Jill Baker: The View From the World Out There

Jill Baker, Director of Development, explains the work of the Development Directorate and what she has learnt 18 months into her role

Jill Baker

It is 18 months since I took up the position of Director of Development at Lloyds Bank Foundation and as we enter a new decade, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the work we do, the way we’re doing it and what specifically we’ve done so far.

My previous role was as Assistant Director of Children’s Services in a North East local authority. This was my first role within a local authority although I have worked with many. When I started there were a lot of things I had to learn, it nevertheless felt familiar to me. 

Having worked for a large children’s charity and having set up and led a small local charity, I was used to applying for grants and familiar with the world of funding. However, I soon found myself in a very different and unfamiliar world at the Foundation which bore no resemblance to any world I had ever been in before.  Before joining I didn’t know there was a complete ‘eco-system’ of funders, where people have made a whole career from giving away money.

The world of a corporate funder

The money is just kind of ‘there’ – of course there are budgets and business cases to be made – but there isn’t a push to try and get that money in the first place.  A revelation! 

There was space and time to think – to consider what could be done, what was possible and to try things out.  A privilege! 

People were (and are) so polite!  There are plenty of opportunities to go to conferences and seminars and simply learn Amazing!

Why is this relevant to my role as Director of Development?  Because the world out there – the world where I want to make a difference is not like that.  That world is a world where money is hard to come by, where the need to save money and cut budgets from vital services is paramount and where sometimes even a cup of coffee can’t be provided for a visitor because of the cost. 

It’s a world where people are working in difficult circumstances to provide vital services and maintain those services for people who need them the most.  So in my role, it is really important that I and the fab team I work with understand that world from ‘the inside out’ so we don’t look at it solely from the perspective of funding. That we work with others to their priorities, their realities and their timescales, not ours. That we factor in their pressures and work with them on those (because by comparison we don’t have any, not really) and to help them find ways to create sustainable services for those who need them. 

What we are doing in the Development Directorate

I have done a lot of talking to a lot of people – yes, to funders but also to people delivering and receiving services. From elected members in Local Authorities to NHS England, from Universities to young people facing difficulties, from small charities who we fund to large charities who we don’t, infrastructure organisations and government departments. 

And the question I have asked them all is:

‘what is it you need that would help you ensure that the services based in communities that you use or need can continue to thrive and be there for the long term?’ 

Unsurprisingly, the first answer people give is usually ‘more money’ but actually, when you dig into that – the answer isn’t just about money, if you go back in time, there has been LOADS of money. Who remembers the Community Development funds of the 70s?  The Inner City projects of the 80s?  City Challenge, SRB (1, 2 and was there even an SRB3?) not forgetting the joy of New Deal for Communities and more up to date - the Troubled Families money?

Money comes and money goes, when it comes we create a ‘project’ and when it goes so does the project – even if the evaluation (and there is always an evaluation!) shows it was a resounding success.  That way of thinking about money – as a thing with a beginning and an end - does nothing to change behaviours. 

Our work is about relationships, about changing behaviour and about helping people to think differently about how all the people in a community – residents, service providers,  public sector bodies, local businesses, local trusts and foundations, universities -  can all be supported to work together differently. To design, deliver and resource services to support people who need support – whether that be because they are homeless, or abused, are leaving prison or have a learning disability, live in a certain area – whatever their complexity.

We will be working in six places in England and Wales to help bring those people together, to support them to share their frustrations – with each other as well as with the ‘system’ and start to rebuild and re-connect people around the vision they have and the goals they want to achieve. 

It’s still early days but in my next blog I’ll share more about what we are actually doing and where. I hope you’ll take the time to read about our journey and share your thoughts on our work.