The Way Ahead is a joint initiative by civil society organisations, independent funders, and public sector, triggered by the shared desire to meet the needs of Londoners.
Increased inequality and continued reductions in public funding have placed considerable strain on Londoners and the organisations that support them. We believe that London needs a vibrant civil society to prosper; and that, just as any other sector in London, civil society needs access to appropriate support, strong networks, and a ‘voice’ within the ongoing debate about London.
The Way Ahead proposes a system that puts London’s communities at the heart of the way we all work. The vision starts with co-producing an understanding of need and how to tackle it with communities, through to better sharing of intelligence and data across sectors, to making sure that community voices are heard in decision-making at a strategic level. To ensure that civil society not only survive but thrives, we need to reimagine the ways in which support organisations and those that fund them work together, for it is only by drawing on the knowledge and resources of all that we can truly harness the potential of London’s civil society for all in our communities.
An estimated 120,000 civil society organisations and over 3 million volunteers are already active in the capital. London has a Deputy Mayor with an explicit brief on community engagement, the prospect of further devolution to the region, and an appetite to be the foremost global city for philanthropy. The Way Ahead vision is about joining up these resources for the benefit of Londoners.
The Way Ahead sets out challenges for the way that we all work: for frontline and grassroots organisations and volunteers, for local, specialist and regional support providers, for Local Authorities and other public sector bodies, for London Councils and the GLA, for funders, and for businesses. These stakeholders have been involved in the development of the Way Ahead, are represented on a cross sector Systems Change Group and various sub groups including an Equalities Group, and are working together to establish a new system.
This level of systemic change is not a smooth process. The Way Ahead stakeholders have been working together since late 2015, and it’s taken time to build trust and strong relationships between us. Whist we have all of our stakeholder groups represented and engaged, we recognise that we don’t engage directly with Londoners (except of course, that we all are). We believe our work is changing the narrative, fixing the plumbing that helps the power to flow more effectively and giving confidence to those working directly with Londoners themselves.
The key elements of the new system are in place: local, specialist and regional support organisations are working together across issues and sub-regions, and a new organisation, London Plus, a new Hub for London will maximise their opportunities and impact. A new approach at the GLA is taking community engagement, intelligence sharing and opportunities for regional voice to new levels; and a commitment by local authorities to principles for commissioning civil society support will shape local environments. Independent funders are recommitting to funding civil society support organisations and a new collaborative Cornerstone Fund is enabling ‘game-changing’ systemic approaches to a range of issues. A commitment to engaging those who are most excluded underpins all of the above.
Delivering the Way Ahead requires both structural and behavioural change in all of our sectors. But the prize is significant – a London in which ALL Londoners can thrive, feel they have a voice in the decisions that are made about the kind of city we live in, in which all of us are seen as assets with ideas and resources to bring that can help make our city a better place to be, and in which the energy, knowledge and passion of those who choose to work together for change is amplified and multiplied.