UPDATE 25th April - Last Chance to Have Your Say on the Council's VCS Grants Programme

Yesterday evening saw the final group workshop on the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) Grants Programme. You can find more detail about this journey, including the Strategic Drivers for the programme, coming as they do from LBTH's Community Plan and Strategic Plan, the Grants Policy Framework, the programme themes, legibility criteria, levels of grant funding available with the programme, and information about the application process, in the slides from the Workshop here

What you can do now (before time runs out!)

1. Review the Grants Programme Prospectus. These set out the grant programme themes which emerged from the co-production workshops, and are here:

Capacity Building - this theme focuses on building capacity of local voluntary and community sector organisations
Community Cohesion - for projects and activities which help make Tower Hamlets a place where people feel they belong, were diversity and difference is appreciated
Innovation - start-up or seed corn projects that may be scaled up or provide a model which can be replicated
Neighborhood Action - supporting local people to get together, get organised, get things done.
Partnership - providing funding for organistions to come together to form networks and partnership arrangements
Prevention - activity organised at a local level which addresses issues that affect residents and communities before they become serious

2. Give feedback on the 6 grant programme themes:

Is the description of the theme clear? Is there anything missing? 

Which are the most important three or four theme priorities? Is there anything missing?

 Are the theme outcomes right? Which are the most important three or four? Is there anything missing? 

3 Review the summary slides from the 24 April Workshop - particularly around, themes, grant levels, application process and legibility.

a. Are the standard eligibility criteria (set out in the policy framework) sufficient for this theme?
b. Where there are other criteria proposed for specific themes, are they appropriate? Should there be others?
c. Are the proposed levels of funding appropriate for this theme?

d. Are these proposals appropriate and proportionate? Are there better ways?


4 Have your final say! In one of two ways:

Speak to THCVS - you can speak to us if you have concerns, questions or what to raise an issue about the programme - contact our Development Team at THCVS or call on 020 8980 8427

Respond to the Council's Grants Survey: The best way to get your feedback taken on board is to respond to the short survey 

Councils Grant Programme Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/councilgrants

The workshop on the 24th April

The session took us through the story so far; from initial consultations back in October 2017 when the consultation on the programme was launched by the Mayor. November and December last year, saw two co-production workshops take place on the shape of the Grants Programme Framework, which the first workshop was held, leading to the draft Policy Framework being published in January this year, which was then agreed by Cabinet in March this year. March saw more co-production workshops, leading to the final draft schemes being published in April. 

 You can access the slides from the 24 April workshop here

There is still time to have your say about the design of the Programme before it is finalised in May. While there are no more opportunities for workshops, we have collated the key documents you need to come to a view about the new programme.

UPDATE April 2018:
Community Grants Programme - Next Steps Workshop 2
24th April, 2018 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM at Whitechapel Idea Store, 321 Whitechapel Road, London, E1 1BU
Following feedback from the meeting on the 12th March London Borough of Tower Hamlets would like to invite you to discuss the draft details of the funding themes for the Council’s new Grants Programme to be launched in July 2018.

The meeting is open to all voluntary and community organisations that are interested in developing the new programme. Come along and meet your colleagues and find out more about the borough plans.

Register to attend here

Find out more about the plans for the council's Grants Programme

Following the Grants Workshop in March, you can find the notes from this meeting here

There are a number of documents about the council's Grants Programme, which outline some of the current thinking from the council around the themes within the new programme. You can view these below:

12 March Workshop notes
Capacity Building
Community Cohesion
Neighbourhood Action


For those who are unable to attend, there are further opportunities to get involved:

Drop In Sessions

9 April 1pm to 5pm in MG4, Town Hall
11 April 11am to 2pm at Brady Centre

Online Survey

The council have made an online survey available for people to give feedback on proposals.

You can find the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/councilgrants

March Fundraising Forum Slides

Our March Fundraising Forum had an update from David Freeman about the Grants Programme. See slides here

UPDATE March 2018:

The work we have done so far has produced a policy framework for the grants programme which will be considered by the Council’s Cabinet on 20 March 2018.  A draft version of this framework is available here.  From 13 March you can read the full report Cabinet 20 March 2018 - Agenda. 

The policy framework sets out:

The rationale for grants
Initial themes for different funding streams within the grants programme
Eligibility criteria
Levels of funding
Decision making and accountability

You will find details of all the sessions which have taken place so far, copies of presentations and feedback below.

The second phase of the development of the grants programme has started and we are now looking at:

Priorities and outcomes for each funding theme;

The application process;

How applications will be assessed;

How projects will be evaluated and monitored.

We will be discussing the grants programme at the following meetings:

Outcomes and Priorities:  10am – 1pm, Monday 12th March, Brady Centre

THCVS Fundraising Forum, 10am – 1pm, Wednesday 28th March, Oxford House

Please book a place if you are intending to come along.

You may not be able to attend any of the sessions – we appreciate there is a lot going on at the moment.  However, you can still contribute to the development of the grants programme by completing a short questionnaire which asks for your views and suggestions, available here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/councilgrants .

Please complete the questionnaire and pass on the link to others, particularly if you are part of an organisation or community group which feels it has not had the opportunity to get funding from the Council in the past. 

If you prefer a face to face conversation but cannot attend any of the events, David Freeman from Tower Hamlets Council will be holding two drop in sessions, one at the Town Hall in Mulberry Place on 9th April from 1.00 to 5.00 in room MG4 (on the ground floor) and the second on 11 April from 11.00 to 2.00 at the Brady Arts and Community Centre, 192, Hanbury Street, E1 5HU.  You don’t need to make an appointment but it would be helpful if you could send an email to let him know you are coming.

We are planning feedback sessions after Easter to bring together all of the comments and suggestions we have received and publish a summary of them alongside the draft programme. There will then be a short opportunity for further discussion before the final draft of the programme is presented to Councillors in June.

Tower Hamlets Council expects the grants programme will be launched officially in the summer and applications invited for projects starting in April 2019.

Over 70 organisations took part in the development of the grants policy framework before Christmas which shows a tremendous interest in and commitment to developing a grants programme which will meet the needs of small and emerging voluntary and community groups in the future. Please contribute to the second stage of developing the grants programme and help make it a truly co-produced project.




The grants project has two phases:

1.) The Framework

In the last part of 2017, Elvis Langley (then employed as Interim Development Manager at THCVS) worked with a wide range of organisations to gather experiences and ideas about
•         What should be funded through grants rather than commissioning
•         What the eligibility criteria for grants should include 
•         What works at the moment and what could be improved on
The work was conducted through a series of workshops, one to one meetings and a follow up survey.   You can read a write up of the events and findings in our blogs section.

All the evidence and feedback has been utilised to create a Draft Grants Framework, which will be taken to the LBTH Cabinet for agreement this spring.

The initial grant themes are:

Innovation: to encourage innovation or pilot something new,especially where there is a gap;
Prevention: to promote grass roots activity to reduce the need for statutory services;
Neighbourhood action: to promote local neighbourhood initiatives
Community cohesion: to develop community resilience, promote cultural opportunities and reduce social isolation
Capacity building: to enable smaller organisations to become more sustainable, where appropriate providing core funding to lever in other resources
Partnership working: making the sector more effective through closer partnership working within the sector and across sectors.

In addition, there will be two cross cutting themes:

Community cohesion  - developing community resilience, promoting cultural opportunities and reducing social isolation in the context of the theme, and
Equality and diversity - demonstrating how people with protected equalities characteristics will be included 

2.) The detail

The next phase, in 2018, is looking at how the new grants programme should work.  This will mean developing an application and assessment process.  We want to look at how applications are structured and what questions should be asked, how decisions should be made and who should be involved.

Stay informed & share your views

The second phase of the work will be run by Gemma Cossins (now back in the Development Manager role.)  Please get in touch if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions about the development of the grants process.  We want to hear from you about how to get the best feedback from the people you work with, so everyone's interests are represented. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Which grants will be affected?
The new policy will apply to all grants made by the Council to VCS organisations and, as far as possible, they will form part of one corporate programme. All current small grants programmes will be affected, including the Events Fund and the Small Grants to Pensioners Groups budget.

Most funding from the Council in the future will be through commissioning.  This piece of co-production is not about Mainstream Grants.

The Council expects that most of the current Mainstream Grants programme will be commissioned in the future. you can find more about this in the Community Commissioning section of our website.

Why do Tower Hamlets Council want to change their grants policy?
The Tower Hamlets Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) Strategy outlined that the Council are moving towards funding through commissioning but also set out strategic reasons to retain grants in clearly defined circumstances in the borough.

These might include enabling smaller local groups to engage in grant applications through capacity building, responding better to local need and streamlining the current grants processes, in response to other changes outlined in the 2016-19 VCS strategy.

What does this mean for VCS organisations and groups in the borough?
Once the new grants policy has been implemented it will replace existing grants schemes. Organisations and groups that have been applying for council run small grants will apply under the new grants programme in the future. Therefore it is really important that the new grants framework works for everyone. 

What is the timeline for the changes?
The process of co-production will be in two stages. In winter 2017 we asked about the broader policy framework  and in early 2018 we are asking about the process of measuring impact, application forms and other details. 

The Council anticipate making decisions on the policy framework at the March 20th Cabinet meeting and then the development of the detailed scheme and processes will be agreed later in the year in time for a summer launch of the new grants programme.

Will my current grant be affected?
No - your current grant will continue as normal.

Is this about cuts to grants?
The future grants budget is not decided. We have room in the VCS to influence policy decision via our involvement and the arguments we make for (or against) budgetary decisions that elected officials make. Although we may not always get what we want, this part of our role in representing the communities that we work with. The Council has said the grants policy is intended to stimulate greater and more effective support for the VCS, not reduce it and that this principle will inform the final amount allocated to the grants budget

By working on this project we have a chance to state our case for the future shape of grants in Tower Hamlets. This is why it is so important that the council and everyone involved works together.

Why should I get involved?
You know best the needs of people in the borough and also what works and doesn't work as far as funding is concerned. By getting involved you offer your experience and wisdom to ensure the new grants policy and process works for you. 

What is THCVS's role in deciding the new grants policy?
THCVS won't get to decide what the new grants policy will be, but we want to make sure that everyone gets a chance to influence the changes that will happen. We will be putting on a series of events, surveys and focus groups to involve as many people and organisations as we can. 

As facilitators, we will provide forums where you can talk directly to council officers and other people who will be affected by the grants. We are also available to speak to directly, if you would like to give us feedback. Once we have collected responses we will represent you.