Lankelly Chase is the result of a merger of two organisations. The names Lankelly and Chase were chosen by their respective founders to preserve their anonymity. The Chase Charity was set up in 1962 by the philanthropist Major Allnatt, whose fortune came from developing land along London’s North Circular. Ron Diggens, succeeding him, merged the property company with Slough Estates and established the Lankelly Foundation.

As large employers, the two founders saw the role of work as giving people self-respect and purpose. Major Allnatt had a long-term interest in the rehabilitation of offenders and also understood the power of the arts to touch people.  Ron Diggens set a broader remit for the Lankelly Foundation that allowed the Trustees to focus on the arts, old buildings and charities working directly with vulnerable people, such as elderly people and those with disabilities.

In 2004, the two boards agreed to form The LankellyChase Foundation. This new foundation established a number of funding programmes that aimed to identify charities struggling to access mainstream funding, usually because they were tackling hidden or neglected forms of disadvantage and harm. These included ethnic inequality in mental health, women in the criminal justice system, and cycles of abuse.  The story of our first fifty years was told by our second Chief Executive Peter Kilgarriff in A Matter of Trust.

In 2011 we undertook a radical review of our purpose and mission. We saw that many of the issues that we were trying to target were created by deep systemic problems, both in the structure of society but also in the way that all sectors had sought to respond to them. Fifty years after Major Allnatt created the Chase Charity, Lankelly Chase announced a single long term focus for its work, which it gave the working title ‘severe and multiple disadvantage’. This term was intended to cover the interlocking nature of social harms such as mental illness, offending, homelessness, abuse, drug misuse, and the poverty that appears to generate them.

Our grants programme became focused around a Theory of Change. This set in train a number of enduring and fruitful partnerships with organisations around the UK who wre trying to think through and enact radically different responses to complex social problems. All these organisations, which we called the Promoting Change Network, share a number of insights into the kind of system that would be effective in responding to the complexity of severe and multiple disadvantage. Alongside this, we began to expand the knowledge base of the field by publishing Hard Edges.

Lankelly Chase undertook to learn as deeply as it could from the work of its partners. We saw that a foundation trying to promote change in a complex field couldn’t stay the same itself, and would have to remodel itself around the lessons it was learning. This has led us to abandon funding programmes, overseen by a trustee committee, and to become an action inquiry organisation. The Executive works within a strategic framework agreed by the Board, summarised in the document Our Approach, and has the freedom to work as collaboratively as possible with a growing network of partners. This feels like a more realistic response to a situation of high complexity, and one that exploits the independence, longevity and flexibility of a foundation.