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NSUN and Mind Side by Side Fund

"I can't overemphasise the fact that, as we've brought people back, the common factor is 'Thank God, I'm back. I can talk to people now'. That's the impact you're having."

The Side by Side fund was a project distributing funds to peer support, mutual aid and self-help groups benefiting people and communities who live with mental ill-health, trauma and distress in England and Wales.

As a large, national organisation, Mind often finds reaching a broad range of grassroots community groups difficult. By working in partnership with NSUN, Mind was able to help get funds to those groups who need the most support.

Key findings

Reports from the groups identified several key findings:

  • Traditional funding streams are not meeting the needs of grassroots groups. They can be challenging to navigate, requiring specific criteria that many groups cannot fulfil. Often not valuing lived experience, they can lack an essential human connection.
  • Grassroots groups need better ways to gain knowledge of and experience applying for funding. 
  • Small amounts of money can make a big difference.
  • Funding can improve the sustainability of groups, mainly when used for tangible items like meeting rooms or digital tools.
  • Group leaders want and need more opportunities for peer support. 


Many different groups, each with specific aims and goals, were awarded funds. However, many groups reported the following outcomes:

  • Improved ability to sustain themselves
  • Confidence growth of members
  • Increased ability to meet, share, and create friendships.
  • Alleviated stress
  • An ability to come together in a safe, non-judgemental space

You can read more about the impact of the fund on specific organisations in the case studies below. 

Downham Dementia Caf

Downham Dementia Café works to support people diagnosed with dementia and their caregivers in the small Norfolk town of Downham. They used the funds to pay for tea parties and lunches for members. 

Read what Jacqueline Westrop from the cafe said about the impact of the fund.

"It doesn't need huge amounts [of money] to kick-start something, because we'd got to the stage where we had probably £5 in our current account. So when we got the grant, it was 'Yes!' kind of thing, ring up the Methodist Hall, book the hall..."

"All those feelings and problems I'd harboured up because nobody could really understand where I was coming from. Suddenly there were people we could identify with. And that makes a big, big difference, that you can actually find somebody that you don't even need to say how you feel, because they know."

Hong Kong Adoptees Network

Hong King Adoptees Network brings together people adopted from Hong Kong between 1960 and 1969. They used the funds to fund a Zoom subscription and in-person room hire. 

Learn more about how the fund helped members of the Hong Kong Adoptees Network.


Sangini is a Black and minority ethnic led women’s organisation based in Tyne and Wear. The group uses arts, crafts, heritage and social activities to raise awareness about health and wellbeing, using their money for a Zoom subscription and an engagement worker. 

Learn more about how the fund helped members of Sangini.

"I can't start a project unless I speak to women"

"It’s been really good as, like, a safety net of people that are my age, apart from my mum and my sister at home, because it gets boring. And it’s also given me the chance to learn new skills that I wanted to learn but never really had the chance to try."

"Through the online activities I was able to have fun during the lockdown because we just moved to Gravesend and I didn’t have any friends. I learnt lots of online activities and guys are very supportive."

Youth Ngage

Youth Ngage is a user-led organisation that provides positive activities and empowerment programs for youth and young people from racialised communities in the North Kent area. Most of the young people involved in the programme are Afro-Caribbean. They used their money on a laptop to continue online activities. 

Some of the young people involved in the project – Fay, Bobby, Brooklyn, and Victoria – spoke to NSUN  learn more about how the fund helped them. 


Grassroots groups funding survey

Following the success of the grant programme, NSUN and The Fore launched a survey about the funding needs of grassroots, user-led community groups and organisations that support the mental health of their communities.

Read more about the survey

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