A look back at our work in 2021

A look back at our work in 2021

This has been a year of continued innovation and adaptation in response to the global pandemic. We have evolved the Fellowship programme, offering new grant schemes and greater support for Fellows’ UK work. We also began sketching out a new strategy for the next five years, looking forward to a post-Covid world and our 60th anniversary in 2025.

Jeremy Soames at a Churchill Fellowship award ceremony
“This has been a year of continued innovation and adaptation in response to the global pandemic.” - Jeremy Soames, Chairman

In a year when our global travelling Fellowships have been paused, we have refocused our grantmaking around Fellows’ projects in the UK that are combating the effects of the pandemic. In September we launched a third round of grants from our Covid-19 Action Fund, bringing the total funding through this emergency fund to £1,062,832. We also gathered lessons learned from Fellows’ Covid-related projects and published these in a report and film which are available on our website.

Support for Fellows’ UK activities is a growing emphasis and in June we awarded £524,675 in grants from our new Activate Fund. This is a pilot project to see how best we can support projects that come out of Fellows’ worldwide research. We funded 21 Fellows in a range of crucial topics that include youth employment, digital healthcare, domestic abuse and more.

A major innovation has been the development of a digital Fellowship, after 55 years of awarding travelling Fellowships. This will allow Fellows to undertake part or all of their research through online research and meetings. In 2021 it has been trialled by a number of Fellows who were unable to travel due to the global lockdown. In the future we hope that this will make the Fellowship more accessible, while also enabling Fellows to learn from more countries than they could visit in person.

A digital Fellowship also reflects our environmental ambitions, as it will significantly reduce the footprint of our work. Protecting the environment is one of the major strands in our thinking, and this year we welcomed the distinguished environmental scientist Professor Peter Liss to our Advisory Council. Over the next three years we will be doubling our grants in the environmental field, funding more Fellowships to protect the natural world and combat climate change.

We hope to reopen for Fellowships in the autumn of 2022, if the international situation allows. We will be offering a new digital option and new annual themes for the environment, the arts, enterprise and children in care. The latter is a growing issue in society, with the number of children in care projected to grow to almost 100,000 by 2025, and we are delighted to be working with a new partner for this theme, the highly respected charity Coram.

As well as considerably increasing our financial support for Fellows’ UK impact, this year we improved our promotional support for them, in the form of our new website. This offers a more powerful showcase for their ideas and expertise, with easily searchable directories of their Reports and Profiles, and frequent blogs and updates from them. At the same time, we adopted a new operating name, ‘the Churchill Fellowship’.

Fellows’ contribution to society was demonstrated once again in our annual impact survey. This showed that Fellows’ projects benefit thousands of people directly and indirectly, with 84% of Fellows reporting a direct impact on more than 20 people and 89% an indirect effect on more than 100 people. Some 40% reported that their work had directly impacted on UK-wide policy development, while 25% had obtained an influential position on an umbrella body, regulator or commission, as a result of their Fellowship. The Fellowship was described by 88% of Fellows as a ‘life-changing experience’, while 100% of them would recommend the Fellowship to others. These are remarkable results.

At the end of the year we welcomed a new Trustee, Simon Bevan, who is the Head of China Britain Business Group and Head of Partner Matters at Grant Thornton UK. We also welcomed three new Council members: Claire Dove (Crown Representative for the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector), Carlene Firmin (Professor of Social Work at Durham University and Churchill Fellow) and Steve Tyler (Director of Assistive Technology and Transformation at Leonard Cheshire). I look forward to working with them all as we move ahead.

I will close by thanking all those who have made this a year of considerable achievement despite difficult external circumstances. In particular I would like to thank the staff team, who have embraced new ideas and delivered our vision for change so effectively. I would also like to thank the Trustees and Advisory Council, whose wisdom continues to guide us, and our many donors and partners who have helped to make all of this possible. And finally I am delighted to acknowledge the ever-resourceful Churchill Fellows, who have achieved and given so much at a time of unprecedented national need.

Jeremy Soames is Chairman of the Churchill Fellowship


The views and opinions expressed by any Fellow are those of the Fellow and not of the Churchill Fellowship or its partners, which have no responsibility or liability for any part of them.

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