Part of the Stories from Health Lab series - Since launching nearly two years ago, South London Cares, the sister charity of the successful North London Cares, is going from strength to strength. The Cares family are now thinking about what they have learnt from this expansion and what this means for 2016 and beyond.
It's almost two years now since North London Cares and the nascent South London Cares first submitted an expression of interest to the Nesta and Cabinet Office Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund. It was Christmas 2013, and the Cares Family board of trustees had recently made the decision to replicate and create a charity south of the river based on the success of North London Cares over the previous two years.
A lot has changed since Christmas 2013. South London Cares now has a network of 700 young professionals signed up to share time, laughter, new experiences and friendship with 600 older neighbours – including Fred who is featured in the short film. 300 of those young people are already spending time with their neighbours - and many more will do so in 2016. Although still very much a small, local charity, SLC has been featured on BBC1's Inside Out programme and in the Guardian and, along with its sister charity above the river, recently received a Centre for Social Justice Award from Iain Duncan Smith and Esther Rantzen.
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Meet Fred – a big open personality, the sort of which they just don't make anymore
If building one charity is tough, then building a second is even tougher. As John Hitchin from Renaisi, who is expertly and sensitively guiding the Cares teams through the process of growth, has noted, the challenge of - and the key to - scaling is retaining the soul of the mission and method. But that's not easy.
16 months after investment from the Centre for Social Action, though, so much progress has been made – we now have a strong foundation, an expanded profile, and strategic partnerships. In March next year, a long period of evaluation will end with publication of new impact data and a roadmap for what happens next. That process is being supported by Nesta in partnership with the Big Lottery Fund. 'Accelerating Ideas' is helping organisations with promise to grow and to work with even more people, and the Cares Family are amongst 11 projects receiving support to develop future plans for growth.
For North London Cares and South London Cares, that means 2016 is shaping up to be another searing, fascinating year, full of lessons and exciting explorations. For Nesta and the Big Lottery Fund, the hope is that targeted investments will bring even greater impact, innovation and capacity to organisations demonstrating what can be achieved by "People helping people".