camden - for decades to come. The below list is not meant as a blueprint, but a starting point.

  1. Technology is under-utilised in the voluntary sector. NCP's report is exceptionally handy because it uses Camden as it's case study you can read NCP's report 'My Best Life: Priorities for digital technology in the Youth Sector'  here. You will find some lovely examples of technology being used for good on the website Design Is Political.

  2. Fundraising is changing and if your existing income streams are under threat or you need a more innovative way to generate funds, Lime Green Consulting have produced a thorough guide to help with this. Of course, implementing these strategies takes time and money, so this could be something you apply to us for.

  3. Collaboration. If your beneficiaries would gain from your organisation collaborating with another, then there is some advice published by NCVO here. Or if merger is something you are considering you can red the NCP's report 'Lets talk Mission and Merger' here . Both collaboration and merger are time consuming for staff and volunteers, the HS2 Camden Fund could cover some of the related costs.

  4. Marketing is something that all big charities use to communicate with donors and beneficiaries. Again, it takes times and money. If your charity doesn't have a marketing plan, then this article is helpful.
  5. Social Enterprise is an increasingly popular way to achieve your social purpose or fund your existing work. This website helps create a businesses plan if you are considering applying to us for social enterprise funding.
  6. User-Led projects could be an effective way to build the resilience of your organisation and your beneficiaries in the long-term. This blog could give you some guidance if you are thinking of adopting this beneficiary-led approach. 

The Camden Giving team are always on call to help you develop a great proposal, you can book a meeting or come to one of our events.

 

Lockside Camden

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In collaboration with Lockside Camden, we have created 'A Passion For Giving' Cocktail, which is available throughout Camden Giving Week to order at Lockside Camden.

Here, Jackie (Marketing Manger) from Lockside talks about how they have created a sense of belonging for the people of Camden. 

Lockside Camden is a family run venue in the heart of Camden Market. Everything we have achieved is down to the wonderful people, both locals and visitors.

We were all shocked to read the depressing statistics concerning loneliness and isolation within our Borough and wanted to support Camden Giving Week. In a borough where there is a daily number of almost 1 million people, no one should feel alone!

Our staff spend time getting to know customers, listening to their opinions and learning from their experiences so we feed back into how we operate. Our events are specifically curated to represent a plethora of musical genres, with everything from Fleetwood Mac tribute nights to the latest in Reggaeton and Bashment.

We are proud to have worked with a number of local causes, including the Amy Winehouse Foundation, the Roundhouse, The Camden Collective, North London Cares and of course Camden Giving and we make sure we use all available channels to keep interacting with people. 

Lockside Camden wants to be known as a place where everyone feels comfortable, safe and most of all, welcome.

Visit Lockside Camden and other Camden Giving Week supporters from 21st - 27th May to help raise money for amazing projects that reduce isolation.  Click here to pick your destination. 

NORTH LONDON CARES

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Camden Giving funded North London Cares to unite lonely young professionals and lonely older people. Here Victoria Buckle who is the development coordinator for North London Cares, talks about the amazing results.

Camden is an amazing place. It is a hub of innovation, dynamism and excitement, with new businesses arriving all the time, interesting exhibitions to visit and pop-up restaurants not to miss. 

But for many older neighbours, who have lived in Camden for 60, 70 or even 80 years, this regeneration can leave them feeling isolated. Trends such as globalisation, gentrification and digitisation have transformed their neighbourhood beyond recognition. They don’t feel part of the party. Instead, they feel left behind.

Yet isolation is not a unique problem to later life. Young professionals working and living throughout Camden are often in a constant rush without a moment to pause in the whirlwind of city life. Feelings of fulfilment and loneliness can often strike, with family living far away and London’s “headphones in, head down” culture.

That’s why North London Cares brings young professionals and older neighbours together to share time, conversation and laughter to tackle isolation and loneliness, and to form mutually beneficial friendships that cross generations.

Our model works. 73% of older neighbours who regularly participate in our activities say their isolation has reduced and 98% of our young professionals say that they have a greater connection to the community as a result.

But don’t just take our word for it, click here and have a look.

Camden is one of the loneliest boroughs in the UK, Camden Giving Week will raise money to support North London Cares run activities that help to reduce loneliness in Camden. 

Our First Year

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During Camden Giving's first year we've funded 21 grassroots projects and created partnerships with Camden businesses. Natasha is the Director of Camden Giving, here she talks about the things we've learnt during our first year.

1. Now is a unique moment in Camden's history

Camden has increasing challenges: the poverty gap is widening, the borough is experiencing rapid and considerable development, Camden is one of the loneliest places in the UK and that government cuts are harming charities and the people who use them.

There is a lot of potential to change this, but what we didn't realise a year ago is how much potential and what a strong desire there is from people who live and work here to make a change and to do so in a new way.

We knew that individuals who live in Camden would give to their neighbours, but we didn't realise that people wanted to give without even being asked. We haven't yet launched our first fundraising campaign, but it's always inspiring when people call us out-of-the-blue and say they would like to give their money to others in Camden.

It's been an exciting year discovering that Camden Giving has more potential than realised.

 

2.      We need to make the complex understandable

Whilst it has been a really positive year, we face some complicated challenges in Camden, the combination of isolation and poverty manifests itself in different ways: Children who grow up feeling that they can't achieve jobs at institutions that they see from their bedroom windows and older people who lack social networks. 

These challenges are complex, this is one reason people and businesses choose NOT to give money to local causes – it's just too difficult to know where to give. Giving locally provides the donor with a unique opportunity to see the difference they've made through well-placed volunteer opportunities or simply by walking past the youth centre you've donated to on your way home and seeing people happily coming and going.

Our approach to unlocking complex problems is to invest in and support local people and small local organisations that know Camden really well. These people know who lives in Flat 7b and they know if they haven't been seen for a few days at the school gate or social club. Where possible we fund projects that bring people together, sometimes it’s for people who come to Camden for work and people who have lived in Camden all their lives. Our experience of this is that solutions start to pop up when you have a diverse group of people facing a problem.

One reason people have chosen to donate to Camden Giving is that we understand local complexities. We fund brilliant charities that are struggling to get funding and that fill a gap.

 

3.      There aren't 'Goodies' and 'Badies'

A recent report by the Charities Aid Foundation found that the total donated by FTSE 100 companies has fallen 11% in the last year. Whilst this drop in donations is worrying, particularly to people who rely on charities to be funded by this money, it does not represent the full picture.

Businesses are becoming more and more ethical in everything they do, some of this is a response to legislation or consumer pressure, but mainly it's because the people that work for them and buy their services expect it. Given the choice between a retailer that commits to paying Living Wage, or a retailer that donates to a food bank, it is the former that contributes the most to ending poverty in the UK.

The next 12 months will be exciting because we will really start to gain a picture of the impact we are having, this will mean we keep learning new things and we will stay flexible and reactive to the changing needs of businesses and the Camden community.

The Camden Fund will open in May and KX Fund is open until the 7th May, click on each one if you are thinking of applying or would like more detail. 

Somers Town Job Hub

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Julia Marcus is the manager of Somers Town job hub, a project funded by Camden Giving's KX Fund. Here she talks about the success of the interview lab.

The Interview Lab got off to a great start – full houses for the first four workshops that have so far taken place – that’s 8 people attending each session.  We feel that this number provides the right dynamic but is a small enough group for the less outgoing attendees to feel confidence to make a contribution.  And as is so often the case at the Job Hub, our community never cease to surprise and delight us with how enthusiastic they are, even when we’re asking them to do something which takes them way out of their comfort zone!

I’d like to focus on the last Confidence & Motivation workshop which took place in November; over the last few months, we have seen quite a high number of clients aged over 50, who have recently been made unemployed by circumstances including redundancy and ill health.  Having spoken to Camden Council about this, it seems to be a shift happening right across the borough.  The impact on these individuals can be huge – many have been in the same job, or moved around very little since leaving school and have no idea about the current job market, how to build a CV or how to go about preparing for an interview – in other words, precisely the kind of people who the Interview Lab is hoping to support!

Four of the eight people attending the workshop were in this position, and the idea of participating in such an event was quite daunting.  However, with the support of our wonderful facilitator Norma, the group were soon talking about themselves, interviewing each other and providing great encouragement to one another about their future job prospects.  Their general demeanor at the end of the session was noticeably improved and they were all talking excitedly about having a follow-up session.  One of this group has already attended an interview and is waiting to hear the result (the feedback from the employer was excellent!) and another enrolled on a Waitrose training course in January.  

We’ll be rolling out the clothing vouchers soon, and I will be happy to report back on that, with Before and After pictures once it’s up and running!

This kind of wraparound support is what STCA is all about, and we’re grateful to Camden Giving for giving us the means to run this fab project.

If you have experience in marketing or PR and would like to volunteer at Camden Giving, please email your CV and cover letter to admin@camdengiving.org.uk.

ARGENT WORKING WITH CAMDEN GIVING.

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Angela Jewell is part of the Camden Giving Advisory Group, here Angela tells us of the transformation of Kings Cross.

I have been involved in the regeneration project at King’s Cross since 2008 and during my early days here, I spent a lot of time meeting local groups and getting to know the local area. I was struck by how much was going on; parenting groups, job clubs, schools partnerships, environmental initiatives, to name but a few. It was impressive and inspiring to see so much activity devoted to the local area, much of it driven by passionate local volunteers.

As the King’s Cross area has changed over the last decade, we have seen new buildings emerge, old buildings given a new lease of life and an emerging businesses community move in. It has been incredibly satisfying for me to see a new ‘place’ take shape and to see spaces like Granary Square become an urban beach in the summer!

For me there is a challenge, but also a great opportunity to be grasped in integrating the new communities here. I think the legacy of change for King’s Cross and Camden should be a new, more dynamic relationship between local business and the community. Through connecting business and charities we should see more employment and training opportunities and support for local charities via volunteering and skills sharing. I believe that if we can continue to make those new connections then these opportunities will be open to a wider range of people and that will be a truly successful outcome for the regeneration.

Over the years I’ve discussed with many people, ‘how do you build a community’? A better way to approach this question, I think is to consider creating the right conditions that bring together different parts of the community. You can’t force a community into being, but I do believe you can keep finding different ways to bring people together to help forge lasting and impactful connections.

That’s why I think that Camden Giving represents such a great opportunity for the local area. For businesses it can help them connect at a real grassroots level to the local area and help them understand how they can utilise the skills and energy of their workforce to effect real change. I’m really proud to be involved with Camden Giving and have seen it in a very short time become a really valued local asset. I can’t wait to see what can be achieved as those connections between the community and business deepen!

If you would like to be involved in the regeneration of Camden, you can get involved by becoming a Trustee or Grants Panelist for Camden Giving, for more details visit Jobs and if you need further information Contact Admin@camdengiving.org.uk. 

URBAN COMMUNITY PROJECTS

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 IN THIS BLOG URBAN COMMUNITY PROJECTS GIVE AN INTRODUCTION ABOUT THEIR FOOD BANK PROJECT AND THEIR VOLUNTEERS SPEAK ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCE.  

As well as our food bank, we provide training for disadvantaged communities, which Camden Giving has supported us with, it has been very beneficial for many people; in isolation, who faced drastic changes and who are unemployed. 

This year we’ve been building an army! An army of young, gifted and creative minds who really want to give something back. An army, who want to make something of their lives and really make a difference. 

Introducing our Volunteers Autumn & Josh:

My food bank journey.

Autumn:

I’ll make it short and sweet how did I know about the food bank, well last year my family and I had to use it. So… depressing when you realise how rubbish your life is. But one thing mum has taught us (my sister and I) is we’re not victims. I told myself that every time I placed tinned veg into a bag.

One day... “Why don’t you come and help us out” said Rasheeda, who does everything cooking and training. “What do I need to do?” Rah why did I say that I thought, can I really commit? Ok that was cop out, it wasn’t like I was doing much anyway. Mum runs the cheer-leading club on Saturdays, I go there sometimes to take part, but most of the time I am just playing on my phone. The food bank is literally opposite the hall, I really didn’t have any excuses did I?

So for the next 3 months after our conversation, I opened the food bank, made sure it was stocked and gave food out to people who are basically just like me. It makes me upset, the fact that they have to use it. But at least I was helping them, well me and my boyfriend, he helped too.

UPDATE: we broke up!

Josh:

Ok so, I only joined the project to see if I could get my CSCS card renewed. I know that’s bad, but let’s just say I was kinda desperate to change my life. I actually was one of the original volunteers that helped set up the food bank. I’m working part time on the estate but I wanted to get back into construction work. That’s how I got the training and first card. But it needed renewing and I didn’t have the funds. No card no work basically. After 12 weeks, I finished the CSCS training, I am currently waiting for my results, hopefully I’ve passed and can get a job that I actually like.

And I actually didn’t mind volunteering not gonna lie, it didn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but I actually loved meeting people.

 

Urban Community Projects are funded by the Camden Giving's KX Fund. This fund will re-open in April 2018, to keep up-to-date with our funding opportunities join our mailing list by emailing admin@camdengiving.org.uk

Meet Helina

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Helina Tadesse is an Apprentice Grants Coordinator for Camden Giving, here she talks about her first week as an Apprentice and what motivated her to work for Camden Giving.

I am here at Camden Giving, as an Apprentice Grants Coordinator. Camden Giving is all about trying to make Camden the best it can be, by funding and supporting projects that focus on making Camden a fairer borough for everyone. 

Camden is my home, I’ve lived here since I was 8 years old; I wanted to work for this organisation because I am passionate about helping the people of Camden. I love Camden because it's a place where people can feel comfortable in their skin, regardless of gender, race, background or age. Working for Camden Giving, means I get to be practical and successful at reaching out to support people: who are in isolation, who have faced drastic changes and who are unemployed. From my perspective, Camden Giving is a very enthusiastic, conscientious and diverse organisation. In addition, I believe that Camden Giving has grown extremely fast and will continue to flourish. This means that we can reach out to more people and help them.

Camden Giving is a new and small, but growing organisation. Over 50% of my generation want to start their own businesses; myself included. Working for Camden giving allows me to experience the independence and creativity of a start-up.

In the first week of working for Camden Giving, the main focus was trying to set up the office, updating our social media, understanding our stats and values as a team. From the first week I had a clear understanding of how we are a very strong, efficient and tactical team. The highlight of the week was the Google training I attended; I learnt how to present well in many different styles. I have also visited some of the projects we supported and met some of the businesses that support our work.

What I want is to: encourage the people of Camden to work together to help each other, ensure everyone in Camden are listened to and are supported appropriately. This will make sure that Camden is making excellent progress as a borough.

If you want to find out more about what Camden Giving is up to, you can join our mailing list by emailing me helina@camdengiving.org.uk