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Putting communities in the driving seat

The Community Development Foundation has long advocated for community led programmes that recognise and build on the assets that already exist within local communities. That’s why I’m so so excited we’re leading a consortium, including Capacity Global, CCLA, Institute for Voluntary Action Research, National Association for Neighbourhood Management, Renaisi and UnLtd to set up a new independent charitable organisation to deliver Big Local.

Big Local will support local areas to use the funds made available by the Big Local Trust. It is a ten-year programme that will achieve lasting change in 150 areas across England. Through a mixture of funding, finance and support it will enable local people to build on local talents and aspirations. They will identify and act on their own needs to make their areas better places to live.

The Big Lottery Fund will endow the Big Local Trust with £200m, with at least £1m available over ten years for each of the 150 local areas, selected because they have previously been overlooked for funding.

The idea is to support, challenge, train and encourage people to take ownership of Big Local in their area. They will identify issues, set priorities and develop and deliver solutions. They will identify the best use of the funding to meet their shared communtiy vision of what will make their area a better place to live in the future.

Small steps at a local level can make a big difference to people’s lives. It might be as simple as a small grant to provide activities that encourage people to get together to improve where they live, for instance to buy some communal gardening tools or paint to create a community mural. By starting to create a better physical environment, people benefit not only in the short term, but it can also begin to change wider perceptions about the area, generating positive knock-on effects in the longer term.

In addition to being able to make grants through Big Local, local areas can use the funds to make social investments such as personal loans, micro finance, small business and civil society loans. This requires a completely different conversation between the funder and the funded. Unlike grant funding, social investments have to be repaid with interest over an agreed period of time, but unlike bank finance the loans don’t seek to maximise commercial returns.

Big Local won’t lend money to those who cannot pay it back, but it will work closely with borrowers who wouldn’t be considered creditworthy by the banks, ensuring they have the necessary support to achieve their objectives. The money used to make social investments will come back to Big Local meaning it can be reused in an area again and again.

The Big Local programme and support will be flexible over the ten years in response to what local people tell us. CDF is committed to strategic learning and has designed Big Local based on what has and hasn’t worked in the past; for example each local area can work at its own speed based on its capacity; there are no thematic requirements or specified outputs set outside the local area; it’s about bringing together social, economic and environmental factors; encouraging individuals, voluntary and communtiy organisations, the public sector, the private sector and other funders to get involved; learning from previous regeneration, place based and community development programmes.

New and innovative work doesn’t always go smoothly. It’s important to ensure local areas are able to learn from each other’s experiences and share learning and knowledge about what works across and between areas. CDF will collate this learning and provide a national voice to speak up about issues that are common to local areas and learn from these experiences and feed them into programme delivery over the ten years of the programme.

Through a unique programme of activity in each area, based on local needs and building on existing local capacities, Big Local will enable communities to make a difference to the needs they prioritise and ultimately, feel that their area is a better place to live.

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