As the fallout of the pandemic becomes apparent, we have made three large grants from our Community Resilience Fund that aim to help local communities recover stronger.

OCF’s Community Resilience Fund, set up in March as a rapid response to the pandemic, has so far made over £600,000 in grants to charities and community groups across Oxfordshire, thanks to pioneering funders such as the Indigo Trust and the National Emergencies Trust.

In July we took the difficult decision to limit the amount of grants available for the ‘respond better’ phase, in preparation for both a second wave of infections, and for the longer-term socio-economic fallout of the crisis. A portion of our fund was earmarked to help communities recover stronger, working with charity partners to capitalise on their learning from the pandemic and lockdown.

A consultation process with charity leaders across the county led to 18 charities being considered for funding. After a two-stage application process and rigorous assessment by OCF’s independent Grants Panel, three key long-term projects have been selected:

  • Oxford Hub has been awarded £44,700 for its Oxford Together legacy project. The charity initiated the Oxford Together movement during lockdown so that residents wanting to offer help and support to their neighbours had a mechanism to find people in need. The service matched over 1,600 volunteers in just 11 weeks and will now build on this work by appointing two programme managers to recruit and manage volunteers, and develop the digital infrastructure that enabled the matching and social phone calls services. The project will expand existing partnerships with Citizens Advice, Home-Start and Age UK Oxfordshire.
  • South Oxfordshire Food and Education Alliance (SOFEA) has received £50,000 for its Community Larder From the start of lockdown, SOFEA distributed over 40,000 free food boxes to individuals and families living in areas of multiple deprivation across Oxfordshire, working with local charity partners, statutory organisations and residents’ associations in order to establish 49 new distribution hubs. Before COVID-19, Community Larders were already gaining in popularity, operating as low-cost membership schemes where families could collect food and access wraparound services such as benefits advice and shared events. SOFEA will now use the opportunity provided by lockdown food distribution to embed the Community Larder model into 50 new areas, employing area managers to shore up the logistics and communications across the network.
  • Asylum Welcome will use £50,000 for its project to strengthen community groups that support refugees. Refugees’ needs have been exacerbated by COVID-19, including around food, finance, health, housing, education/employment and delays to asylum claims. During lockdown the charity identified that grassroots community organisations, many of which are not formal charities, had become the first and most trusted point of contact for people in need. Partnering with Refugee Resource, Asylum Welcome will provide technical, financial and advocacy support to boost the capacity of refugee community organisations, appointing a part-time coordinator with lived experience to pull together resources and volunteers.

OCF’s CEO Adrian Sell comments: “These are strategic investments that we hope will reach a variety of different communities that have been strongly affected by the pandemic. We chose these organisations because they embody partnership working, operating collaboratively with other local charities and bringing the voices and views of the people they help into their decision-making.”

Chair of OCF’s Grants Panel Laura Chapman comments: “We were impressed by all of these charities in terms of their ambition and vision, their rigorous project planning, and their proven practical track record in mobilising large numbers of volunteers. We hope these factors will combine to help OCF’s funding go further over the next year, and genuinely strengthen local communities at this most difficult time.”

Find out more about OCF’s COVID-19 response