From Nimby to Yimby?

Good to see the expansion of Bicester getting a mention in today's Sunday Times.  Interesting to read too that in a recent YouGov poll that not everyone is a Nimby.  

Indeed it looks like 83% could be swayed to Yimbyism i.e.  “yes in my backyard” if those homes were more affordable or better designed. 

Fingers crossed people are starting to engage with the housing crisis.


.. in Britain’s biggest custom-build site in Bicester, Oxfordshire, where people are building their own homes in partnership with the local council - these schemes share a “civic housebuilding” model, where land is bought at lower prices so the community can get the best possible deal.

Doing this takes vision. It takes clever partnerships between councils, developers and landowners, who forego a one-off windfall for a lasting legacy.To do it at the scale of the Georgians will take government leadership, however.

Give councils and communities powers to create new-home zones with strict conditions on what can be built and to lock in lower land prices.

Set up development corporations that can buy land cheaply and sell it to whoever will build lots of good, affordable homes — including small firms, self-builders and community groups.
For the Common Good

I have just spent my weekend reading not a work of fiction on the latest best sellers list but a book I'd like to think definitely deserves it's place there.  

On every page, I was reminded about things that matter to me, things I have often thought and things I have seen close up over the past 6 years that I have been lucky enough to work for the Oxfordshire Community Foundation.

If ever there was a time and a place for us all to accept responsibility for the society we see unfolding before our eyes then I believe now is that time.

I feel certain I will be sharing more from its pages over the coming months but in the meantime would urge you to find the time to read it for yourself! 

Contemporary Britain is defined by the personal generosity and social commitment of our predecessors as much as by the state. But, as the state retreats, demands on the voluntary sector grow, the gap between the rich and the poor increases and charitable giving stagnates, our way of life is at risk. Will future generations live in a liberal democracy – or a plutocracy devoted to the interests of the rich and powerful?

Amid the challenges we face, there are opportunities: not least to transform the role of the state and the way the public, private and voluntary sectors work together to find innovative and enterprising solutions. Our Common Good explores the efforts of philanthropists, social entrepreneurs, and local authority, charity and business leaders, and reveals how their inspiring and practical solutions can build a better and fairer society.

We are expecting to welcome around 200 business leaders to an inspiring and thought-provoking breakfast event featuring the former Managing Director of John Lewis, Andy Street, as our guest speaker – and we really hope you will be among them.

By way of background, Reciprocate was launched by Oxfordshire Community Foundation in March 2016 to share with businesses our knowledge of the charitable sector, and of the unacceptable social problems faced by many in our communities across Oxfordshire.

Businesses are at the heart of the community. Business leaders know that getting staff together to do something for charity is a great way of engaging and retaining them, especially in a job market where the talented employees are in high demand. What is more, positive community engagement can position companies favourably in the hearts and minds of their customers.

Reciprocate is a membership of responsible businesses: organisations that believe that, by sharing ideas and collaborating on projects, they can increase their support for the local community. Reciprocate empowers them to become more effective and strategic in their engagement.

Reciprocate is all about finding solutions not working with problems. It’s not about writing cheques or donating money so someone else can sort it – it’s about getting involved and making a pledge to play a part in the common good. Current members who have made a pledge include Allen Associates, Blenheim Palace, Unipart, Beard Construction, Meech, DAF Trucks, Taylor & Francis, Royds Withy King and many more.

A pledge could be as a simple as offering a great work experience for a young person about to leave school, mentoring an ex-offender and helping them gain employment, or becoming a trustee of a charity who could really welcome your skills and experience.

Reciprocate has exciting plans for 2017 – including our much-anticipated breakfast event with Andy Street, sponsored by Allen Associates, a founding member of Reciprocate. Andy will be talking about his recent decision to swap his role as MD of John Lewis for the potential of becoming Mayor of Birmingham. Over a Q&A and breakfast at the Said Business School on Tuesday, 14 February, Andy will share his personal insights about ethical business and building the community credentials of a world-leading brand.

We believe this event will be an inspiration for many more businesses to join Reciprocate and a great opportunity for those businesses to start to build better relationships with the communities in which they operate.

To find out more about the Andy Street event and reserve your free place, please visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/reciprocate-ethical-business-qa-with-andy-street-tickets-30845180766?platform=hootsuite

I'm in awe...where next for civil society?

Julia Unwin has been an inspiration ever since I listened, as a Community Foundation (CF) newbie attending my very first UKCF philanthropy conference in September 2011, to her presentation as CEO of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

Her clarity, evident passion and optimism for the role of the charitable sector in helping to deliver real social change made a lasting impression and I have tried to keep this in mind as I go about my daily work, connecting people and organisations together to achieve great things here in Oxfordshire.

For those that aren't familiar with Joseph Rowntree Foundation, it is an amazing organisation and a real thought leader, regularly sharing its research and insights.  Most recently they published their long term strategy 'We can solve UK Poverty' https://www.jrf.org.uk/solve-uk-poverty and this is definitely a resource myself and the team will we looking at closely and frequently over the coming months.

But as I sit here today working on several presentations, that I myself will be making next week, I came across one of Julia's final presentations as CEO of JRF, as she has recently stepped down to take on a new role to Chair an Inquiry into Civil Society in England.  

If only I were as articulate.. so I feel I have only one option but to share and implore you all to read the full transcript of her speech. https://www.jrf.org.uk/where-next-civil-society

I would like to bet that you too will then be feeling as inspired as I am and hope that you will pledge your support as we strive to do everything we can here in Oxfordshire to solve UK poverty.

My decade leading one of the bigger civil society organisations has taught me that there are things we desperately need as a society which we know how to do. We need to support affiliation, we need to foster connection, we need to learn to mediate difference. To do that we need to recognise that our roots are in place and that places really matter, but so too do the relationships we foster...our purpose is to connect people to each other and so build a stronger more sustainable society.

Our sector at its very best is a connecting sector. It connects people without power to places of power. It connects within communities, and between them. It connects those who need with those who can give.

It connects people with a shared interest. It enables voice and contact. It provides a welcome for the stranger. At its heart it provides for connection in our society. In concluding let’s remember that the referendum result was achieved by a slogan - one which you can be sure was tested and examined in great detail. One which clearly had huge resonance both in the focus groups, and later in the ballot box. 'Take back control'

We are the sector that promises control.
Shared Society

Great to see our UK community foundation, CEO Fabian French was quick to comment on Theresa's May speech yesterday as she outlined her vision of a 'shared society'. 

Here in Oxfordshire, we too have been using our Oxfordshire Uncovered research to highlight the challenges faced by those experiencing mental health and directing our grant funding accordingly.

Several of our donors too have set up in memoriam funds following the tragic suicide of a beloved family member.  

There has also been much in the news recently about how critical it is for young people to receive early support and that timely and early intervention are the best way to help prevent ongoing mental health problems.    Mental health can affect anyone and the more we can do to discuss this and share stories the better and that's where I believe community foundations have a much greater role to play.

Theresa May's speech today was important for a number of reasons. Firstly, she chose to make her first major speech of the year to an audience of charity professionals at the Charity Commission. This speaks volumes about where we sit as a sector in her thinking.

Secondly, she spoke of her vision of a ‘shared society’. Where we all take responsibility for each other as well as businesses, charities and the Government. This marks a small but significant shift away from Cameron’s big society which more or less did away with the Government’s role.

And thirdly, it addressed a major issue that Community Foundations have been addressing over the past couple of years – mental health.

Name's Bond, James Bond 007

Brilliant tongue in cheek article, suggesting the world of philanthropy is somewhat secretive like M15...but it doesn't have to be that way.

Hence the Beacon awards, shining a spotlight on the amazing individuals and families who are making a huge difference and enabling great social action in our communities.    

Later this week I have the privilege of meeting again with one of OCF's donors who won the Beacon Award for City Philanthropy in 2015 and I would love nothing better than to ensure we have several more nominations from across Oxfordshire this year.

I would love to hear from you especially if you can help me identify anyone you know who might inspire the judges?  Entries need to be in by 5th December.


Beacon is not an event designed to honour an elite, it is a voice that exists to shout about inspirational and awe inspiring acts of philanthropy of all shapes and sizes. It is a vehicle that can be used to celebrate and promote remarkable stories of generosity, entrepreneurship, innovation and ultimately, humanity. Beacon is a conduit that can be used to offer essential lessons in how to give well and which aims to achieve greater, more widespread impact through knowledge sharing, thought leadership and collaboration.

Beacon continues to hurl its rocks, and philanthropy in the UK continues to be a movement that although evident almost everywhere, repeatedly succeeds in dodging the limelight. If we look to our US counterparts they have no qualms in shining a bold Hollywood style spotlight on their philanthropists. Surely a comfortable middle ground could be found; a Beacon of hope in difficult economic times, that illuminates a direction of travel towards greater cohesion and stability. A path that makes us less dependent on the tides of Government and a little better adapted to stand on our own two feet.
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