Giving Compass' Take:

• Chief Executive of Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire, an organization that helps those experiencing isolation, poverty, and disadvantage, discusses the place-based, collaborative approach that it took to address COVID-19. 

• How can philanthropy help support collective impact approaches that stem from community-led movements? How is this effective in fighting the effects of a pandemic? 

•  Read about other ways philanthropy can respond to COVID-19. 

At NPC’s July Pledge on Place meeting, I was invited to talk about Grapevine’s decision to resist becoming an emergency response during the pandemic, in favour of creating space to get ahead on future issues.

In normal times, Grapevine focuses on root causes, mobilising strengths, and the slow burn of relationship-based work—not staunching need and treating the symptoms of crisis. But, as the crisis unfolded, we felt pressure to be busy and practical in the emergency space. It was uncomfortable—we’d had an unspoken feeling that the organisations who mattered most were the ones who showed up in the effort to provide food, medicines and advice.

It was hard to look inward not outward but when we did, it told us where our best response belonged. We have over 300 people connected within 15 of their own self-led initiatives and personal support networks. We had to know that this relationship-based infrastructure would remain solid under the pressure of the pandemic.

For example, one of these initiatives was our existing ‘Connecting For Good’ movement which had been busy tackling the isolation experienced by people because of disability, long-term conditions, or mental health. Another of those 15 initiatives was ‘Lads and Dads’. They are not a health service alternative, they say, but a force for change on mental health and wellbeing in Coventry.

Once all of our existing community-led movements had ‘settled’, we made a plan. We wanted to help those movements to grow by building on the newfound potential and enthusiasm for community action that the Covid-19 pandemic had brought to the fore.

Our thoughts turned to how we could:

  • Help them revisit their ambitions and attract more people to their isolation beating ideas
  • Carry on developing leadership and continue to run our ‘Changemaker University’. A training programme for community members with a passion for taking action on local issues
  • Improve our movement structures to make it easier for people to join us
  • Turn community spirit into community power

Read the full article about place-based approaches to community change by Clare Wightman at NPC.