The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and his fiancé Meghan Markle set out their ambition to expand their charity's work and to make it a "leading convening force in the charity sector" at an event yesterday.
They were speaking at the first Royal Foundation Forum, an event put on to showcase the work of the royal charity, which was held in Aviva’s building in the St. Helen’s skyscraper in central London.
The Duke of Cambridge started of the event by outlining how The Royal Foundation was able to act differently to others in the sector in the way that it was able to focus on the long-term.
He said that they were “aware that the modern charity sector is very different to the one that previous generations have worked alongside”. Adding: “The generosity of the British people and the entrepreneurial and creative passion that is at the heart of our communities and has seen the number of charities grow from a few thousand in the 1950s to around 180,000 today.”
He told the audience that the Foundation never set out to make “quick-wins” instead striving to make a “real and lasting difference be bringing people together. He said he wanted to use its privileged position to do the “much harder work of trying to change mind-sets”.
‘Leading convening force in the charity sector’
He said: “What we have learned is that to make this difference we have to be clear and disciplined. What would make our foundation unique would be its ability to make a difference by bringing people together. There are foundations out there doing amazing work powered by endowments worth billions, but we believed we could help achieve big, positive, long-terms changes by being the leading convening force in the charitable sector.”
The Duke of Cambridge said that it has never tried to this it on its own. He said: “We have built our foundation with an open door. We have not just relied on our own ideas, so we’d invite the best and brightest to sit with us around the table.”
The Royal Foundation delivered the Heads Together campaign last year, which brought together mental health charities with a view to change the conversation about mental health – a topic which both Harry and William have spoken up about recently. The campaign became the partner for last year’s London Marathon.
The Forum showcased the work of this campaign, as well as others including Full Effect, Coach Core, and its Cyberbullying Taskforce.
The Duke of Cambridge said: “All of the projects have seen us working to change mind-sets to make a real and lasting difference.
"They have all seen us trying to tackle the biggest challenges of the day.
"They have all seen the foundation listening and taking advice from charities and experts, rather than showing up and pretending we have all the answers.
"And they have all seen us uniting people, forming teams and coalitions, to work to make a difference together."
Lorraine Heggessey, chief executive officer of The Royal Foundation said that the Foundation, which was set up in 2009, has been through its “start-up phase and proven we get results”, but that over the last few months it has been professionalising the way it operates.
She said: “We have many more programmes now than we did even a year ago. Through Heads Together alone we have several new work streams, so we need greater bandwidth to keep pushing our existing programmes and initiatives forward, making sure they are having the impact that we set out to achieve. And at the same time we need to be researching and developing new ideas, and be more ambitious than ever about what we can achieve.”
She announced two new positions being filled at the Foundation. Rob Abercrombie, currently director of research and consulting at New Philanthropy Capital, will be joining the Foundation as director of programmes and partnerships. He will be joined by Natalie Campbell, a social entrepreneur and innovator, who will become director of innovation and insight.
Heggessey said that there is “no doubt that we punch above our weight,” and that this was largely due to its innovative model, and “of course the unparalleled influential power of our principals.”
‘Hit the ground running’
The Duke’s speech was followed by a panel session with the three royals, and soon-to-be royal Meghan Markle, hosted by journalist Tina Daheley, where they discussed the areas they wanted to prioritise through the Foundation.
Markle said she was unable to say what her role would be as part of the Foundation just yet, and that that would have to wait until after her and Prince Harry’s wedding this May, but she said it was important for her to get involved.
She said: “For me it's very important to want to hit the ground running... even if it's doing it quietly behind the scenes, which is what I've focused my energy on thus far."
She said she had been meeting with the organisations she wants to work with “behind the scenes quietly, learning as much as I can so I can maximise the opportunity we have here to really make an impact."
Markle did outline her views on empowering women, mentioning the world-wide campaigns of #metoo and #timesup which are tackling sexual harassment across various industries. She told the audience that these causes are not about helping women find a voice, but encouraging people to listen. She said that “here is no better time to really continue to shine a light on women feeling empowered, and people really helping to support them – men included”.
Markle said: “You'll often hear people say: 'You are helping people find their voices'.
"I fundamentally disagree with that because women don't need to find a voice - they have a voice.
"They need to feel empowered to use it and people need to be encouraged to listen.”