Community Development Foundation (CDF); a legacy for community development

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Posted on 23/03/16


As you may recall, in December 2015, CDF trustees made the decision to embark on a managed closure of CDF by the end of March 2016.

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The decision was taken in the context of the evolution of community development and of CDF – from 1967 as a non-departmental public body and charity with offices in the nations, to an independent social enterprise in 2011, delivering a number of products and services primarily in England. Devolution of power and money – first to nations and now cities and localities – has influenced the way in which we operate and shaped the way community development is applied and resourced.

Organisations undertaking community development have also evolved as a response to the narrowing gap between suppliers and consumers of services; the latter expects – demands – more involvement in the decisions that affect their lives. And whilst many continue to undertake community development as an occupation or as a local activist, community development approaches are now adopted more broadly across different sectors and job types – from housing to health, regeneration to economic development. We know this from the positive response to the uptake of the training programme that we launched in 2015 and the trademarked Love Your Community quality mark, which supports and recognises effective community engagement in small businesses.

Latterly, in response to the difficult financial situation facing many communities, CDF has focussed its attention on influencing and getting as much resource – time, money, support – to local community groups. The 1000s of small organisations that we have worked with are the lifeblood of our communities. We invested our resources and, in 2014, we set up Just Act, a digital platform which provides resources, signposting and networks for those active in their communities. And later in that year undertook our own research called Tailor-made, to help people make the case for investing small grants to catalyse and support community-led approaches to tough social problems.

We have adapted to this changing environment but, as good governance demands, began to question whether our business model was the best for achieving our charitable objects. Our ability to reach multiple audiences, promote and deliver different products for them and to work locally from a national base no longer felt appropriate. We could, of course, have reorganised, but the period  required to undertake radical organisational change would have absorbed disproportionate time and money. We would rather we apply this money to continue to meet our charitable objects and preserve our recent investments through othersrather than sustain the organisation for its own sake.

Hence, since the decision was taken in December CDF has been going through a process to identify the best homes for its assets – funds, products and services. We have balanced the need to execute a managed closedown and diligently meet contractual requirements, with the need to move swiftly to protect as much of the cash resource as possible.

A number of organisations approached us in December 2015, specifying an interest in particular products and so in February 2016 we asked them to submit more detail. The most important factor for us – as well as a track record of working with communities,  community organisations and relevant stakeholders –  was their ability to demonstrate enthusiasm and commitment to a particular product or service. We wanted to be assured, as far as is possible, that that the investment to date would not be wasted and that CDF’s legacy might continue for the foreseeable future. We have, of course, sought legal advice throughout the process, so that any transfer meets charitable requirements. In December 2015 and January 2016 I was overwhelmed with kind comments about the decision, with many describing it as brave and strategic.

‘I just heard your news officially and I wanted say how sorry I am, but how much admiration I and my colleagues have for this brave and farsighted decision. Your board and your senior team are to be congratulated for your decision to wind down gracefully in a well ordered and proper manner.

It is a pity that such a brave and difficult decision will be unlikely to feature in the press, to illustrate how well managed charities can be and to applaud you personally.’  – National infrastructure organisation

We know that the announcement has come as a surprise and disappointment to those who have drawn upon CDF’s advice and resources over five decades. We hope that the decisions and information set out in this newsletter, will reassure readers that they will still be able to access much of this support through the transfer of our assets. In addition, here is a sheet which provides information on other places where organisations may find support.  

‘ohhhhh –  I am really, really sad to read this. You have been so instrumental, do you know how much a resource, an encouragement and a blessing to so many of us you have been at grass roots? Hope the winding down goes smoothly and that your mantle is transferred to equally qualified and nice people as yourselves. Thank you for all you have done and given.’ – Community organisation

The future of community development

Transferring assets to a community development organisation

This is a story of two halves. In 2010 the Big Lottery Fund (BLF) tendered for an organisation to manage its Big Local programme. BLF wanted to transfer its largest endowment to date of £200m to deliver Big Local in 150 areas in England over a period of at least 10 years. CDF brought together a consortium, won the work and set up a new independent organisation, Local Trust, in 2012. Local Trust has very similar charitable objects to CDF and is tasked with undertaking a community development approach in those areas. We have seen this approach begin to bear fruit and there is an appetite from Local Trusts’ trustees and staff to advocate for this beyond the 150 areas. The problem is that the endowment, whilst large, cannot be applied for any activity beyond the Big Local programme and areas.

When CDF took the decision to close, its primary aim was to continue to apply its remaining funds to advocate for and influence investment in community development. CDF has, therefore, decided to transfer £500,000 to Local Trust to undertake this work, drawing upon the evidence they and others have and apply this beyond the Big Local areas. Local Trust will take some time to set out what this legacy will look like. Local Trust will be operating until 2027 at the least and so  this decision provides a stable platform to think and act strategically about community development.

Debbie Ladds, chief executive of Local Trust, said: “We’re proud to have been chosen to receive this legacy, as CDF are an organisation with whom we share values, a passion for communities, and much of our own history.

“We have huge respect for the calm and planned approach CDF have taken to managing their closure and to securing a strong legacy. We’re committed to using the money wisely to think and act strategically about community development, taking advantage of our future life-span of at least 10 years.”

Community development legacy project

Trustees have been keen to use part of CDF’s resources to help identify possible  futures for  community development. We prepared a brief and circulated this to a small number of organisations that we know are interested in the role communities can play in determining their own futures. We asked them to indicate the type of interest they had – leader, contributor, funder.

We are pleased to announce that Local Trust, will lead this work and that other organisations approached have committed to co-fund and contribute content to this project to match the £20,000 we have allocated. We hope more will contribute along the way. This will not be a review of CDF’s history and work, although we anticipate that there will be a succinct reference to this. The legacy project may also help Local Trust to determine the priorities for the funds set out earlier.

In addition, news of the CDF closure has led to an event being organised by the Third Sector Research Centre in April 2016, called Community Work; looking to the future. Additionally,  we asked people to contribute to the national survey on community development in our February newsletter. We hope that these will inform a vision for contemporary community development, which may also help inform the legacy project.

‘The forthcoming closure of CDF is salient, but we should remember that this is not the closure of community development (cd), it’s the closure of (yet another) organisation. There is still lots of cd and cd type stuff going on out there in communities. And there are some other organisations that might not have cd in their name but are also supporting valuable community development activity …  Additionally, for some people, the Just Act Forum has been a really useful practitioner network, and presumably this is something that CDF will be looking to house elsewhere.’ – CDF Associate

CDF products, services and campaigns; continuing to support communities and community development

Just Act

Launched in 2014, our digital platform brings resources and networks to people and groups active in their communities and signposts them to the support, advice and opportunities offered by many other organisations nationally and locally. We were initially approached by a handful of organisations interested in taking over ownership. We invited them to set out how they would maintain the platform  in the short and medium term. They were offered the intellectual property rights (IPR) only and the benefit of the development investments to date.

We are pleased to announce that Crowdfunder UK will both receive the IPR and also £20,000 to support Just Act’s maintenance and development for two years. Our ambition is that Crowdfunder continues our work, providing funding opportunities, support and commitment to communities across the UK – expanding and growing the Just Act network.

Phil Geraghty, MD of Crowdfunder said: “We are excited about combining the force of Crowdfunder with the brilliant networks of Just Act – driving the expansion and growth of the platform by connecting up our partners and projects with the site to provide ongoing support and opportunities direct to the hearts of communities across the UK.”

‘This was such a sad message to receive but what a professional action plan and a vision for future development. I am guessing this will be no easy time for your team and I wish you every success in your transition. Take comfort in the fact that you have served wisely and helped a lot of small organisations like ours survive and many many thanks for that.’             Community organisation

Love Your Community quality mark

The Love Your Community quality mark was developed in 2013, tested in 2014 and rolled-out in 2015. This is a structured application process which assesses and recognises effective community engagement practice at project (Silver), organisation (Gold) and supply chain (Platinum) levels. Our aim was to develop a standard which could be achieved by small and medium sized businesses, but we have attracted a wider interest in this award. Over the past twelve months, a number of organisations have already achieved silver and gold levels.

We were approached by a handful of organisations interested in taking over ownership. We invited them to set out how they would apply the quality mark and maintain it in the short and medium term. They were offered the intellectual property rights only and the benefit of the development investments to date. We are pleased to announce that Business in the Community (BiTC) – with whom we have worked closely to identify potential award linkages – will be transferred the intellectual property rights and trademark along with a small grant of £10,000, to cover the quality mark’s development over the next two years.

Community Investment Coalition (CIC)

In 2012, CDF with other partners, set up CIC to bring together key organisations with an interest in influencing the provision of fair credit to individuals, households and small businesses. It has brought together many other organisations, politicians and networks – across the UK and internationally to raise the profile of the community finance sector, use community experiences to inform national policy andundertake research into barriers to accessing financial services and products. The campaign has had a number of successes and CDF Trustees felt that this should continue as the need for improved access to fair financial services remains. Responsible Finance is one of the founding coalition members and CIC will transfer to this organisation with a budget of £75,000 to continue this work over the next two years.

Jennifer Tankard, Incoming Chief Executive of Responsible Finance said ‘I am delighted that Responsible Finance has agreed to host the Community Investment Coalition, allowing the campaign to continue.  Responsible Finance was a founder and will continue as a partner of CIC, whose campaign goals include the need to scale up the alternative finance sector.’

Community development and engagement training

CDF launched a new training programme in 2015 that demonstrated the appetite for training in community development from different sectors and from people undertaking different roles. We co-developed these CPD (Continuing Professional Development) accredited courses with three CDF associates. The courses range from An Introduction to Community Development, Community Development for experienced practitioners, How to engage with Communities, Identifying your Community’s Strengths with Mapping and Profiling, Working in Partnership to create Sustainable Community Projects as well as bespoke courses. We are relinquishing CDF’s share of the IPR, transferring the CPD Standards Office accreditation and releasing the content to them. It is worth registering at the following address should you want be informed of, or commission training, for you, your staff or organisation.

Bansang Hospital Appeal

This appeal, that over 24 years has helped a hospital in the Gambia transform from a holding place for sick people to an icon for healthcare in Africa, has become close to CDF staff and trustees’ hearts. In 2015 a neighbouring office donated its entire stock of office furniture and fittings to the appeal and this year we have agreed to do the same. The depreciated value to CDF is neglible, but the value to the hospital’s development and health of the population is incalculable, both financially and, with reduced mortality rates, emotionally, too.

The CDF archive

Archive publications and website

We know that many people are concerned about the storage of CDF’s archive material. On the basis that we want this to be accessible to as many people as possible, the social welfare portal at the British Library has been hosting CDF’s digital and print archive since 2013. We will also transfer our website to their digital web archive at the end of March 2016.

The Bishopsgate Institute in London are hosting our other archive materials, such as minute books, newsletters and photos. If you visit the archive from June 2016 you will be able to see how CDF’s role, geographical coverage and organisational structure has evolved over the years.

And finally, in the last three months many CDF staff have already secured good jobs, with respected organisations in areas relevant to their expertise and experience. As chief executive, this is personally rewarding – not only have they achieved security in what are insecure times, but as we know from the responses we have received, not only will CDF be remembered, but we might, just might, seed community development approaches in other organisations.

‘No, I hadn’t heard; what dreadful news for you all. You guys have always been a pleasure to work  with. You have a talented team there, so I am hopeful that you will all find new paths to explore, collectively or individually.’  – National partner

‘Your announcement that CDF will be closing its doors came to my attention today. I’m very sorry it has come to this … But I’m also struck by how admirable your decisiveness is – many organisations would just plough on while things degenerated into a horrible mess. Far better you have some headspace and time to conclude current work to your usual high standards and commitment, and think about how you can leave a legacy. All credit to you, the team and the board.’ – National partner

 The calm and planned approach to the closure has enabled staff to face an uncertain future in the knowledge that they have completed their roles with the utmost commitment to communities and community development. It is my intention to write a short case study of the closure, as the closing chapter of CDF and, possibly, a guide and insight for other organisations.

‘A brave decision. It has long been my view that many charities [not CDF!] overstay their welcome.

In the corporate world they would crash and burn or be eaten up by others , but Trustees [ and that’s my limited experience of Charity world frequently don’t distance themselves from their emotional attachment to a cause and look at the business need].’ – National partner

‘I’m really sorry to hear CDF will cease after January, it is a real shame particularly as you’ve helped so many groups, including our own over recent years.’  – Community organisation

 ‘We were very sorry to hear that CDF will be wound up next year, but recognise that you doing this from a position of strength and that it’s the right decision.’ – National partner organisation