When Toynbee Hall first opened its doors in 1884, the need for help and support in the area outside those doors was greater than almost anywhere else in the UK. 140 years later, and the community in which we work remains one of the most unequal in the UK, with 48% of children in Tower Hamlets living in poverty1. This is amidst increasing levels of destitution across the UK, with 3.8 million people experiencing destitution in 2022, including around one million children2.
Facing these facts can generate a sense of despair and of outrage. But it can also galvanize action and commitment to make change happen. The Toynbee Hall story is one of pioneering new solutions to poverty and injustice, from developing adult education and free legal advice in the 1880s to innovating on debt advice and financial inclusion in the 1990s. Over our history, we have combined research with service development and with campaigning. We know that change is possible.
This is the time for new solutions. However, the solutions we seek for today and tomorrow cannot be developed by Toynbee Hall alone. Instead, they must be built in collaboration with other organisations, and with those who have lived experience of the issues. They must also have a recognition of the disproportionate impact of poverty and injustice on minority communities, women, carers and people with disabilities.
Between now and the end of 2026 our ambitions are to:
1. Improve economic security for those affected by poverty, debt, low pay, insecure employment and housing. We will do this through direct support and through work to bring about system change.
2. Help our local community thrive – increasing emotional wellbeing, optimism, economic security in key groups. We will also focus on how we come together despite differences and celebrating.
3. Collaborate to drive social change in a way that gives a platform to the ideas and solutions of people with lived experience.
4. Ensure that addressing systemic inequality and racial discrimination is a priority across our work and our organisation.
Our priorities to deliver the strategic plan
We have identified key organisational priorities which will enable us to implement our strategy and milestones and measures to accompany them. These are underpinning elements of our work that need attention over the next three years.
1. Communicate a shared vision and set of values for Toynbee Hall so that everyone knows how their role helps us achieve our vision and we join up our
activities and areas of focus.
2. Set out our priorities for influencing social change and build on our participant research approach to influence change in structures, systems, and
3. Grow our engagement with the community around us so that there is greater involvement in Toynbee Hall in a way that promotes inclusion and shifts power.
4. Set out our approach to collaboration, partnership, and learning, so that we can work collaboratively to build a thriving community, understand Toynbee Hall’s
contribution to that goal, and recognise and respect the strengths and expertise of others.
5. Develop a financial strategy to cover overheads and generate small annual surplus sufficient to replenish our free reserves, without leaving us unable to deliver to charitable purpose.
6. Embed our approach to diversity, inclusion, equity; commit to becoming an anti-racist organisation and ensure we are addressing systemic racism and
discrimination across our work and our organisation.