In this Q&A, Denise Charlton – CEO at The Community Foundation for Ireland speaks about the launch of their All-Island Fund.
# Can you tell us a bit about your business?
The Community Foundation for Ireland has been working with communities for 21-years during which its donors have provided €75 million to communities. We work with 5,000 groups, organisations and charities across Ireland.
Our private donors and our grantees share the vision of equality for all in thriving communities. Our work spans the whole range of social issues, including climate action, equality in all its forms, poverty and food poverty, gender-based violence as well as the immediate needs which have been created by Covid-19 and its continuing impact on vulnerable people.
We invite donors to contribute to long term solutions for the many challenges facing communities. Our team works with donors to ensure that their vision for change is realised. Donors come from both a corporate background as well as from families and individuals.
As a foundation we can draw on the first-hand experiences, evidence and testimonies of those working on the ground to not only respond to long-standing issues but also to those which are emerging, such as the digital divide, increased income gaps exacerbated by Covid as well as the ongoing impact of Brexit.
# What is the All-Island Fund?
The All-Island Fund has been established to fill a gap which has seen the voices of women, young people, ethnic groups and others excluded when key decisions are made on the future of our island.
Through partnerships between communities, civil society groups and advocates on both sides of the border we aim to give voice to those who would otherwise be excluded or ignored.
Many of our donors share our vision and have come forward to create the fund which is now in the process of allocating €500,000 in grants on a pilot basis.
The need for this work has been widely recognised, not least when the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, TD took time to attend one of our special VitalTalks webinar to launch the fund.
At the core of the initiative is a partnership approach which has been underlined with our own alliance with The Community Foundation of Northern Ireland to make this a reality.
# What is the goal with this fund?
Through encouraging, fostering and nurturing North-South partnerships we believe that the absence of strong civil society voices on an all-island basis can be corrected.
Our aim is simply to ensure that when important decisions are made about relationships on the island that all voices are heard.
A particular area which has drawn a lot of attention is the need to listen to young people and to ensure their voices are respected and rights protected.
Looking forward to tuning in to see @Denise_CFI CEO @CommunityFound on ‘Open for Business’ on @RTEOne this evening speaking about the impact of COVID-19 on communities. #OpenforBusiness #philanthropy #impact https://t.co/uLqRGLymOA
— Philanthropy Ireland (@PhilanthropyIE) May 13, 2021
An early partnership which reflects this is one which has developed between the Children’s Rights Alliance and the Children’s Law Centre in Northern Ireland. Both organisations are collaborating and sharing information on how children and young people have a greater say into the future.
We have been greatly encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response of communities across the island.
While Brexit may have brought many of these issues to the fore it is true that civil society groups have in general operated in one jurisdiction or the other and have not truly focussed on how mutual co-operation can bring about stronger voices and better results.
The launch of the All-Island Fund represents a step change as groups across Ireland move to address this.
# What is unique about this venture?
The All-Island focus is what makes this project unique. The coming together of civil society for the greater good of all is something which has been lacking to date, now we are working to make these voices stronger.
The Community Foundation for Ireland consulted widely before establishing this fund. All our consultations highlighted the need, with the message coming back loud and clear that it was time for a new start in terms of developing civil society on an All-Island basis.
# When did the fund launch and how can people avail of it?
The All-Island Fund was launched by Minister Simon Coveney, TD on the 1st of April during a special webinar in the VitalTalks series hosted by The Community Foundation for Ireland.
The pilot fund of €500,000 opened for applications immediately. Applications are being invited through www.communityfoundation.ie. It is planned that further rounds of funding will follow in the summer.
It is hoped that projects and partnerships will get up and running quickly and that we will see a sharing of experiences, information and expertise which will benefit people on both parts of the island.
Initial interest in this work has been hugely encouraging.
# Is there anything else you would like to add?
Since the start of the Pandemic we have seen our donors step up to the mark. The levels of generosity we have seen have allowed The Community Foundation for Ireland to invest an unprecedented €15 million in grants.
Lifeline services like Meals on Wheels have been kept open, helplines for victims of Domestic Violence continue to be answered and vital lifelines on health and well-being have been given the digital capability to move online quickly.
Despite all these positives developments it is also important to note that every time we invite applications for grants that demand always outstrips the funds we have available many times over.
The future of the island, climate change as well as the long shadow which Covid-19 will cast are all challenges which need answers. If you share our vision of equality for all in thriving communities, including our All-Island Fund, we would love to talk to you. See our work at www.communityfoundation.ie.