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2021: the Trust’s Year in Reflection

Author: Manny Hothi, Chief Executive, Trust for London

A set of London themed illustrations on a dark blue background, including a bus, workers, a taxi driver and somebody voting

Our Chief Executive, Manny Hothi, takes a look back at what has been an interesting year for us all, highlighting three key moments from the Trust’s calendar in 2021 as well as offering a flavour of what to expect as we enter 2022.

With so much going on in the world it would be easy, perhaps even preferable, to slip into 2022 without reflecting on the year that has just passed. I also find that separating 2021 from 2020 is a challenge in itself – perhaps when it is all over we can just call them the ‘pandemic years’ and do away with the specifics.

In amongst all this, we’ve been busy at the Trust. Here are three things that definitely happened in the last year that I hope will give you a flavour of the Trust’s main activities and plans going forward:

For the Trust, 2021 was a year of change. We said goodbye to our long-standing and much-loved Chief Executive, Bharat Mehta OBE, and I had the incredible privilege of taking over from him and leading this wonderful organisation. Bharat’s impact on the Trust and all of the individuals who worked with him is long-lasting, and it was a blessing to be able to show our appreciation to him at an in-person event in October.

Bharat left an organisation in great shape to take on the challenges ahead. Our task now is to build on these foundations, starting with our approach to grant-making.

Bharat header image

In 2021, we worked with CAST, the social design and digital charity, to start redesigning our grant-making process to improve the experience that applicants have of engaging with the Trust.

This started with some discovery work, delving deep into the experience of applicants to understand what could be improved. We wanted brutal honesty – and we got it. It has made us take a step back and think deeply about the value and impact of our application process, and it will lead to significant changes going forward to reduce the burden, stress and uncertainty for applicants.

This work will continue into 2022 and means some fairly fundamental changes to our back-office systems and processes. It does mean that we will only have two, rather than three, open funding rounds next year. But we will emerge with a much better, quicker, less intensive process for applicants as we make steps to being a more relational funder.

CAST funder services

One of the perverse outcomes of the pandemic is that our endowment actually grew in size in 2020. This surprising fact led to our Trustees committing extra funding this year to help tackle some of the entrenched issues that the pandemic has exposed.

This included a £4.8m, four-year grant to Citizens UK and the Living Wage Foundation to help make London a Living Wage City. The Trust has a long history of funding the London Living Wage movement and now feels like the right time to fight even harder for everyone in the city to be paid a decent wage. The initiative was launched during Living Wage Week with a range of London’s leading institutions, including the Mayor of London, supporting the endeavour.

There are more initiatives in the pipeline in 2022, including new work on racial justice, disability justice, and temporary accommodation in London so look out for more information on those coming soon.

London Living Wage CTA image

When our city faces a crisis, London’s civil society always comes together to act. We are in awe of what the sector continues to achieve in the face of deep challenges, but we also know the sacrifices people in the voluntary sector make to support others can take its toll. Hopefully the holiday season will be an opportunity to switch off and recharge.

From everyone at Trust for London, stay safe, and wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

17 December 2021