Blog: Looking to the future

Published: 16 Sep 2020

Author: Julia Weston
Blog: Looking to the future

This is a time of change, of challenge and of opportunity. The past year has brought increasing evidence of the interconnectedness of the human world – and its vulnerabilities. Bushfires in Australia, migrants in the Channel, demonstrations in the streets, disruption on the internet and, finally, a pandemic that shut down society worldwide: the scale and range of issues has been dizzying and, at times, daunting.

"Today’s challenges require a further evolution of our work. So over the next six months we will be renewing our long-term vision for how the Fellowship can bring the greatest benefit to lives and communities across the UK" - Julia Weston, Chief Executive 

The Churchill Fellowship is a community of inspiring individuals dedicated to making a difference in their communities and professions. We do so through exchanging ideas and making connections with the rest of the world. Finding practical solutions for today’s major challenges is our purpose, and leading change is what we do. All of this puts the Fellowship at the cutting edge of the UK’s efforts to find new directions and to build a better future.  

This has been clearly spelled out during the Covid-19 crisis, when hundreds of Fellows led emergency projects in every corner of the country, from hospitals to community centres, local authorities to national government. As ever, they were practical, innovative and grounded in the realities of their communities. A sports club in Brighton turned itself into a food bank. A doctor in Carlisle started 3D-printing face masks for his colleagues. A retiree in Durham coordinated small planes flying medical supplies to the outer islands.  

Tony Cowan (above) is helping an operation to deliver NHS supplies to the UK’s most remote regions by small plane

These are the kinds of responses that can take us forward: led by people on the frontline, who know where the need is greatest and have learned from their Fellowships how to adapt and innovate. 

As an organisation, we are ourselves entering a period of innovation. Over the past half-century, the Fellowship has developed a unique contribution to a changing society – and the pandemic has demonstrated its continuing value. 

Today’s challenges require a further evolution of our work. So over the next six months we will be renewing our long-term vision for how the Fellowship can bring the greatest benefit to lives and communities across the UK, to meet today’s needs while retaining our core values.  

Our unique programme of travel grants, which sends Fellows around the world in search of global best practice, will remain central to what we do. But increasingly we will support the impact that Fellows make after they have travelled, when they use their global insights to make a difference in the UK.  

Our support for this UK impact has already begun. In 2020 we awarded the first grants from our new Activate Fund, which offers up to £20,000 for Fellows’ projects in the period after their travels. Also this year, we launched our Covid-19 Action Fund, to support Fellows’ work on pandemic-related issues across the four nations. In the coming months we will be looking at other ways in which we can amplify the vital work of Fellows here in the UK – work that aims to solve problems, find solutions, share ideas and create a more equitable society.  

We will be considering two key themes in our thinking: addressing inequality and protecting the environment. These already run through much of our work and many Fellows address them in their projects. Now we want to raise them to a higher level. So we will be looking at how they are embodied in our award categories, our approach to international travel, our policies on ethical donations and investments, and our own internal structures and processes. Work in these areas has already started and will ensure that we are leading the change we want to see.  

The results will form a new strategy for the next five years, which will reflect today’s crucial issues. This strategy will take us up to our 60th anniversary in 2025, when once again we will celebrate the extraordinary phenomenon that is the Churchill Fellowship.  

In the meantime, we are very pleased to bring you, in our 2020 annual newsletter, a snapshot of Fellows’ work in the year that has passed. It has been a time of exceptional challenges – and of exceptional achievements, as ever, by the remarkable network of Churchill Fellows. 

2020 annual newsletter

Fellows' activities on Covid-19