A Future Without Poverty – Dragon’s Den: Innovating on the ground: local solutions to 21st century poverty
Tessa Awe, chief executive, CVS Brent
Chris Goulden, head of policy, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Cllr Gary Porter, leader, LGA Conservatives
Richard Jones, chief executive, Joshua Project
Alex Le Vey, head of relationships, Fight for Peace
Beth Murray, communications director, Only Connect
Lucinda Shaw, development director, London Community Foundation
The next session followed a ‘dragon’s den’ style format in which representatives of four local initiatives to combat poverty and exclusion pitched to a panel of three.
- Joshua Project
Richard Jones of the Joshua Project in Bradford described its work with children and their families to dispel the ‘cloud of hopelessness’ that had settled on the city. The area the project worked in suffered many forms of deprivation including educational exclusion, family breakdown, substance abuse and racial segregation. Joshua Project, set up in 2007, provided a number of amenities and services for children and their families, all in response to the needs they themselves expressed. They tended to start with the children and, through them, connected with the families, who then came together, so a form of community organising developed more or less organically. The project now had some 60 volunteers and 7 staff, two of them full-time. Because ‘projects don’t change people, people change people’, the Project a ‘24/7 approach’ with staff and volunteers living in the community.
What progress had they made? Ten years of deprivation could not be undone in a few days, he said. It was a question of identifying the core issues and tackling them step by step. Richard gave the following illustration of what the work might achieve: in 2007, he had been burgled. The burglar had been caught, the project had worked with him and he was now not only a volunteer, but worked one day a week in the Project. What was the ‘magic ingredient’ in what the Joshua Project did, asked ‘Dragon’ Chris Goulden? Love, he answered.
- Only Connect
Only Connect has been working in London since 2006 with ex-offenders and those at risk of offending. ‘Handshake, not handout’ characterises its approach, said Beth Murray and its emphasis is on developing small businesses, with profits shared between the individuals and the organisation. It supports people to work with their communities because ‘solutions to local problems will come from local communities’. One of its most successful scheme was Entourage under which those involved in the project, workers, volunteers and beneficiaries, use their networks to provide advice and support to ex-offenders and at-risk people. There was a process at work, she explained. Many of those who had been beneficiaries became, in turn, advisers, working with the next group and offering them positive role models. Thirty per cent of her colleagues, she said, were ex-offenders.
- Fight for Peace
In contrast, the next project, Fight for Peace, was an international organisation, begun in Rio de Janeiro 15 years ago, using boxing and martial arts as a way to reach, through sport, young people involved in gangs, explained Alex Le Vey. It had set up in Newham in 2007. There are five elements to how it works: First, boxing, through which users learn discipline and self-respect; education, which helped them become functional in maths and English; employment training, which includes training in CV writing and interview technique and also involves partnerships with companies to secure internships and apprenticeships; personal support to help them progress and develop their aims; and youth leadership.
How was the attention of young people retained in the project? Boxing and martial arts were the initial draw and the coaches were also trained youth workers who helped to keep them interested and involved. Monitoring suggested that 74 per cent of those involved in the project in London had ‘desisted from crime and violence.’ The numbers involved last year were 1,100. What about the participation of women, asked one of the audience? Women and girls made up a majority of NEETs, but the project seemed to particularly geared towards young men. Alex conceded that the balance was not yet good enough but they were trying to improve it by using female outreach workers and female ex-trainees as coaches.
- London Community Foundation
The aim of the London CF, said its development director, Lucinda Shaw was to support local groups to address the problems their communities face. In effect, the community owned the process. They identified the problem and took the responsibility, through a local group, of dealing with it. By doing this, the agency of the communities themselves was increased, the burden on statutory services reduce and the communities became more attractive to investment as well as more attractive to live in. A virtuous circle was created. Relatively small amounts of money were involved. Last year, the Foundation had given out £4.2 million at an average of £5-6,000 per grant to groups, most of whom had an income of £10,000 a year or less.
Was there a problem with default, wondered one of the Dragons. It was insignificant, said Lucinda because of the due diligence process they undertook. Grantees were obliged to report 12 months or so after the grant was made. If they didn’t, no further grants were forthcoming. If they were struggling with the project, the Foundation worked with them. In fact, perhaps the most important element of their work was not the funded project itself, but building the capacity of the group through the grant, so that they were then strong and well-founded enough to apply for funding from other sources.
The ‘Dragons’ were divided. Gary Porter wouldn’t invest in Only Connect or Fight for Peace though he felt they were good project. London CF didn’t need his investment – it was a different order of enterprise, so the Joshua Project would get his money. The other two agreed that the Community Foundation was the odd one out. For Chris Goulden, Only Connect and Fight for Peace came out strongest. Joshua Project needed a more coherent outline of how the various initiatives fitted together. Tessa Awe’s favourites were Only Connect and the Joshua Project. Fight for Peace was international and didn’t need funding. The audience were in general agreement – Only Connect got the most votes in a show of hands, closely followed by the Joshua Project.