Developing a place-based approach – one foundation’s recent journey

It has been an incredible journey setting up a grant-making trust, effectively a start-up


Written by

Barbra Mazur, Director, Battersea Power Station Foundation

We had to put in place all the mechanics behind distributing funding as well as developing a strategy based on insight into the local community, which as a place-based funder is vital. Similar to most start-ups, we were prepared to iterate and learn through delivery which included a listening tour in the community, research of need and the development of collaborations with other local funders.

Since our launch in the summer of 2016 we have funded over 110 organisations in Lambeth and Wandsworth tackling issues such as childhood obesity, over 50 unemployment, and youth violence. Having recently completed the Impact Report for our first full year of operations, we are now reflecting on our journey to date, to understand how to progress as a place-based corporate Foundation in order to add as much value to our community as possible and grow our impact.

As a new funder there have been various challenges to overcome. For instance, our name and branding suggest a Battersea focus when in fact we fund throughout both Wandsworth and Lambeth. We also sought to avoid duplication of funding and investment into areas well covered by other funders but aimed to work with other funders to complement their initiatives and collaborate on new areas of evidenced need.

Lambeth and Wandsworth are fortunate to have a number of place-based funders with excellent local insight such as Walcot Foundation, Guy's and St Thomas' Charity and the Wimbledon Foundation and we have benefited hugely from developing strong relationships with them. For example, to tackle childhood obesity in Lambeth, we are part of two social impact bonds with two different, local funders which is why we wanted to be part of Big Society Capital’s Get Informed Mentor programme.

Through the programme, we have been matched with a really amazing financial/investment expert who has talked us through options for our current priorities and indeed informed our thinking for the future. In addition to the development of our social impact bonds we are now exploring microfinance ideas and investment into a place-based social investment intermediary.

We have also sought learning from various organisations including The Kresge Foundation in the US.  We spoke to them about their work to support the healthy development of young children in Detroit, which has helped with our thinking around our childhood obesity work in partnership with Hyde Charitable Trust. They are using a number investment tools to support organisations who meet their aims and objectives including blended finance and putting together a collaboration of funders to support early childhood development. 

GET INFORMED offers practical support, guidance and information to help board members of charities and social enterprises understand the opportunities and risks of social investment.

To sign up to be matched with a GET INFORMED mentor and explore whether social investment is right for your organisation, click here