“It’s time to transform what ‘expertise’ the grant-making world values”


From the rise in homelessness and the use of food banks, growing hate crime on our streets, to the recent horrors at Grenfell Tower, inequality in the UK feels starker than ever. We need radical new ideas and interventions to create real change in society. But are people who have real life experience of inequality and social issues being given a chance to lead that change?

With drastic government cuts to services, charities who support the most ‘vulnerable’ communities are increasingly relying on the donations of trusts and foundations to survive (also known as grant-making).

Trusts and foundations are full of fantastic and talented people, but they are largely middle to upper-class, able bodied, heterosexual, white people from wealthy backgrounds. They are therefore much less likely to have real life experience of the issues that they’re working to solve, from youth unemployment, homelessness to poverty. We call this ‘lived experience’.
Grant-making is a profession that needs insights, communication skills and judgement, which can be gained through lived experience, as well as learnt experience. Imagine a world where those who have experienced social issues first hand, whether directly or through their friends and families, joined the grant-making world, bringing fresh insights, communication skills and judgement. We believe this could transform the trusts and foundations sector, enabling it to thrive with diversity, innovation and solutions.

“The current system fails to acknowledge the skills and talent that people who have had to face social issues have developed. We over value certain experiences and do not see what is plainly in front of us.” Anonymous survey response

But how many people from working-class communities have even heard of the role of ‘grants officer’ or Trustee? How many people who are from and working in ‘under resourced’ communities, be it social workers, nurses, teaching assistants or youth workers, feel as if grant-making is a genuine career option for them?

RECLAIM, Ten Year’s Time, Koreo and Baljeet Sandhu are proposing a radical new programme to get more people who have lived experience of social issues into this privileged profession. We think people who are from the communities that trusts and foundations wish to serve, and who already have some work experience in the voluntary and public sector, would bring a wealth of new insights and expertise to the grant-making world. And with excellent training, mentoring and support, we think they could hit the ground running, gaining crucial skills to help their careers in the charity sector and beyond.
But first things first, we don’t want to create something that won’t work. That’s why we’re asking as many people as possible, especially those with ‘lived experience’ of social issues, and those in voluntary and public sector work, to fill out our survey. Some of the questions in this survey may trigger an emotional response. We ask about personal experience of various social issues – please feel free to tick ‘prefer not to say’ for any of these questions.


Guest Author Georgia Rigg is working on behalf of RECLAIM to lead on the community consultation for this exciting new project.