Standing Shoulder to Shoulder as a metaphor for Community Foundation Leadership

What links these two pictures? Quite a few things actually. Both were taken within days of each other last week. Both have me in them. But most importantly they show leaders from community foundations standing shoulder to shoulder. And I think this is the best metaphor for what we do and why.

Standing Shoulder to Shoulder with the people we work with

On 4th March Baroness Diana Barran, Parliamentary Secretary of State for DCMS aka Charities Minister (in the middle back row) visited Castleford Tigers Women’s Rugby League club (Lindsay Anfield is main organiser of the club to the left of Diana Barran). This visit arose from them receiving an £8000 grant from the Tampon Tax Community Fund managed by Two Ridings Community Foundation (me, Jan Garrill in red coat).

With the help of friends Lindsay has set up a club where girls of all shapes, sizes and fitness can come along twice a week and learn rugby. Many of the girls have challenging backgrounds, no history of family encouraging them to play sport and yet three of them now represent their country and county, are role models for others and have a bright eyed confidence and positivity that Lindsay helped unlock. It was always there, but tough luck and lack of opportunities had kept their potential under wraps.

This group typifies what community foundations help make happen – Castleford Tigers Women’s Rugby League club is run on shoestring by passionate people like Lindsay to do something about something not right where she lives. They can use the name Castleford Tigers but get no funding from the professional team. And a grant from us allowed her to do more sessions and aimed at a wider range of ages. In this instance the community foundation helped fund rugby league for women and girls but somewhere else it might be art, or singing or simply a friendly face and a cup of tea.

Standing Shoulder to Shoulder with each other

In the same week I was at Castleford I was also away for two days with 9 of my Community Foundation colleagues on a UKCF Leadership Programme. What was clear right from day 1 was that we all shared similar values and outlook on life that being involved in a Community Foundation allowed us to use to make a huge difference in our communities, from Devon to Leeds and North & East Yorkshire and all points in-between.

Between day 1 and day 6 we wrestled with what kind of leaders were we, were we heroes or were we hosts allowing others to grow and lead and what kind of leadership do community foundations need? We all felt that the leaders as hosts metaphor suited us, especially when we heard Tracey Walsh from East End Community Foundation describe what she had helped make happen around reducing anti social behaviour on her patch; “simply” by being trusted she could bring partners together who previously wouldn’t have worked with each other, get them to understand others’ perspectives and help focus on what needed doing, and all without making a grant!

Yet, we still struggled to answer the final question: what kind of leaders are community foundations…? Could we find a metaphor that described the convening, trusted role we play that comes from holding resources, working across all sections of our communities and caring passionately about our people and places?

Well, maybe the kind of leadership Community Foundations show is by standing shoulder to shoulder with others who share our values and want to make a difference locally?

What do you think?


Jan Garrill

10th March 2020