The story of the Anchor Programme
The Anchor Programme is a new fund from City Bridge Trust, with the first stage launching in April 2023. Khadra Aden and Clara Espinosa, Heads of the Anchor Programme, explain why we have co-designed this new fund with civil society organisations, and how we’re committed to learning, to being bold, and to trying something new.
The origins of The Anchor Programme date back to 2020, when the pandemic created an urgent incentive for City Bridge Trust and other funders to adapt and work in a much more responsive and flexible way.
Faced with the emergency nature of Covid, City Bridge Trust invited funded organisations to repurpose their grants to cover their core funding costs, to ensure sustainability and to enable a responsive approach to tackling the biggest challenges faced by Londoners.
As well as providing funding, we were able to collect learning and recommendations from funded organisations about what they needed during challenging times, and what is required to strengthen London’s civil society.
In 2022, we began to develop a new funding programme to act on this learning, working with a co-design group drawn from a range of civil society organisations. This group reflected the diversity of the sector, and included equity organisations that work in London.
Funding designed with civil society organisations
After an initial roundtable session with a small group of infrastructure organisations, we convened a co-design group, made up of 22 civil society organisations, which helped develop the vision and the objectives of the fund.
Civil society organisations were able to express the challenges they face in the sector, such as issues around securing long-term funding, influencing policy, and having the space and capacity to build trust with other organisations and the communities they serve.
Our co-design participants shared the challenges facing the sector
- Capacity is a major issue — the biggest challenge is balancing practical work with strategic work. Direct service delivery work is easier to get funding for, whereas there are challenges around covering core costs. Funders need to recognise the resources needed to recruit people with specialist policy skills
- The social sector is significantly underfunded by the state, there is a lack of voice politically for many communities and a lack of policy influence
- There’s a lack of trust — the sector is aiming to heal communities they are working with who have historically been underrepresented, underfunded and marginalised, we need the tools and resources to build trust with them
- We struggle to get funding for policy work, for data work, and for working collaboratively, and that funding is often based on place or specialism so issues around intersectionality can be challenging
Challenging the power imbalance
We continued the co-design element by forming a small advisory panel to help us set the programme in motion. We focused on the fund’s eligibility criteria, the overall application process, ways of publicising the fund and the type of questions to ask in the application form.
To help challenge the power imbalance in the room we collaborated with The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP) to facilitate all the co-design sessions. We had the opportunity to also convene some of these sessions in person, which we felt enabled us to prioritise trust and develop meaningful relationships.
And so, the Anchor Programme was born: a grant programme offering multi-year, core funding to what we define as ‘anchor’ organisations. The term ‘anchor’ was chosen by the co-design group as the best way to describe organisations which create a collective voice for civil society, which build capacity, and which advocate for smaller organisations by supporting them to respond to emerging issues.
What is the fund aiming to do?
At the heart of this programme is a commitment to achieve change for Londoners at a systemic level. The fund will aim to achieve this by providing long-term core funding, over a period of 7–10 years, to organisations that provide second-tier support but may also carry out some frontline service delivery. Frontline delivery should, however, be seen as secondary and supportive to the main second tier focus. We want to support organisations that can demonstrate that their work is led by or co-designed by the communities they support.
The aim is to support organisations that demonstrate a commitment to equitable practice and particularly to address the distinct and multiple forms of marginalisation and discrimination experienced by those with intersecting identities, and to encourage collaborative work with other organisations in the sector.
“Funding should be used to help organisations to build solidarity, to amplify their voices and to improve connections”Co-design participant
Why core, long-term funding?
The Anchor Programme will fund organisations themselves, rather than their projects, with the aim of making the sector more sustainable. We want to free organisations from the restrictions of short-term funding, giving them space to collaborate and create systemic change.
“[core funding] is great because it provides greater stability, continuity and flexibility… all the time that you are trying to get project money you are not actually doing the job you are here for.” Thinking About…Core Funding, IVAR
As well as providing financial sustainability over an extended period, the fund aims to achieve the following:
- Capacity building: improving capacity for funded civil society organisations to engage in positive structural change
- Wider knowledge sharing within civil society
- More equitable outcomes for London’s marginalised communities
- A rebalanced relationship between funder and funded organisation, with a deep focus on the funded organisation’s learning journey
The development of the Anchor Programme has been a learning process, informed by the participation of civil society organisations, and is, at this stage, a pilot programme for City Bridge Trust. We are committed to learning, to being bold, and to trying something new.
If you would like to find out more about the co-design process, please read TSIP’s blog by clicking the following link.