A year ago, a small group of people from around the UK social investment sector created a very special event at Dartington Hall, with the rather sinister sci-fi title of “The Gathering”. Their aim was to bring social investment leaders together, to bond a community, and to generate a sense of common purpose.
It worked. And it did much more.
Over two days, 100 or so people worked together and in small groups, on big issues of what we are here for and on tangible topics requiring action.
Karen Shackleton led work on pensions for purpose, with ground-breaking conversations on how pension funds can unlock capital in social investment, particularly from local authority pension funds. The workshop led to a nine-month project gaining widespread support and clearer support from regulators. See here for Karen’s blog.
Jon Siddall from Guys and St Thomas’s Charity brought together participants to help him develop their plans to improve health and healthcare in Lambeth and Southwark – an ambitious £250m 10 year project in an area where childhood obesity and improving the lives of people with multiple long-term conditions desperately need attention.
There was a strong push against the glass ceiling: the big challenge of diversity in the social investment field. That has generated a diversity steering group chaired by Stephen Bediako, a network of over 25 diversity champions across the sector co-chaired by Bonnie Chiu and Camilla Parke, and new ideas to improve our practice from published transparency data to toolkits and resources. There is a long way to go for us on diversity but this is a powerful start.
In the closing afternoon of The Gathering, I brought together participants who were interested in the roles of grants and venture philanthropy in social investment. This was a scratch event, but 30 people joined and supported the approach of combining flexible capital, development support, and intentional impact. Joanna Heywood took this forward to a follow-up event with EVPA and ACF, which has now developed into formal steering group with 20 core members and 55 more keeping in touch, plus a free linked in page for people to connect and learn. The goal of the group is to develop the capacity of social purpose organisations to improve their sustainability, to share and build good practice in Funder Plus/Grants Plus/Venture Philanthropy, and to connect people up.
These are just the working groups that I joined – plenty more happened and followed on to make real impact. Projects launched, alliances made, and partnerships created which have led to real investment propositions.
Bringing the sector together was powerful. Creating an event which allowed both relationship building and purposeful work was exceptional. So a massive one-year-on thank you to the organisers and hosts, and a very special thanks for the inspiration from Danyal Sattar of Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
I very much hope we gather again: the team behind The Gathering agreed to meet a year on from the last event and decide whether to reconvene. So on the 1st of March, they meet up and call the ball. From everything I hear, it looks like we may gather again in 2019.
Thanks also to Ben Metz, Camilla Parke, Claire Kearney, Daniel Brewer, Ed Anderton, Holly Piper, Louis Horsley, and Whitni Thomas