Here are some of the year-by-year highlights of our work:
2021: Climate Action: Race to Zero. With COP26 seen as a last chance to bring the world together to address global warming sufficiently to keep this to a 1.5oC temperature increase, we decided to develop a programme of activities involving a collaboration amongst around 25 organisations seeking to engage young people in climate action. We encouraged all organisations in our collaboration to develop their own initiatives, and collaborating to promote them. We also brought together different organisations to work to create new initiatives, one being to offer climate education leading to action across China, bringing together Bottletree and Eden project China in China and AimHi and Eden Project in the UK. We also created new initiatives including a Climate Change Bootcamp, a Speak-Out Challenge for young people, a music challenge to encourage young people to express issues around climate change in song, and much more. We also developed a number of projects on urban farming, working in partnership with GROW and Edible Utiopia.
2020: Degrees of Opportunity. We wanted to explore ways of bringing together initiatives targeted at young people who were failing in the educational system, maybe at risk, and maybe also with little sense of purpose. We wanted to create a programme of activities for them which involved local youth services providers, but also challenges and challenge grants and the opportunity to work towards some form of accreditation which would recognise their achievements and the skills they had gained. A programme was designed with the input of young people, local service providers and public bodies to be developed further. The idea was conceived at a gathering of projects funded by Mr K-J Persson, Chairman of H&M, several of which were creative and successful youth projects, but all engaging young people independently on activities such as public speaking, sport, music, enterprise, and Mr Persson has co-funded Degrees of Opportunity.
2019: Promoting public understanding of mathematics. In Autumn 2019 we received a legacy of over £1.75 million from the estate of Simon Norton, a prominent mathematician and ardent public transport campaigner. A part of his estate was given to the Foundation for Integrated Transport, which we had helped establish. So trustees decided to devote 80% of our legacy to the advancement of mathematics, and in particular to creating a national museum of mathematics working in partnership with MathsWorld UK and to developing co0cnet for this museum. The intended venue is Leeds, and in Autumn 2021, an exhibition was opened in a prominent shopping centre in Leeds and we commissioned two pieces of work: an exhibit on the mathematics of viruses and a competitive challenge to create exhibits explaining artificial intelligence. The remaining 80% of the le4gacy we decided to devote to new initiatives over a period of 7 years. The first project funded was Turn on the Subtitles. This was created by Henry Warren one of our trustees and took forward ideas we had been involved with some 20 years earlier to encourage broadcasters to have subtitles on as the default position for children’s programmes as a way of encouraging literacy.
2018: Launch of an Even Better Arbourthorne. In response to a discussion on how best to address poverty in the UK and an initiative which was collecting things for the local primary school parents and the community in Arbourthorne, a ward in Sheffield with high deprivation indicators, we entered into a partnership with Arbourthorne Community Primary School to create a range of initiatives which would engage people in creating practical solutions, provide opportunities for volunteering and introduce initiatives into the school and in the community. Many of the initial projects were around food, including a fortnightly family feast, a community fridge/freezer for collecting and distributing surplus food, a grow-it initiative to encourage planting and growing, and various initiatives around cooking and nutrition. One of the centrepieces of the programme is an award scheme that offers up to £500 to parents, teachers, students and community members to develop practical solutions, which have included a slow cooker imitative to encourage cooking and cut its cost, a community garden, the restoration of a pond for fishing, and establishing women’s savings groups. In 2018 we received a lottery grant to further support this initiative. In 2018, with the Real Farming Trust and others we also launched the LEAP fund to provide loans for enlightened agriculture and the MakeMyMark awards to provide opportunities for young people to enhance their skills, gain experience and develop their own projects.
2017: Supporting the mental wellbeing of young people. In June 2017, CIVA organised a gathering to explore ways of intervening to address mental health issues amongst young people of secondary age. The approach we decided was to engage young people actively in understanding the issues and in encouraging them to create initiatives in their schools and youth groups which sought to enhance the wellbeing of themselves and their peers. This led to the creation of States of Mind CIC in 2018, which initially worked with 6 schools in North London and then to a partnership with the London Borough of Newham. Alongside this an initiative was launched in 2020 to explore ways of assessing school performance from a student perspective, especially including indicators of wellbeing and happiness. During 2017 we also commissioned an opera to be performed to older people in care homes and other similar venues, linking music and memory, and exploring ways of improving the health and quality of life for older people. Initially created to celebrate CIVA founder Michael Norton’s 75th birthday, this work continues and evolves.
2016: Launch of the CIVA:Invests social investment fund. This is a £1 million fund that makes loans to early stage ventures with the potential to achieve a substantial social impact and to be scaled up, with the individual and the idea being given primary importance and CIVA being an active investor, providing advice and expertise alongside its investment. The first two loans were to YearHere, a post-university programme for intending social entrepreneurs and hiSbe, a supermarket that buys locally and sells affordably whilst giving producers and growers around three times the margin that they would get through a supermarket supply chain.
2015: The idea that “Business for Good is Good for Business”. In April 2015, CIVA organised a one-day workshop on this theme which brought together corporates, social innovators and intermediary organisations to explore how businesses might adopt the ideas and perspectives of social enterprises to create business solutions to social problems and challenges. This was followed up with numerous talks in the UK and in China, which led to the establishment of a partnership in China to encourage and support the idea of “Business for Good” in China and Asia.
2014: Developing social enterprise in China… starting with a conference on social franchising in Shanghai and a study tour to Beijing in November 2013, we developed a range of initiatives during 2014, including commissioning research into possibilities for scaling up social enterprise into and in China, action research on getting Chinese social enterprises replication ready, which involved a team of 13 consultants (12 pro bono) working with 17 enterprises in 5 cities over a period of 9 days. We were supported by the Narada Foundation and our partner was NPI based in Shanghai which has got follow on funding for a joint programme to work with 25 enterprises providing them with expert advice on getting to replication readiness and planning their scaling up.
2013: With the Campaign for Real Farming we created the Funding for Enlightened Agriculture initiative to provide advice and support for food and growing projects at all parts of the food chain, from horticulture and farming in both urban and rural areas through to retailing. With support from the A-Team Foundation, we were able to launch a crowdfunding challenge, matching the funds they were ale to raise with a grant or a loan (as appropriate), and then helping them with financial planning, funding advice and access to investment.
2012: Two SmallWorks Innovation Labs were launched in Hackney (in partnership with Hackney Homes) and in Victoria (in partnership with Peabody) to create community spaces to encourage innovation, creativity, solutions to unemployment and to the problems of the community. A low cost model for running these is being developed, to assist in their sustainability, and the programme will be further developed in partnership with Clear Village, and further SmallWorks spaces will be opened.
2011:The International Centre for Social Franchising was launched to facilitate the spreading of successful social ventures nationally and internationally. Besides advising specific projects, the ICSF has been working with Big Society Capital to create a fund for making investments in the franchising process, with a major Pharma company to explore the franchising of health projects into Africa, and with the London School of Economics, NESTA and the Bertelsmann Foundation to create a toolkit to assist the process.
2010: Buzzbnk was launched as a crowdfunding platform specifically for social ventures, to help raise donations, loans and supporters. In 2011, Buzzbnk was awarded an Innovation in Giving Award by NESTA to assist in its further development.
2009: FoodCycle was launched to encourage young people to volunteer to cook surplus and donated food using donated kitchen to feed people in need, such as the homeless and refugees. FoodCycle is now developing restaurants using surplus food as ingredients, either permanently or as occasional pop-ups, and is exploring other creative ways of addressing food waste.
2008: UnLtd India, a foundation for social entrepreneurs in India was launched to invest in individuals to come up with solutions for better communities and to help eliminate poverty. This was based on UnLtd in the UK, and is linked to a workspace hub and a social enterprise organising Journeys for Change. In 2010, CIVA helped launch UnLtd in Cape Town, South Africa, and plans are being developed for a Hong Kong affiliate.
2007:CIVA worked on two UK council housing estates to encourage residents to adopt more carbon neutral lifestyles, working in partnership with East Housing in Newham and Knowle West Media Centre in Bristol. The Knowle West project has continued to develop and residents have helped spread the word more widely.
Also in 2007, CIVA launched The Otehsa Project UK, based on a Canadian programme where young people take the message of sustainable living in a fairer world out to schools and communities through bicycle tours.
2006: MyBnk launched with support from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. This innovative project enables young people to operate their own savings and lending bank in a school, foyer or community setting. MyBnk has won numerous awards and its director, Lily Lapenna, has been awarded an Ashoka Fellowship and is now a Schwab Foundation Global Young Leader.
2005: A pilot village reading programme was established in Andhra Pradesh to encourage reading and enable highly disadvantaged people to access information with the potential to change their lives. This project is now being scaled up to cover several villages in two clusters. In 2010, after reading a book on profitable mushroom growing, a cluster of villages have now started growing mushrooms for protein and profit.
2004: 365 ways to change the world. Based on the idea that lots of people can do lots of often quite small things which seek to address the problems of the world, and together these can have a significant impact, CIVA researched 365 issues and practical actions that people can take to change the world, and these are being disseminated through a publication, on a website and by offering content to other websites. The book has been published all over the world in local editions including in the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, India as well as the UK, and it has been translated into other languages including Mandarin, Greek and Italian. Two further books have been produced that encourage activism: The Everyday Activist (2007) and Click2Change (2012).
2003: Street children’s banking. In partnership with Butterflies, a Delhi-based NGO working with street children and with funding from Comic Relief, CIVA supported the development of street children’s banking in South Asia. The banks are run by the children themselves, and provide a safe place for their money, encourage saving and make loans for micro-enterprises. By 2012, the project was operational in the South Asian region with 29 main branches and 77 sub branches in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and is now run in partnership with ChildHope.
2002: International youth activism. CIVA established the “Young People Change the World!” international summer school for young activists, which was organised entirely by young people. This was held at Atlantic College in Wales, and became an annual event. In 2005, the summer school was held in Pune, in West India. And in 2006, the fifth and last summer school was held in Gloucestershire.
2001: Youth Volunteering. Michael Norton led the International year of Volunteers youth programme, which included the RSA Young Leaders Awards which was developed by CIVA. This has now become the Young Achiever Awards run by the Young Achievers Trust, which is a partnership of UnLtd, YouthNet and CIVA.
2000: Social entrepreneurship. Michael Norton assembled the consortium which became the successful bidder for the £100 million Millennium Legacy to create an endowment for making awards to individuals. This led to the creation of UnLtd, which makes over 1,000 awards each year to individuals with ideas for changing their community, society or the world.
1999: Young grantmakers. CIVA established YouthBank UK to enable young people to make grants to projects led by young people. The initial pilot programme involved 6 projects across the UK with the development overseen by a consortium of 5 national youth agencies. Today, there are approximately 70 YouthBanks all around the UK, and others starting in Eastern Europe, South Asia and Africa. The project is now under the full control of a Board of young people.
1998: Telephone helplines for street children. CIVA developed a replication strategy for ChildLine India, and obtained a lottery grant to expand the scheme from Mumbai (Bombay) across India working in partnership with the Government of India. Today, ChildLine India operates in over 50 cities and an international agency, Child Helpline International, has been set up in Amsterdam to promote children’s helplines across the world.
1997: Village literacy. With a grant from the National Lottery, CIVA developed a programme of “village publishing” to develop and distribute books for rural readers with limited literacy skills alongside a programme of village library development. The latest development in this programme is to set up “Village Reading Circles” where women can explore some of the issues and solutions for their lives and futures.
1996: Homeless self-help. With an innovation grant from Crisis and in partnership with the National Homeless Alliance, CIVA established StreetLife to promote volunteering and organise speak-outs for homeless people. This led to the establishment of Groundswell, the self-help forum for homeless people.
1995: International philanthropy. CIVA undertook a study for the Charities Aid Foundation on the voluntary sector in India which led to the setting up of CAF India, and the spreading of CAF internationally. CIVA also encourages the development of fundraising in the South through publications and training.
1994: South-North exchanges. CIVA brought Stan and Mari Thekaekara to the UK to explore poverty in the UK and link this issues and ideas in international development. As a result Oxfam involved Stan centrally in their UK Poverty programme, and Stan is now a Trustee of Oxfam GB, the first “beneficiary” from the South to have achieved this. Some of other exchanges looked at housing, peace-building and young Asian girls growing up in a modern world.