The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and worsened inequality, however, the disproportionate impact on our communities is uneven. Grassroot organisations have been at the forefront of the local response during the height of the pandemic. However, many grassroot organisations have faced massive surge in demand for their services, while at the same time dealing with a drastic fall in their income.
Last year, having been working closely with our community partners across the UK at the grassroots level, we have had first-hand experience of the impact COVID-19 has had on the Somali community in the UK. It is within this context, we have published a Policy Briefing report on COVID-19 during the height of this pandemic. In partnership with Comic Relief and National Emergencies Trust, we have launched ATM Resilience Grants to help the BAME voluntary sector sustain core services and adapt to the challenges presented by COVID-19 so they can continue to have a positive impact in their communities.
As a result, we were able to disperse £432,000 COVID funds to the 34 organisations across England who are the social glue of communities to enable them to continue delivering essential, life-saving services to people who need it most. To dispense the awarded funding swiftly and effectively, we consulted with key community leaders, subject experts, sent out surveys to an existing WhatsApp group of over 60 Somali organisations to determine thematic priorities and areas to fund. We designed straightforward, accessible forms for applicants and invited experts from the community to support us with the decision-making processes. This enabled us to gain greater buy in from the community and target specific needs to fund.
Funders across the country are exploring ways of involving BAME and lived experience voices into their grant decision making. Many are exploring options such as new BAME/lived experienced Trustees/co-optees, designated committees, projects voting process, adhoc experts, intermediary partners etc. As many funders aspire to involve more BAME and lived experience voices into their grant decision-making process. We found the intermediary grant partner model we had with CR and NET to be effective as it offers number advantages to potential funders -intermediary model gives independence to intermediary partner to set their funding pot priorities based on specific community knowledge, intermediary partners are able to reach grassroot voices quicker, intermediary partners are able to mobilise existing resources and contacts quicker, intermediary partners are able to offer more risk taking appetite with flexibility to change in the event of difficulties and intermediary partners are able to establish regular working relationship between funders, intermediary partners and funded organisations to offer better insights into grassroot issues and needs.
The Intermediary model is one that needs to be supported and enhanced further to achieve greater participation from BAME communities and people with lived experiences. This model has the potential to transform and innovate the funding decision-making landscape.