Home > News and Events > Community Foundation report finds philanthropy could play a greater role in delivering economic opportunity for all

Community Foundation report finds philanthropy could play a greater role in delivering economic opportunity for all

In the first of a new series of Vital Signs reports which will take the pulse of the region, the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland highlights that despite challenging economic times, giving and philanthropy could do more to build a vibrant and inclusive economy in North East England.

While the region lags much of the United Kingdom on key measures of prosperity, Vital Signs North East: Economy is optimistic about the region’s economic potential. The Community Foundation highlights renewed commitment to close the performance gap between English regional economies, in combination with progress on devolution, as creating opportunities for a more prosperous future.

The report acknowledges the private sector will drive economic growth, alongside public sector investment, but argues that if everyone is to benefit, charities and community organisations – backed by philanthropy – will need to be actively involved, ensuring community engagement, responsible development and full inclusion.

The Community Foundation’s report sets out three areas where giving and philanthropy can best support greater prosperity. First, funding activities to foster opportunity, talent and entrepreneurialism especially among those who might not otherwise have chance to realise their potential. Second, increasing workforce participation by helping people access local jobs and training, and addressing physical and mental health issues. Finally, increasing charities’ and community organisations’ capacity so they are strong partners in economic development and able to raise the voice of disadvantaged people.

Community Foundation CEO, Rob Williamson OBE DL, said:

“The Community Foundation’s Vital Signs North East research will take the pulse of our region in 2024. Across 10 themed reports, we will identify issues our people and places face, and where giving and philanthropy can make the most difference. We start by looking at the region’s economy, which underpins so much of what we will explore in our other reports. And in Vital Signs: Economy, we make clear calls for how donors and funders can help deliver greater prosperity for everyone. This builds on our previous Vital Signs research which influenced how and when money and support was given across our area. We hope the new 2024 series will do the same.”

One example of the difference philanthropy can make comes from Newcastle Building Society, a leading business donor in the North East which, through its Community Fund at the Community Foundation regularly supports employability projects. One grant enabled YMCA North Tyneside to extend a programme of support, qualifications and work experience to 16-17-year-olds. Nicola Hudspith from YMCA North Tyneside outlines the difference made:

“The funding from the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation allowed us to develop a post-covid employability programme for 16- and 17- year-olds who were not in education, training or employment and living in supported accommodation. 37 significantly improved their work status. Many had job or placement interviews, some went into jobs and all improved communication skills and developed new confidence. Two years later, over 65% of that cohort are at university, in employment or undertaking a training programme. A huge success!”

Rob Williamson added:

“There is an impressive history of generosity in the region with strong community foundations, numerous charitable trusts and many generous donors already doing so much. Vital Signs North East is sets out how we together can do even more. We will share our findings on the Economy and other themes to start a conversation with the region’s public, private and voluntary and community sectors over coming months.”

The next Vital Signs reports on Education, Culture, Health, Homes and Environment will be launched in March at an event in partnership with Newcastle Building Society which is supporting Vital Signs North East 2024. The final reports covering Living Standards, Community, Justice and Access will be released in June. Later in the year, a programme of community conversations will explore the issues raised further through events across the region.

To see the first report visit www.communityfoundation.org.uk/vital-signs