Resident decision-making by the people of Camden is channelling resources to where they are most needed.
Back in 2017, the borough of Camden in London was feeling pain.
Camden had the second-highest wealth gap in the country. This meant stark contrasts in health, education and opportunities for the people of Camden. 40% of its children lived in poverty and funding for social services was shrinking.
As a result, inequality was growing.
People began to mobilise at a grassroots level to look for solutions.
A small group of local Camden residents, counsellors, businesses and organisations came together. They decided to try a new idea – place based giving.
They created a “for-the-community-by-the-community” crowdfunding charity called Camden Giving.
Camden Giving is now a leading participatory funder in the UK.
Why resident decision-making matters
They agreed that “resident decision-making” was the best way to fight against the challenges of inequality.
Their idea was simple, “The people experiencing the challenges know the best solutions.”
Resident decision-making in action
Camden Giving gives decision-making power to people from the community. The community channels resources – skills, time, access or money – to where they are needed most.
Because residents decide where to allocate the resources there are no more “ivory tower” decisions.
And in the process, participatory community funding is dissolving the “saviorist model” of fund allocation.
It shifts power back to the community by including a wide range of voices in decision making.
Diversity is key.
And it’s working.
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How it works
A theme arises from the community. For example, youth safety, accessibility, homelessness, mental health….
Camden Giving recruits a panel of residents to start a conversation around that topic.
People from the community begin to meet to discuss their ideas. And they listen to each other.
These conversations identify specific needs and potential solutions.
Camden Giving then establishes a fund to address those specific needs.
After that, they launch a fundraising campaign for this fund. The residents’ panel receives all the money that is raised. Most importantly, the panel also decides how to distribute the money throughout the community.
The beneficiaries’ ideas receive community support and they are free to use the cash for their projects.
Above all, the whole community is strengthened. This is because the process is designed to bring people together to talk about how to fight inequality and racial injustice in the community.
Place based giving schemes (PBGS) are a charitable movement now in progress in the UK.
PBGS’s are a “resource-full” grassroots approach to investing in local communities and addressing social problems. The introduction of the UK government’s Civil Society Strategy in 2018 helped energise this approach.
It is a movement that is bringing together and mobilising thousands of local people, organisations, donors and local authorities.
Each PBGS is different and Camden’s focuses on participatory funding and resident decision making.
Because Camden Giving is on a mission “to end local inequality and end racial injustice wherever it shows up” the idea of putting problem-solving power into the hands of the people who are impacted by these problems made sense.
Camden Giving now shares its experience with this approach by offering its toolkit free of charge on its website.
The bottom line
Place based giving is not a magic bullet. However, it does give communities the ability to take concrete steps to begin tackling local social issues.
It is an agile solution that allows communities to adapt at great speed to problems as they arise.
Likewise, at a time of growing inequality, these practices are proving effective at building community and promoting racial justice.
This disruptive movement is challenging the traditional “saviorist model” of charitable enterprise.
In short, it is an interesting space to watch.
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Who we talked with
Grace Coffey, Head of Partnerships at Camden
Nicole N., panellist for the 2021 Equality Fund.
Learn more about resident decision-making and Camden Giving
Further links to learn more about resident decision-making, participatory funding, and Camden Giving
In addition, follow Camden Giving and keep up with what they are doing on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
In addition, read the full interview with Camden Giving.
Feature photo credit: Zck_/Unsplash
Other images: Camden Giving – Instagram