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Getting real

Professional impact of closure

There’s not much you can write about an organisation that has closed, other than to note that a year has passed quickly. The Community Development Foundation was around for nearly 50 years and, since it ceased trading on 31 March 2016, has almost disappeared from public view. That’s not unexpected.

The organisations that were transferred cash and intellectual property have gone about their daily business and if their application of these gifts isn’t obvious, then CDF Trustees and staff were realistic about the likelihood of this. Without investing money in legal work and oversight there would be no imperative to hold organisations to account. With the legal work there would have been less money to transfer. It is assumed that the resources have been put to good use.

The impending closure of CDF stimulated concern and debate about the future of community work and community development. And so, in addition to the £500k passed to Local Trust, CDF passed a sum of money to support a legacy project that aimed to give voice to organisations and individuals with knowledge and experience in the field. The Empowered Communities project, which will look at the past, present and future of support to communities, seems to fit the bill. I hope outcomes from this will have a positive influence on community policy and practice in the future.

There’s a further learning legacy, too. CDF employed people passionate about communities; by March 2016 the majority of staff had secured good roles at respected national organisations that share this passion. They identified that the skills and knowledge these staff brought would continue to support and develop communities.

Personal impact of closure

Others opted to take a career change or break. In early 2016 I met with colleagues and discussed my own options. The message that came across – particularly from David Warner, Director, London Funders, Dame Mary Marsh and David Gold, CE, Prospectus – was to take as much time out as I could afford to, to gain some perspective on life. They insisted that being able to jump off the hamster wheel of work and think afresh would mean taking off more than the planned month. Although I started interim and freelance work a bit sooner than anticipated, the advice was good.

As with former CDF colleagues I have similarly transferred my experience applying strategic and practical experience of policy, practice and programme delivery to other organisations’ priorities. It’s a bit strange not to be able to name an organisation when people ask ‘where are you from?’ And it’s a bit frustrating when you know you could contribute to an organisation’s development, but that isn’t your role. Working in an independent capacity means parking your ego and recognising the limits of your contract requirements.

It’s an exciting time, though. The trajectory of the devolution of power and resources to communities is fascinating as it permeates all sectors and policy areas. As a result, I have enjoyed applying my knowledge to disconnected areas, from infrastructure development to health and social care, continuing to learn in the process.

The reputation of an organisation is built upon its people and in the non-profit sector this includes trustees. Two longstanding CDF trustees, Andrew Robinson MBE and Michael Hamilton MBE, continued to volunteer on its behalf into 2017, to undertake the legal formalities to close the charity. This was a huge commitment given that the personal motivation for becoming a trustee and ambition for the charity no longer existed. Other than of course, an ambition to continue to do the right thing in the right way. Something I hope was writ through CDF’s history.