February 2021 Update from our Interim CEO John Rose
We are already over a month in to 2021 and it’s clear that the COVID rollercoaster and the ongoing impact on people, communities and the sector is not going to end anytime soon. In this context, we are being careful to keep one eye on the ‘here and now’ and the other focussed on the future.
Our purpose is to support people and communities to thrive. Now, probably more than ever, we need to be listening and flexible, so we can support communities to adapt in ways that work for them.
I have been inspired by the creativity and determination demonstrated by so many individuals and community organisations across the UK. Our funding remains instrumental in helping communities respond to the crisis and build back. This includes strengthening the networks, bonds and shared understanding that have proved so important in bringing people together at such a critical time.
As the country starts to emerge (eventually) on the other side of crisis we are committed to making sense of what we, our grant holders and others have learnt. We are creating lots of opportunities for engagement and dialogue with different groups, communities and stakeholders to help inform our funding response. Thank you to all who are getting involved.
But what can you expect from us today? In a time of uncertainty, we all seek stability. My message to you today is one of both adaptation and continuity and to explain how we’re building on our work to date.
As the interim CEO, my priority is to ensure that our funding and support continues to remain relevant to the people and communities we serve and helps to adapt services and facilities in these challenging times to ensure they meet peoples’ needs. To do this we’ve reviewed our funding offers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and in our UK portfolio. We want to be sure they have the flexibility to meet our customers’ needs whilst providing opportunities to think about the future – either through funding or through coming together to make sense of complexity.
In response to the pandemic, we increasingly saw the value of working in partnership with other organisations to maximise the reach and impact of National Lottery funding, allowing us to react with greater speed and focus to meet the needs of diverse communities.
This approach works and it is something we are committed to doing more of this year.
A large part of our partnership working has been to reach communities hardest hit by the pandemic – perhaps unsurprisingly, equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and intersectionality will remain a big focus for us in 2021.
We're already members of the DEI coalition where we're working with other funders to ensure that collectively we become more inclusive and work towards equitable outcomes. We’re also working alongside other funders and 360 Giving to develop our ability to capture better data on the under-represented groups that we reach (or not) through our funding.
We’re clear that National Lottery funding is for everyone and have been investing in dedicated roles to help support us in our ambition to deliver for every community across the UK.
We have been joining forces with Government to make the most of our scale and reach. Of course, distributing funding through the Coronavirus Community Support Fund at speed, but also by sharing our knowledge and learning to help support important policy agendas, such as new help for adults with multiple and complex needs through the Changing Futures Fund led by MHCLG.
We also know that people and communities across the UK are concerned about the Climate and Nature Emergencies. In the recent “Peoples Climate Vote” 81% of respondents in the UK saw climate change as an emergency, requiring urgent responses from countries. So this year we will launch the second round of our Climate Action Fund whilst also taking steps to support “non environmental” groups to improve their environmental performance, as well as continuing to reduce our own carbon footprint. In doing so, we are working alongside others to contribute to the national target to bring carbon emissions to net zero levels by 2050.
We’re excited about the year ahead, but also very aware that there are going to be some big challenges as communities continue to grapple with the impact of COVID-19. Given this, we thought it an opportune moment to run some external research to find out exactly how people are feeling about their communities.
This has led to our newly-launched Community Research Index – an annual survey of over 7,000 adults across the UK designed to get a temperature check on communities and their key concerns for the year ahead. We will use this Index to test and enhance learnings gleaned from the thousands of projects and groups we fund each year.
In January we released our first set of findings, showing that the importance of communities is set to remain high this year and that loneliness and isolation are going to be key issues to tackle. We are pleased to be working in partnership with DCMS to distribute funding to support those experiencing isolation and loneliness through the Local Connections Fund.
The pandemic has not only reignited people’s interest in their local community and sparked a desire to be more involved, but also opened their eyes to the great work going on in communities.
For me though, the biggest positive from the research is that a majority of the UK public believe that local community groups and projects, volunteers and charities deserve more recognition. Not surprising given the vital role our communities played throughout the pandemic whether that was delivering food and medical supplies or keeping in contact with isolated friends and neighbours. It is vital that organisations like ourselves play our part in enabling communities to enhance that community spirit as we continue on this challenging journey – making sure no one is left behind.
This is a very welcome vote of confidence for our grant holders and the thousands of groups we are privileged to work with each year. Thank you for your energy, ideas and fantastic support – without you, the money raised by National Lottery players wouldn’t make the difference it does.
And finally, hopefully you will have seen that Government has appointed our new Chair – Blondel Cluff CBE. She joins at a challenging time for communities, but also at a time where we’ve all seen firsthand the value and importance of community bonds and connections in the UK. We’re looking forward to working with Blondel and hope that you join us in welcoming her to our team.