City Funds Case for Support

The Case for supporting Bristol’s recovery with City Funds – 27th May 2020

“If cities are going to be challenged and stripped back to the bones, when we rebuild them let’s not rebuild them as we had before, like we did after the financial crash of 2008, but let’s build something different and more sustainable, more inclusive, more fair and more just.”

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, April 9th 2020.

Executive Summary

Responding with humanity and compassion to the crisis is everyone’s priority right now. Many people, especially in vulnerable communities, are in survival mode, unable to access food, jobs, education and essential support. Bristol’s hidden heroes are doing everything to provide them with basic necessities through this terrible time. Now we look ahead to how we rebuild after the pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated existing fragilities and inequalities in Bristol. Economic exclusion, poverty, hunger and deprivation will hit larger parts of the population and community initiatives may not be able to provide the much-needed support to residents.

The recovery plan must fund solutions that target the causes and effects of inequality and poverty and support a strong backbone on which the rest of the sector depends. We believe that with adequate resources, Bristol can be a thriving and healthy city, built on a fair social foundation within sustainable environmental boundaries.

City Funds has a critical role to play in Bristol’s recovery, bringing together local businesses, universities, funders and community organisations to bring about measurable reductions in the root causes of inequality and poverty. Informed directly by frontline experts and people with lived experiences, we support local charitable organisations and social entrepreneurs to design local solutions that will help people live well.

To fight the root causes of poverty and inequalities in Bristol, we need your support now more than ever. The case for fundamental change is growing, and City Funds offers a unique and replicable model to drive those changes at city level.

We need your support to demonstrate that, when a city comes together to build a collaborative response to chronic inequalities, we can achieve measurable outcomes and create lasting impacts on issues previously thought to be intractable.

The context: Isn’t Bristol a prosperous, thriving city?

The short answer is no – too many people in Bristol do not benefit from the economic and environmental wealth that Bristol has. The arrival of COVID-19 in the UK and the subsequent lockdown measures have laid bare the systemic inequalities in Bristol.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, 16% of Bristol residents (22% of children) were living in the 10% most deprived areas in England[1]. Now, more than one in four children don’t have regular access to three meals a day and the average life expectancy gap is 12 years between the affluent and deprived areas in Bristol. [2]

In this climate, there is a huge amount of uncertainty in the sector and a desperate need for both stability and funding. Ongoing research indicates more than one in three local organisations are uncertain about their future or might close if they don’t get the support that they need. We are hearing concerns about increased demand for support/services and increased competition for funds.

Bristol is experiencing a public health, social and economic crisis defined by inequality. The good news is that we have a determined coalition of public, private and third sector leaders who want to make sure that, in future years, Bristol is equipped to look after our most disadvantaged people much better thanks to resilient communities and support organisations.

The purpose of City Funds

City Funds’ goal is to bring about measurable reductions in the root causes of inequality and poverty through strategic planning, targeted grants and social investments that change systems.

All stakeholders share the vision of a sustainable Bristol that works for everyone, where barriers that create inequality and poverty are reduced and people can thrive in the city that they call home.

Our mission is to bring businesses, universities, community organisations, funders and the public sector together to share resources and help address Bristol’s key social and environmental challenges.

Our main output is to provide an easy access to more grants, research, and pro bono opportunities to charitable organisations in Bristol. Our direct outcomes will be to dramatically increase the resources available to local initiatives and to develop place-based strategic responses to our funding priorities.

 Our priorities

The City Funds Governing Board has selected four systems change priorities that we are focusing on. Each is closely aligned with the One City Plan[3] and UN Sustainable Development Goals:

The Funding Priorities The ambition Alignment with SDG
Environmental Transformation Realise our ambition to be a carbon-neutral and zero-waste city that promotes our environment SDG7, SDG11, SDG12, SDG13
No Child Goes Hungry Help communities grow, purchase, prepare and cook fresh, healthy and affordable food SDG1, SDG3, SDG4, SDG10
Community Initiatives Foster the capacity of communities to have impactful roles and develop community resilience SDG1, SDG5, SDG8, SDG9, SDG10, SDG16
Economic Inclusion Promote full participation and ownership in a diverse and local economy SDG1, SDG2, SDG3, SDG4, SDG8, SDG9, SDG10, SDG11, SDG12, SDG13

Our collaboration scheme

Our scheme is designed to be open and transparent, built on the strengths of existing organisations. Our three founder organisations signed a collaboration agreement in March 2018.

–      Bristol City Council has invested £5 million in the social investment fund matched by a further £5 million from Big Society Capital for repayable investments. The City Council also provides support and expertise.

–      Quartet Community Foundation has been inspiring local philanthropy for over 33 years. It is a registered charity that manages the City Funds’ grant programmes and fundraising activities. For City Funds, Quartet has already raised over £700,000 locally for grants which will be focused on health and well-being.

–      Bristol and Bath Regional Capital is a CIC and is responsible for the £10 million social investment fund, conducting due diligence and offering loans and blended financial solutions. Three investments have already been completed to support Community Hubs and non-profit organisations in Bristol.

Each funding priority is supported by a working group, composed of local experts working in more than 30 different local organisations. They research, network and promote collaborative approaches as well as giving community input into the grant and investment decisions. They nominate members to sit on the Unitary Grants Panel.

We are also developing innovative partnerships to include people with lived experiences into decision-making, and to develop a bespoke impact assessment tool covering all investment and grant activities (with the Centre For Thriving Places).

Why support Bristol’s recovery with City Funds?

We believe that City Funds is a cornerstone of Bristol’s social sector recovery strategy and a model for other places. Through our four funding priorities, we aim to get the third sector and social entrepreneurs back on their feet and support system change for long term resilience.

  • City Funds seeks to change the system by addressing the chronic lack of appropriate resource for organisations which are creating solutions to social and geographical inequality in Bristol. We can channel scarce resources to make sure that every penny invested changes people’s lives after the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Our vision is supported by the City Office and aligned with the One City plan; our founding partners have decades of local experience, and our bespoke impact assessment tool is developed by the Bristol-based Centre for Thriving Cities. We are immediately ready to operate, and we are here for the long run.
  • City Funds is a cross-sector initiative and involves local and national partners. Our support will allow VCSE sector organisations to access financial support, but also to find operational connections within and across sectors. The COVID-19 crisis is putting an enormous pressure on the VCSE sector, and we can provide them with the tailored and accessible solutions they need.
  • More of the same is not enough. We must support new approaches to network building, governance, sustainable economic models, racial justice, place-based working and equitable knowledge creation. We will do our utmost to ensure that the emerging possibilities are backed by resources, led by diverse participants and characterised by a sense of collective endeavour. We are pioneering a new form of city-wide open collaboration, to make change happening in multi-deprived communities.
  • City Funds was set up to allow all stakeholders to know and to input, assess and monitor our action in the key priority areas. We are transparent, data-driven and informed by frontline participants. After COVID-19, we can deliver clear and accountable social and environmental outcomes to restore hope, confidence and maintain social cohesion.

Case study: No Child Goes Hungry in Knowle West

The first City Funds grants awarded in March 2020 to No Child Goes Hungry projects illustrate our approach to system change. This first grant programme received £250,000 worth of applications. Three of the six grants awarded, worth £10 000 each, were targeting the Knowle West neighbourhood, ranked among the 10% most deprived areas in England. The synergies among the three projects drove the grant panel’s decisions:

  • The first project intends to design a strategic Action Plan with residents and local food initiatives to build resilience to food poverty in the area. By developing a collective voice, they aim to create a mutually supportive environment, share knowledge and resources, and increase their impact.
  • The second project aims to transform the food culture and practice in school and at home, thanks to cooking lessons in the local primary school, and family food workshops with parents and teachers. A set of best practices will be consolidated to disseminate the project to other schools in the city.
  • The third project is testing the concept of a Food Leader programme in connection with the former initiative. This six-week training course aims to upskill individuals to become leaders in local communities, so they can propagate learning and cooking skills, teach others to cook easy, low-cost meals, and set up food-based initiatives. This will ultimately enrol up to 200 people a year and produce videos for a YouTube channel.

We believe that the City Funds will deliver transformational changes in Knowle West because it leverages three dimensions:

  • Impact on organisations – we provide funding, connection and support to organisations which deliver solutions
  • Impact on systems – we enable collective action to change the way our local system functions to address the priorities we have identified
  • Impact on paradigm – we generate local stories about change that expand ‘the possible’, inspiring place-based action elsewhere.

How can we work together?

We think that no other organisations or funders have the capacity to identify, support and network local initiatives in the way we do in Bristol.

City Funds is now working on its COVID-19 Recovery plan and seeking your support so we can change the systems to make our communities more resilient. With its capacity to connect local organisations and channel resources where they are needed most, City Funds can concentrate its action on:

  • Sector-specific support focused on vulnerable communities, additionally disadvantaged by the crisis (BAME, young people, disabled people, refugees and other marginalised groups),
  • Community-level organisations providing essential services to deprived communities (including access to healthy local food, access to mental health support, access to quality jobs).

Bristol City Funds offers a new and replicable way to engage with the city’s stakeholders in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. It is an opportunity to pilot new collaborative schemes at city-level and be part of a ground-breaking initiative, never seen before in the UK.

Bristol City Funds is actively looking for new partners (Charitable Trusts, Corporate Foundations, Businesses, Academic Institutions and Think Tanks) willing to support our place-based approach.

If you want to support systems change and reduce inequalities in one of the UK’s core cities, you can help by supporting us.

We are seeking:

£50,000 to contribute to the development of City Funds including developing the research capacity of funding priority groups, setting up the impact assessment and monitoring tool, ensuring the coordination of all stakeholders, involving people with lived experience in our work and covering fundraising expenses;

£30,000 to initiate our employer engagement plan, including the development of a pro bono brokerage service and a Business Leaders programme to help employers and employees to engage in the City Funds initiative;

£400,000+ to inject into grant-making resources in all four funding priorities.

Get in touch

To find out more about this ground-breaking initiative, contact Sacha Korsec, Fundraising Officer for City Funds, who is happy to discuss any further questions.

Find him at, +44 (0)117 989 7704, Quartet Community Foundation – Bristol City Funds, Royal Oak House, Royal Oak Avenue, Bristol BS1 4GB. We use also Zoom and Microsoft Teams.


Social media: follow @CityFundBristol on Twitter

[1] Bristol City Council, State of Bristol, Key Facts 2019

[2] Average life expectancy at birth for male in Hartcliffe (73) and Clifton (85), source: Local Insight, 2020

[3] The One City Plan describes where Bristol wants to be by 2050, and how city partners will work together to create a fair, healthy, and sustainable city.