Representatives from community foundations across Europe chose to visit Oxford as part of a study visit to the UK. OCF arranged visits to several local projects we have funded, as well as a learning exchange session in our offices.
OCF was privileged to host participants in the study visit, who came from 12 European countries: Bosnia & Herzogovina, the Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Serbia and Slovakia. The biennial study visit is organised by the European Community Foundation Initiative (ECFI) and funded by the C.S. Mott Foundation, and OCF’s Chief Executive Jayne Woodley was lucky to attend the previous study visit, which was to Germany in 2015.
Boris Strečanský, ECFI’s Peer Learning Expert, says: “CF study visits provide the necessary framework and space for a fruitful mixture of communication, learning end experiences. They are, so to speak, a real-life social laboratory. And like all good labs, they bring results. These cannot always be precisely defined and classified, but on the whole they help European nations grow together. Because when people start moving, their thoughts start moving, too.”
The Oxford visit was the first leg of a tour that will encompass a visit to our friends at Foundation Scotland, culminating in participants attending the UK Community Foundations Conference in Cardiff next week. The OCF staff team will be at this conference, during which time our office will be closed. Participants enjoyed a stay at Brasenose College, before being shown the ‘other side’ of Oxford via a visit to RAW Workshop, a social enterprise in Blackbird Leys that creates beautiful furniture from upcycled wood, at the same time giving vulnerable people a new start in life by teaching woodworking and carpentry skills to ex-offenders, or people with a background of substance misuse or homelessness. RAW is a recent recipient of a large grant from OCF’s Step Change Fund, and the charity’s project manager Andrew Silver gave an insight into the non-financial support the group has received as part of their Step Change funding.
As well as a fascinating discussion back at our offices about the benefits of reporting on social needs and the challenges of measuring and communicating impact, OCF took the opportunity to showcase some other social enterprises that we have funded, taking our guests to Restore’s Garden Cafe for lunch, and the Turl Street Kitchen (TSK) for dinner. TSK is the commercial arm of the Student Hubs charity, a student volunteering project which received its first ever grant from OCF in 2007. OCF staff and trustees joined our European guests for drinks at TSK, where we heard from one of OCF’s most important donors about the reasons for her philanthropy, and why she has chosen to partner with OCF.
Many thanks to ECFI and our guests for being so interesting, engaged and thoughtful – it was another chance to share ideas that we hope will shape our future development as a community foundation.