Our latest blog has been written by Kate Beggs, Northern Ireland Director of The National Lottery Community Fund. She gives an update on the findings of the consultation and way forward for Dormant Account money being delivered.
From October to December 2019, The National Lottery Community Fund consulted with the VCSE sector about how they think Dormant Account money should be delivered in Northern Ireland. We have analysed all the information gathered and a full report is available here.
As part of the consultation, it was great for me to meet people and hear first-hand about what is important to them.
Thank you to everyone who took part and contributed in any way to this important work.
What you told us
The Dormant Accounts policy directs us to focus on improving the capacity, resilience and sustainability of the VCSE sector in Northern Ireland. Throughout the consultation, we talked about definitions and how terms and language used can mean many things to different people.
The response to our questions highlighted the diverse nature of the VCSE sector and the many ways it makes a positive impact on people’s lives. However, cuts to public funding and increasingly complex social challenges mean the sector is largely operating in crisis mode, feeling overwhelmed and unable to find the breathing space to explore options for sustainability, development and diversification.
This Fund provides a unique opportunity to take a long-term approach to rejuvenating the sector, but it can’t be all things to all people or bring about sustainable change on its own. Dormant Accounts funding will allow organisations large and small to look at their own capacity and sustainability. People understand the need for such strategic development and planning in order to become less dependent on grants in the future, but they currently struggle to even think about it because they are operating in a constant state of crisis management.
We heard about major systemic issues in the way that funding is delivered and the challenges that come with public sector procurement and commissioning. Genuine, cross-sectoral and long term collaboration is required to change this; that includes a change in attitudes and systems, including levels of bureaucracy, from government departments, funders and the sector more broadly. People also told us about their positive experiences of working with funders when they are responsive to their needs rather than dictated by strict criteria. There was a real endorsement of approaches built on trust and ability to change. Outlined was the need for flexibility in how funding is made available in relation to things like grant size, timeframe and funding criteria to enable and empower organisations to adapt and become sustainable.
We heard views on the need for leadership, strategic planning and core costs to be funded so that organisations can focus on their core purpose. We were told about the need to strengthen boards and committees, provide support for volunteers, enable genuine collaboration and reduce competition.
There was recognition that while welcome, Dormant Accounts funding is still a limited pot of money and should be directed toward initiatives that can have the greatest impact on the sector.
We are now working on delivery plans for the Dormant Accounts Fund, using what you told us and wider learning from the ways in which Dormant Accounts have been delivered in GB.
We won’t have all the answers immediately, but the consultation has indicated the need for a tiered and phased approach to have impact over a sustained period of time. In the first phase we plan to offer small, flexible and responsive grant funding to build the core resilience of individual organisations. We are also planning to support larger strategic investments that leverage other funding, enable collaboration and new creative approaches to sustainability. We will apply a test and learn approach to develop the fund over time and look forward to continuing the conversations we have started with you this year.
We will be sharing our plans for this fund with the Department of Finance in March 2020, who will then lay the strategic action plan in the Northern Ireland Assembly. We expect to have the first phase of the programme open for applications by June 2020.
Kate Beggs, Northern Ireland Director of The National Lottery Community Fund
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