Only Connect believes in ‘Handshake Not Handout’ – empowering people to solve their own problems, rather than doing it for them or subsidising them financially.

By the time we work with them, our Members have dealt with dozens of agencies and charities, all doing ‘to’ them rather than ‘with’ them, leaving them unable to solve their own problems. Across both the public and third sector ‘service users’ are cast in passive roles, recipients of handouts rather than active agents in their own empowerment. This places a huge ongoing burden on charities and the public sector, and their funders – philanthropists and the taxpayer.

Only Connect has developed the concept of ‘Handshake, not Handout’. For us, this means our Members are not just supported, they are enabled to design and deliver solutions to the problems faced by themselves and their peers across London. This will equip them with the confidence and skills for self-reliance, decreasing demand for expensive support from funders. By empowering individuals to take control of their own futures, we will see a significant ripple effect across communities and society as a whole.

‘Handshake’ Operating principles
Only Connect has developed the following operating principles:

  • Handshake not Handout’ front-line work. We have reinvented our front-line practice to reflect our members’ need for belonging and agency: a supportive community, and the ability to effect change in their own lives and the conditions of wider society. This is the heart of our model. We believe that the answer to building stronger communities will come from the communities themselves. We believe that only our members can build the skills, capacity and potential. Our model focuses entirely on putting the member at the heart of the process. In order to reflect the central role of members we have designed and implemented a process by which members must ‘sign off’’ on all projects before they are green lit. Members staff, measure and run projects, growing their skills and redeploying them into the communities we serve.
  • ‘Handshake not Handout’ finance. We have a similar attitude to the way we operate as an organisation. Rather than seeking ‘Handout’ funding we seek a grown-up relationship with philanthropists and investors. We recognise our expertise and seek out supporters who want to work in collaboration to create real impact. This means a mixed economy of grants, contracts, paid-for services and enterprise revenue.
  • Public engagement. We are ambitious to magnify the voices of our members and their peers. Our communications and advocacy work will actively challenge the systems and attitudes which hold our members back.