How a little investment of money and attention can get the best out of deprived youngsters

This project by Thrive is an exemplar of the sort of investment OCF is making in children and families. As we revealed in our Oxfordshire Uncovered report, 21% of children in Oxford city are living in poverty, which we find wholly unacceptable. The county council is doing its best to support nearly 3,000 vulnerable families, but with limits to the scope of funding available we still see around 3,000 14-17 year-olds self harming, 14,000 children with mental health problems, and 22% failing to achieve the requisite levels in reading, writing and maths.

Investments via grants, but more importantly via the care and attention the grant enables, make a huge difference to young people's wellbeing. Barton-based Thrive is a fantastic charity that has had the vision to merge with the former Leys Youth Project, enabling them to share their mutual resources and expertise, cover a wider area and do more good. Just like OCF, they are putting collaboration at the heart of everything they do - and inspiring projects like this one are the result.

SNAP-HAPPY youngsters with an eye for the perfect picture are preparing to fight for the crown of Leys Young Photographer of the Year.

Since last year the project has been run by Oxford charity Thrive, which has merged with the Leys Youth Programme and provides support to young people on the estate.

Development director Robin Peake said: "This taps into the creativity that we see in young people in the Leys, some of which isn't realised as much as it should be. It provides an outlet for young people, who have as much potential as everyone else, to showcase that.

Thrive, which previously supported troubled young people as a community group in Barton, expanded into the Leys in early 2016.

It has just received £5,000 from the Oxfordshire Community Foundation to continue its mentoring programmes on the estate.
The case for the tried and tested over the flashy and new

It's not just footballers whose first philanthropic instinct is to set up a trust or foundation in their own name. This is the legal structure of choice for many people to fulfil their good intentions and give something back.

One way that the potential pitfalls of ongoing governance and accountability can be avoided is instead by setting up a named fund with a community foundation. This is what footballer Jamie Carragher has done in Merseyside and is an increasingly popular way to quickly and cost-effectively start making a real difference. 

Donors can then make use of their CF's extensive local knowledge of existing charities carrying out the work they care about. It's a win-win solution - rather than an own goal...

Even the richest footballer would be annoyed if his latest high-performance sports car broke down after six months. Yet why do we so often hear about their charitable foundations going the same way?

The evidence is clear that what some of these foundations gain in media exposure is more than offset by what they lose in sustainability, transparency and accountability. If they want to actually make a difference, footballers shouldn’t assume their star status is enough. They need to work with the charity sector.

To make a real difference, we need more high-profile athletes supporting the most productive and sustainable charities. That really would be using their name for good.
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.
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