A Strategy to Take Us Forwards

11 October 2021

The Merchant Taylors’ Foundation promotes education across England and Northern Ireland, working through the schools and educational establishments associated with the Company. The Foundation also tackles disadvantage in four boroughs in London: Hackney, Lewisham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets.

But how do you go about tackling disadvantage? It is a huge (and somewhat vague) remit. Well, the broad scope was deliberate to empower the Foundation to have the freedom to work as the boroughs’ needs demand and may change over time. The Foundation uses a two-pronged approach.

First, there is a Small Grants Scheme, which is run by MT staff with the help of Charity Visits Scheme volunteers and under the supervision of the Charities Committee.

Charities tackling disadvantage in the four boroughs can apply at any time for funding. After some initial discussions with MT staff, the baton passes to Company members volunteering under the Charity Visits Scheme. Well briefed beforehand, a pair of volunteers will interview a senior person from the applicant charity and report back, enabling the Foundation to make a more informed decision. The interview can be conducted online or in person, to suit the volunteers.

It is aimed at charities that have one or more of the four key boroughs at the very heart of what they do. Typically, applicants are small organisations, often themselves using volunteers to carry out their mission.

Recently, the Small Grants Scheme awarded a grant of £4,500 to Team Up Social Mobility to fund their scheme under which young trained volunteers provide Maths and English coaching to 30 Black and Minority Ethnic boys aged up to 16, at schools in Southwark. The pupils have been identified through Team Up’s partnership with Southside Young Leaders Academy, a grassroots charity working exclusively in Southwark.

Charity Visits Scheme volunteer Freeman Dr Emma Felber commented in her report on the online interview with Team Up’s CEO:

The overall picture is one of a small organisation successfully carrying out targeted interventions in order to boost lifetime achievement and well-being

The Foundation’s disadvantage programme funding an educational charity. There’s no contradiction or confusion however! The Foundation recognises that education in the broadest sense can be a key aspect of tackling disadvantage in the four London boroughs, if we want to make a lasting difference.

The second angle to the Foundation’s ‘Disadvantage’ funding programme is the Proactive Grants Scheme. This is where the majority of the ‘Disadvantage’ funding budget is spent. The concept is that the Foundation proactively seeks out whoever is well-placed to make a really significant lasting impact in Lewisham and/or Southwark, and funds them on a much larger scale for a significant time period. This thread of MTF’s work is designed for the long-term.

This is because it takes time to understand how different factors come together in Lewisham and Southwark to make them particularly disadvantaged areas. These two boroughs, like most city districts in the UK, are environments too complex for any single organisation to transform the level of disadvantage. So the Proactive Grants Scheme is open to funding coalitions and existing partnerships of organisations. It takes time to evaluate who is best placed to help, get to know them, and do due diligence on them.

At time of writing, the Charities Committee is researching the environment in Lewisham and Southwark and talking to key players well placed to indicate who the Proactive Grants Scheme could best work with.

We would love Company members to volunteer for the Proactive Grants Scheme by conducting interviews with key players in Lewisham and Southwark, either online or in person. Full training will be given. As seen over the page, we are also keen for volunteers for the Charity Visits Scheme.

To volunteer, please update your profile in the membership portal by ticking the Charity Visits Scheme box. If you are interested in volunteering for the Proactive Grants Scheme, tick ‘other volunteering’.

You can find more information about the criteria for the Small Grants Scheme and apply online, or contact us.

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