New Hub for London gets £350,000 to support civil society – hopefully including grassroots groups

The resource hub for London civil society now has £350,000 funding for its first year of operation, confirmed in a press release from the City Bridge Trust. The hub will be run by Greater London Volunteering.

As I’ve written extensively here, there are differing views on how the hub will, or should operate, and on November 16 I’m with others helping run a free open event to develop ideas that we hope will complement and enhance plans so far announced. Summary of the background here.

Last week I attended the first advisory group for the Hub, on behalf of Our Way Ahead and Connecting Londoners. I expressed concerns that the hub may be centralised and top-down, rather than adopt the networked, bottom-up-and-across, whole-system approach recommended in the main design report by Steve Wyler. That said of the hub:

It should act as a convenor and enabler, rather than direct deliverer, in effect delivering change through networks and platforms, rather than through traditional organisational and membership delivery methods.

That approach is also reflected in the objectives of Our Way Ahead:

We want to build accessible digital community platforms, research and map grassroots community activity, to facilitate collaboration, strengthen local platforms and spaces for action and build the voice of those at the grassroots level.

The Our Way Ahead network of networks are particularly concerned that grassroots community groups and networks will miss out in favour of well-staffed voluntary organisations and charities.

The 107-year-old London Voluntary Service Council, which was the only pan-London organisation representing some 120,000 community and voluntary organisations, was a partner in developing the hub proposals with GLV and London funders. However LVSC is now in voluntary liquidation.

Third Sector rather confusingly reported news of the hub as City Bridge Trust sets up voluntary sector support body for London. While City Bridge Trust has provided the funding, the work of setting up is being carried out by GLV. There is a shadow Board, and drafts of memorandum and articles and charitable objects, so far unpublished.

There is only one-year funding, so the Hub company will have to continue to fundraise and/or develop ways to earn income.

There will only be a small staff of chief executive, programmes manager, networks and development coordinator, intelligence coordinator, plus organisational support.

Here’s the main part of the press release:

New London hub announced to strengthen the capital’s civil society

A new charity support body, Hub for London, is soon to launch to strengthen the capital’s voluntary sector.

The City of London Corporation’s charitable funder and London’s largest independent grant giver, City Bridge Trust, has awarded £350,000 towards the new organisation which will bring together and provide support to the capital’s voluntary sector.

Hub for London will strengthen the charity sector in the capital by providing access to business, organisational, technical and enterprise support to civil society organisations, as well as online resources.

City Bridge Trust’s funding will secure the first year of operation for Hub for London which will be run by Greater London Volunteering.

Hub for London will allow charities to access and share data and information, training schemes and good practice. By building cross-sector links and partnerships, the Hub will mean voluntary and community organisations have a ‘voice’ within the on-going debate about London, its governance and the issues it faces. As well as helping London’s voluntary sector to access organisational support, the Hub will help organisations to work together and provide a platform for a number of voluntary sector networks, such as the London Safer Futures Network.

Membership will be open to any individual or organisation based in London.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into the text, but there is a lot of emphasis on charities, while the vast majority of the groups in London civil society are not charities, don’t have staff and yet can certainly do with support.

The advisory group didn’t have sight of the press release before its meeting on the same day, so we ended up discussing various issues, including a possible name, which appear decided in the press release.

The guidance from GLV is that details are still to be worked out, and that statements so far indicate that while some functions will be central, a lot of work will be devolved to other organisations and networks.

While the group will only meet monthly, I was pleased that GLV agreed to set up an online forum for us, probably using Loomio.

I hope that there will also be a public communication system that reflects the commitment that membership of the new organisation will be open to any organisation or individual based in London. Steve Wyler went so far as to suggest the hub might become a coop.

If the hub is to be broadly-based and accountable to Londoners, then Londoners should be well-informed on its development and have a chance to make some input.

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