A Commitment to Empowerment
In November 2008 we hosted a group of young refugees and asylum seekers from Hillingdon, West London, at our offices. We had invited them to spend a day with us to learn about the grant-making process as part of our support for a small grants scheme, run by them for the benefit of young people in their area. During the day, these young people were inspired to hear of my father’s experience of arriving in Britain as a refugee from Germany in the 1930s, and his achievements in the world of business and philanthropy. At the same time, all of us at the Foundation who spent time with them were inspired by their openness, energy and desire to make the most of their lives in this country.
At our recent trustees away day, we returned to the theme of how we can effectively make a difference, and how we need to find new ways to help people, such as this group, help themselves. We reflected on how we need to keep hold of our core values whilst we expand our grant-making activity and move into new areas of work. We reaffirmed the need to be courageous in supporting unpopular or disregarded causes or backing innovations that could at times fail. While we can offer potentially life-changing opportunities for individuals and groups, we must have the confidence to trust people with the funds we provide, empowering them to shape their projects and plans for themselves.
Our commitment to empowerment extends across much of our work. This year we celebrated the tenth anniversary of our Awards for Visual Artists, part of the Awards for Artists through which we support individual artists and composers. We have continued to develop our work in India, supporting social development to help vulnerable groups of people. We have also worked, through the development of Learning Futures, to improve motivation and the teacher-student partnership, encouraging students to be more involved in how they learn.
In the current economic climate it is important to say something about our spending. We are cautious of what may lie ahead for our investments but have taken a decision for the coming year to maintain our spending plans. This is an issue we will need to keep reviewing, but as an independent foundation we believe we have a duty to continue to support organisations whose activities we believe can deliver change, especially as many other sources of funding are declining.
This year we welcomed to the staff two new directors. Lucy Palfreyman, joining us from Church Urban Fund, is our new Finance and Resources Director, and Richard Robinson, joining us from Schroders plc, is Investment Director. We have also appointed a new trustee, Tom Wylie, a former chief executive of the National Youth Agency. Our education advisor, Tim Brighouse, was recognised with a Knighthood for achievements in education in the Queen’s New Year honours.
Rushanara Ali is standing down as a trustee after more than five years. We are grateful for her years of service, during which she has brought her experience of social innovation to bear in helping us to develop our Social Justice programme. We wish her well in her future endeavours.
I am deeply grateful to all of our trustees, advisors and especially our Director and the staff for their dedication and commitment.