The Learning Strand was created as part of the evaluation of the Coronavirus Community Support Fund (CCSF), a funding programme for charities and voluntary and community sector organisations in England during the pandemic. The funding was part of a £200 million grant from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund. We undertook the evaluation together with Ipsos MORI and New Philanthropy Capital.
As organisations constantly needed to adapt and change during the pandemic, the Learning Strand was set up to offer spaces to network, share experiences and learning together. It was also a new way for The Fund to share and facilitate learning from a major programme of funding for VCS organisations during an emergency. A Learning Hub and online platform were at the centre – with a range of activities of different formats, aims and topics delivered on and beyond the Hub. In total, we delivered 31 online events and sessions to over 750 participants as well as over 30 Learning Hub activities to the 3,244 registered Learning Hub members.
From delivering at pace and remotely, we learned that building in opportunities for sense-making and reflection is crucial even when time is short. We also learned that a Learning Strand with multiple objectives and diverse members requires a range of different but inter-related activities as well as outputs to accommodate individual preferences.
Apart from our own learning, we brought together learning that grantholders shared with us during activities and events in form of brief thematic reports and animations. For example, one report summarises what grantholders told us about the meaning of volunteering during the pandemic, changes to recruitment and support of volunteers and what that means for the future of volunteering.
“The discussions and presentations at the live events offered new ideas that triggered different actions to improve our understanding of the situation we are in and how to adapt.”
“Thank you very much for the platform you have given us to share with other[s]. It gives me the strength to speak about the issues of our small organisation.”
“I am very isolated at work so it has made a difference to meet everyone and be involved.”