Blog: Contributing to the national effort against Covid-19

Published: 30 Dec 2020

Blog: Contributing to the national effort against Covid-19

As 2020 draws to a close, our Chairman Jeremy Soames outlines his personal highlights from the year.

"This year has shown the Churchill Fellowship at its finest, fulfilling its mission of bringing practical solutions to the UK’s most pressing problems." - Jeremy Soames, Chairman

This year has seen the Churchill Fellowship rise swiftly to the challenge of combatting Covid-19 across the UK. From the Outer Hebrides to the Channel Islands, Churchill Fellows have led hundreds of practical projects to reduce the effect of the pandemic in every area of our national life.

They have researched new anti-Covid drugs, set up food banks, found housing for rough sleepers, helped victims of domestic abuse, kept schools and prisons running safely, created opportunities for the young and unemployed, and campaigned for disproportionately affected Black, Asian and minority communities. They have comforted those who are bereaved and protected those who are battling on the frontline. Working at local, regional and national level, Fellows have mobilised as a national network dedicated to the common good.

We are enormously proud of this spirit and these achievements. This year has shown the Churchill Fellowship at its finest, fulfilling its mission of bringing practical solutions to the UK’s most pressing problems.

In recognition of these efforts, and because our normal programme of travelling Fellowships was paused by the global lockdown, this year we redeployed our resources into supporting Fellows’ Covid-related projects. In April, as the lockdown began, we launched our Covid-19 Action Fund to help Fellows’ pandemic-related projects. So far this has made two rounds of grants: £155,000 in June and £302,000 in December. In 2021 we will launch a third round with a longer term focus and we will also gather a Knowledge Bank of lessons learned from all of our Fellows’ projects, available to policy-makers and practitioners worldwide.

Before the pandemic, we made our annual awards of 141 Fellowships, which enable UK citizens to visit the world’s leading projects in their chosen fields, learn from the experts, and bring that knowledge back to improve their professions and communities throughout the country. Sadly their travels have been postponed until safety allows, but at that time we look forward to supporting their journeys to 65 countries - and helping them to make a powerful impact when they return.

The scale of impact that Fellows can make was revealed once again in our annual survey. This showed how the majority of Fellows benefit their sectors, communities and workplaces, with many going on to influence UK-wide policies and sit on industry bodies, commissions and regulators. The 146 respondents are estimated to have raised £2.1m in further funding and directly impacted 30,000 people through their projects.

Supporting the contribution that Fellows make to UK society is a growing focus for us, and this year we launched the first round of our new Activate Fund pilot. This aims to provide grants of up to £20,000 for Fellows in the crucial period when they have just returned from their research trips and are setting up their UK projects. In June we awarded £101,000 of Activate grants to seven Fellows, for projects ranging from care in rural areas, to pollution in the oceans, to shaken baby syndrome in infants. Learning from this first round will inform the next iteration of this three-year pilot, with the second round to be launched in early 2021.

The year in view has required us to be agile, dynamic and determined. We have adapted to emerging national needs, moved with speed and yet maintained our core principles: responding to issues across the whole of UK society, backing the potential of the individual whoever they are, and supporting those causes and people that are otherwise too often overlooked. It has been, for us as for everyone else, a time of real challenge. But Fellows, and our staff, have risen to the moment and I commend their achievements.

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