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It’s not just the money – what else do communities need to make great things happen?

August 3, 2015

By Kathy Ayers, Senior Policy and Learning Manager

“To me, the new Lottery programme seems like a bright spark in a dark world.”

That’s what one of you told us last week about the new People and Communities funding programme that is opening in January. All I can say is we are pretty excited about it too. But we know that making great things happen in communities doesn’t just depend on money.

Wildflower Alley in South Belfast was created by a group of neighbours with no funding, just community spirit and with encouragement and advice from Grow Wild, (which Big Lottery funds).

Wildflower Alley in South Belfast was created by a group of neighbours with no funding, just community spirit and with encouragement and advice from Grow Wild, which Big Lottery Fund supports

It’s also about the knowledge, passion and experience that you have in your community. It’s about involving people in what you want to do.

What we are asking this week is – what do you need from us other than money to support you to make changes in your community?

How do we help you get people involved?

How do we help develop your vision for your community?

How do we support you to get the skills you need to do this?

Some of you have been telling us that the community workers who have the time and skills to find out what people need are the sparks that make real change happen. Should we fund this kind of post to help make sure people are involved and that projects fit the communities they are in?

Do you need more support to develop the skills and knowledge of these people?

Are there other people in communities – not just paid workers – who could use their experiences to help make changes? What support do they need?

We don’t believe money is the spark – and we want you to tell us what you think the spark is.

There are several ways to get in touch, linked below, or feel free to just leave a comment on this blog. We have also arranged four conversation sessions for VCSE groups and beneficiaries. More information here.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2015 10:01 am

    I think funders can be central sources of expertise on theories of change: how does change happen in communities, what works and what doesn’t. Funders can then pass this information on to practitioners: funding community workers is a great idea, especially because they are trained in these theories of change. I think the lottery could also condense this information and pass it on to people running small projects, so more people on the ground can understand how their work fits into the bigger picture.

    • Big Lottery Fund Northern Ireland permalink*
      August 24, 2015 9:16 am

      Hi Miriam. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We see ourselves in an enabling role – supporting practitioners to make change happen.
      In order to help communities share their expertise and knowledge we have, on occasion, organised networking opportunities with grantholders.
      This online community blog is another one of our attempts to crowdsource the ideas of experts. We know we could do more.
      I would be interested to know of any examples where your suggestions have been put into practice by other agencies or how this type of information is currently collected and shared in the community.

      Michael Ligget (Senior Policy and Learning Manager)

      • February 1, 2016 11:27 am

        Hi Michael, I’m sorry I hadn’t seen your reply before. The only examples I can think of is the Seedbed Foundation, who organise networking events for grant holders, and UNltd, who organise focused networking and share the learning events. But networking is just one level, and mostly serves to provide emotional support and form mutual support networks. Actually understanding your practice in a wider context requires more.
        I recently did an introductory course to community development, and it really inspired me, though at the moment I don’t have time to commit to following it up further. But I know that many of the people working in the community groups which run community gardens are community activists, and passionately want to address the underlying causes of inequality, poor health, isolation, etc. But if you don’t do a degree it is hard to get access to the theories that can help you put things in context. It seems to me the lottery, especially in light of the shape of the new P&C fund, has a handle on what is good for communities, and how things actually work. This must be based on your learning over the years. Does this learning link to accepted theories of change and community development? If so, could perhaps some experts in these theories do short blog posts? (Maybe they already have…) And if so, could they not dumb it down too much: call a theory a theory, and give its background, for some people this is gold dust.
        Thanks for the opportunity to comment. All the best, Miriam

    • Big Lottery Fund Northern Ireland permalink*
      August 24, 2015 9:16 am

      Hi Miriam. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We see ourselves in an enabling role – supporting practitioners to make change happen.
      In order to help communities share their expertise and knowledge we have, on occasion, organised networking opportunities with grantholders.
      This online community blog is another one of our attempts to crowdsource the ideas of experts. We know we could do more.
      I would be interested to know of any examples where your suggestions have been put into practice by other agencies or how this type of information is currently collected and shared in the community.

      Michael Ligget (Senior Policy and Learning Manager)

  2. Michael Liggett permalink
    February 12, 2016 2:16 pm

    Thanks for your reply and I am glad to see we can use the website to tease apart ideas and share them between each other. I take on board your call not to dumb something down too much – a challenge we have also set for ourselves. When we were collecting opinions on our Strategic Framework a lot of people asked us to stop using jargon and academic terms and to provide greater clarity around the actual purpose of programmes and strategies.

    I beleive that community development principles evolved from grassroot demands for social justice but any improvement to a person’s or a community’s life needs to have the legitimate support and involvement of those people who it intends to help. Our philosophy on P&L is quite simple. It takes us back to our mission statement and puts people in the decision making role with regards to what changes they want to make to their lives and who they want to help them make these changes happen.

    While “theories of change” can help steer these changes and have their place we believe that people themselves are the experts in what changes would help improve their lives.
    I think that asking practitioners to share their ideas is a great idea. But I also think everyone has a valid opinion on what is happening around them and would love to hear the ideas those community activists involved in the allotments project.

    Michael Liggett

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