It's hard to believe that we're already in the last days of the decade, and in a few short weeks we'll be heading into the 2020s. Similarly, it feels like something of a surprise to find ourselves half way through the delivery period for the Berkeley Foundation's current three-year strategy. It's a good time to stand back and take stock.
The Berkeley Foundation is the grant making Foundation set up by the Berkeley Group in 2011. We support organisations working with children and young people across London, Birmingham and the South of England, with a focus on four interlinked areas: housing and homelessness, access to employment, skills development, and health and wellbeing.
When I moved into my current role as Head of the Foundation, one of the first things we did as a team was to review and refresh the Foundation's strategy. We wanted to make sure our corporate foundation was fit for the 2020s, and ready to play its part in addressing the issues and challenges that the next decade will bring. We did this in consultation with our charity partners and the wider voluntary sector, with other businesses and with our founder, Berkeley Group.
The strategy that emerged is clear on who we are and what we want to achieve. We are a youth focused organisation - our new vision is for a society in which every young person can thrive. We work in partnership, with the voluntary sector and others, to help young people overcome barriers, improve their lives and build a fairer society.
We think we can do this in three main ways:
By funding high quality local provision for young people. We believe in the power of long term funding, and wherever possible we work with organisations for three years or more. This helps build trust, and provides our partners with stability and consistency. This year, we signed our first ever five year grant agreement.
By adding value to our partnerships, using our skills, resources and networks, and - most uniquely - our relationship with Berkeley Group. This includes developing new opportunities for Berkeley staff to work with our partners and the young people they support through skilled volunteering, and increasing access to work experience and job opportunities with Berkeley Group and its supply chain.
By continuously learning from our work, and sharing what we find out. We do this by measuring the impact of our funding, commissioning research, and by taking every possible opportunity to listen to the people and organisations we support. As part of this, 2019 has seen us take our first steps into the world of participatory grant-making, making funding decisions on our Skills for Positive Futures programme alongside an amazing group of young people. We've also piloted a series of learning events, bringing our partners together in new combinations, leading to a host of fresh ideas and connections
Underpinning all of this is partnership. We have always referred to the charities we support as 'partners', rather than 'grantees' or 'beneficiaries' - and we work hard to build relationships based on trust, consistency, and open communication.
It's crucial that, as a funder, we are accountable for our actions, and constantly improving the way we work. That's why we're commissioning an external evaluation, to take place next year. This will assess our progress against the ambitions set out in our current strategy and the impact of our work over the ten years to 2021. We'll share this learning externally, in the hope that it will help and encourage others. Watch this space!
In the meantime, we will continue to champion the work of our brilliant voluntary sector partners and the young people they support - whose energy, strength, resilience and creativity is a constant source of inspiration.