When I was a child I absolutely loved doing dot to dot puzzles. Sometimes it was really hard to predict what the finished drawing would be and it was only when the dots were all connected that you had the full picture.
If you are working on an application to our People and Communities programme one of our themes is about being connected. Similar to the example of the dot to dot puzzle, being connected will help you to see and understand the bigger picture.
We want to know that you have a good understanding of other activities and services in your community. You need to show how your project will complement these and how the other services will add value to your project.
Often groups tell us that we should fund them because their services are unique, that no-one else in their area is doing this type of work. We know that this is not always the case. Often we receive very similar applications from projects located beside each other, but working in isolation. We will not fund similar projects in the same area as we want to use the money effectively and reach people across the whole of Northern Ireland.
We want groups to start talking to each other and working together. By making connections and sharing knowledge you can map out where existing services are. You will be able to see where the gaps are. You will get a better understanding of the needs of your community. It will help you to find opportunities for joint-working or referring to others for specialist help. Activities should complement other services rather than compete with them. To build up a full picture, find out about the work of private companies and statutory bodies too.
Communicate and build relationships with people in your area. This will improve your knowledge of local resources. For example, you can find out which venues will be suitable, what transport links exist and how to reach people through marketing opportunities etc. It is a two way relationship, so while you learn, the people who use your project make connections and feel involved. This is important for people who are isolated and not receiving the help they need.
Being connected will help you to plan a better project. It will help you work towards the other themes of the People and Communities programme, so that your project is also people led and strengths based.