Steps to Sustainability: Press Release

Cloe Ofori

19 October 2020

Equipping and empowering BAME social action leaders to serve their communities: Civil Society Consulting CIC partners with national multi-faith organisation Strengthening Faith Institutions to take ‘Steps to Sustainability’ to the next level, with the support of the National Lottery’s emergency COVID-19 funding.                                                   

This comes on the back of the Levelling Up Our Communities report by Danny Kruger MP, which advocates for a modernised ‘infrastructure support’ sector and sustainable approaches, like S2S, alongside a stronger engagement with faith communities. The parliamentary report sets out a vision for sustaining the community spirit seen during lockdown by more concerted interventions by ‘modernised CVS-style’  organisations in supporting and empowering people to play active roles in their neighbourhoods. 

Mustafa Field OBE, Programme Leader, Strengthening Faith Institutions (and Director, Faiths Forum for London) expressed: 

“As a growing national multi-faith organisation we are keen to pro-actively advance leadership, capacity and resilience – and this is needed more than ever in this pandemic crisis. Working with local faith leaders and their groups, and in partnership with Civil Society Consulting CIC, we now have a real opportunity to strengthen local networks of support by helping them develop and deliver their own vital projects and therefore better engender understanding and engagement between different faith communities.” 

Mark Ereira-Guyer, Civil Society Consulting CIC Director commented: 

“We need to get out there, especially in the most negatively Covid impacted areas of the country, to see how we can together best help the BAME-led faith and civil society sector keep its head above the water, sustain frontline support and services, and even innovate to help everyone in their communities. We’ll be building on our recent sustainability support work in key areas like the Liverpool city region, West Midlands, West Yorkshire, Middlesbrough, east London and Manchester.”

What is ‘Steps to Sustainability’?

BAME communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 – and the same is true for the BAME-led and -focused organisations that support them. Civil Society Consulting CIC is working to address this inequity through one-to-one consultations and follow-up support that builds confidence and capacity. Thanks to TNL Community Fund funding (via the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) and Strengthening Faith Institutions partnership, this model for social impact in BAME communities is now being scaled up.

The backstory

Civil Society Consulting CIC is a not-for-profit that serves the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector. In the lockdown, the team wanted to support vulnerable communities however they could. For the CIC, this meant sharing expert advice with VCSE organisations which were working hard to serve their community. They reached out to the sector offering hour-long one-to-one surgeries online – free, and open to any struggling charities or faith groups. This went hand-in-hand with a briefing pack to the sector. This was the highest impact solution that Civil Society Consulting felt it could do for the panic-stricken sector and quickly changing environment of a few months ago. And they were right, as Mark Ereira-Guyer, Director, further explained:

“Taking the initiative to offer the Emergency Support earlier this year brought into sharp relief our role in the sector. So many groups lack the tools, confidence and know-how to secure necessary funding, and we are thrilled to have developed a model that makes the most of motivated individuals and groups. And one we know works!”

The team noticed that BAME consultees were struggling the most, making it harder for them to serve their community. This observation was also informed by Civil Society Consulting’s comprehensive evaluation of the impact of Covid-19 on the social sector in Barking and Dagenham – which had been carried out in parallel. Therefore, Civil Society CIC’s charity sector experts have been continuing the initiative throughout the summer months with a BAME-only focus. ‘Steps to Sustainability’ was conceived out of this pilot as a way to empower social action leaders who are Black, Asian or an ethnic minority, helping them to re-configure the social support they currently offer and strengthen their responses.

How will it work?

Strengthening Faith Institutions have a strong network of BAME faith and social action hubs in some of the most ethnically diverse, socially disadvantaged areas where the Coronavirus has wreaked most havoc: Blackburn, Greater Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, Birmingham, Walsall, Leicester, Liverpool/Merseyside Luton and in east London. Through vigorous outreach, the initiative will target groups with the greatest potential to improve their hyper-local impact and support to their wider communities.

To date, on a voluntary basis, the CIC have delivered free one-to-one consultation surgeries to 40 local faith action and civil society leaders, focusing on maximising and extending impact based on a checklist to implement the advice provide:

Ubuntu Multicultural Centre CIC (a BAME-led social solidarity group providing emergency food support) in Middlesbrough were helped to embark on a wide ranging community engagement survey to develop their emergency response planning and set up a new community drop-in centre in the town. The team compiled a report on the survey findings, advised on how best to proceed with taking on the responsibilities of a new centre and how best to resource it. 

The House of Empowerment in Coventry is an African church community who have been providing emergency support to their elderly congregation and wider community during Covid-19. The team at Civil Society provided free one-on-one surgeries and advice to their leader, Kwame. Together they successfully secured emergency National Lottery funding and ensured that the House of Empowerment’s vital work serving the community continues. 

“It’s been an honour to empower, enable and facilitate these vital community organisations and social action leaders to serve the communities they know and love,” remarked the Civil Society Consulting Directors. 

As well as being more able to deal with the negative impact of the pandemic on their own organisation, groups are also helped to plan for the future in a realistic, resilient and sustainable way – developing simple strategies and plans to grow their support and finding the financial resources to do so. 

Steps to Sustainability is exactly what we stand for as a small, not-for-profit consultancy – both in its end goal and in the means for getting there,” Mark added.

The six month initiative will support 60 BAME-led social action groups, beginning in early November 2020.

For more information, contact Mark Ereira-Guyer at or call him on +44 (0)7913818838.

Supporting faith-based social action in Coventry: A funding success for House of Empowerment community church

Francesca Godfrey

8 July 2020

The House of Empowerment community church provides essential support to residents of Longford and wider Coventry. They are a majority African church, who, in recent times have stepped up to fulfil their role in their community. They have gone above and beyond to make sure people in their congregation (and beyond) are supported during the pandemic. And they are soldiering on in the aftermath too.

We are proud to have worked with church leader and trustee Kwame Twum-Boateng, to help the organisation successfully secure 13K of funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to carry out their work.

The backstory

28 neighbourhoods in Coventry are in the 10 percent most deprived in England. As a result, the city has been hit particularly hard by Covid-19. At the peak of the crisis, deaths per hundred thousand were at some of the highest outside of London (at 166.4). Longford is the second most deprived ward in the city and 10.5 percent of residents report their health significantly “limits their day to day activity”, higher than the city average (2011 census). 

Under these difficult conditions, House of Empowerment were particularly concerned about the elderly members of the community who are most vulnerable to contracting the virus and suffering from loneliness. In normal times, the organisation works to alleviate social isolation felt by older people through events such as their over 50s lunch and music club. So when lockdown measures brought these to a halt, the organisation began delivering food and medicines and checking in with senior members by phone on a regular basis.

With social distancing measures set to continue for the foreseeable future, House of Empowerment realised their short-term emergency response needed to be a long-term service, and required urgent financial support to be sustainable for months to come. 

Where do Civil Society Consulting come in?

Meanwhile, back at Civil Society Consulting CIC, we wanted to support vulnerable communities as much as we can during this crisis. For us, this meant sharing our expert advice to VCSE organisations working hard to serve their community. We reached out to the sector offering hour-long one-to-one surgeries online – free, and open to any struggling charities or faith groups. This went hand-in-hand with a briefing pack to the sector.

We decided this was the most useful thing we could do for the panic-stricken sector and quickly changing environment of just a few months ago.

The good news

House of Empowerment were introduced to us via Near Neighbours. On the back of the one-to-one consultation, we worked with Mr Twum-Boateng to submit a funding proposal for £13,200. We were on-hand during the production of the bid document, budgets, and safeguarding guidance requested by the National Lottery.

And this is where the good news comes in! Last week, House of Empowerment secured the full bid amount, enabling them to realise the full extent of their plans:

·  to continue to deliver emergency supplies and medicines to the elderly,

·  to buy IT equipment for ‘virtual meet-ups’ with isolated community members, and

·  to ensure the community centre is ready to welcome back members post-lockdown.

The organisation’s emergency work during the crisis is a crucial lifeline for elderly and vulnerable members of the community.

Up next

This is just one of the success stories that came out of Civil Society Consulting CIC’s wider Covid-19 crisis support initiative. And the show must go on!

To date, we have delivered free one-to-one consultation surgeries to 34 local faith action leaders. To lock in impact, we followed up with the appropriate number of hours of support – based on a checklist to implement the advice provided. 

The initiative brought into sharp relief our role in the sector. Many groups lack the tools, confidence and know-how to secure necessary funding. Due to positive stories such as the success of House of Empowerment, we are scaling up our crisis response. We are revamping our crisis support initiative, with a specific BAME-focus, under the name ‘Steps to Sustainability’. Over the next six months, we will engage with over 60 faith-based and BAME charities up and down the country. Through consultations and practical guidance, we aim to help them to continue their critical work on the frontlines and make material change in their communities.

The bigger picture

Steps to Sustainability is exactly what we stand for as a small, not-for-profit consultancy – both in its end goal and in the means for getting there. Our mission is to leverage social impact and community cohesion. We believe the best way to do this is to empower, enable and facilitate community organisations and social action leaders to serve the communities they know and love. This is exactly what Steps to Sustainability is all about.

Mark-Ereira Guyer and Lucy Walmsley worked with House of Empowerment on this project.

Our work in Barking and Dagenham: assessing the impact of the pandemic on the sector

Francesca Godfrey

09 Jun 2020

We’re proud and delighted to announce we’re partnering with the vibrant social sector in Barking and Dagenham to better understand the impacts of Covid-19 and provide a roadmap to recovery. 

Civil Society Consulting CIC has been commissioned to produce an impact report by BD_Collective  (*see below). The report will reflect the experiences, views and concerns of more than 100 local organisations. It will also capture their ideas for further social innovation and put forward recommendations. This will ‘sharpen the saw’, so that policymakers and funders can make high impact and informed decisions – based on the real life experiences of people and organisations on the ground in the borough.

We strongly believe in empowering voluntary and community organisations who know best and care passionately about their communities; we believe the surest way to further leverage social impact is by adequately equipping and supporting them.

Barking and Dagenham is a borough we know well and cherish. It enjoys a strong community spirit and is driven by a voluntary and community sector that has been consistently ahead of the curve during the Covid-19 crisis: quick in its response to the immediate aftermath and proactive in working together to ensure a strong social sector for the future.

Working with all organisations in the borough, we’ll be digging into the specifics of how the sector has been affected by the crisis to understand the overarching trends, as well as personal stories. We’ll look at five critical areas: income, staff, volunteers, programmes, and infrastructure. We’re also looking into how organisations view their ‘post Covid-19 recovery’: what are the foreseeable challenges and opportunities as we ease out of lockdown?

We want the report to place BD’s social sector organisations in the best position to navigate this challenging period and recover from the crisis, providing the data and information to feed into a strategic plan. These organisations have proved a lifeline during the crisis, and will be even more important as the community begins to rebuild. It’s a privilege to be involved.

BD_Collective brings the social sector of Barking & Dagenham together in partnership with others. From sports clubs and social enterprises to disability groups and faith communities, each one helps people to belong and to make positive contributions. The Covid-19 Barking and Dagenham Impact Report Phase 1 is due out in mid-July 2020.

%d bloggers like this: