BIGGING up People Powered Change?

In this guest post, Shaun Walsh, from the Big Lottery Fund, opens up a conversation about how BIG might develop People Powered Change. This builds on some exploratory work started a few weeks ago here and calls on others to share their learning, experience and insights on how BIG can help develop supportive networks and supportive ideas.
How does a national funder, supporting community projects with as little as £300, maximise the impact and learning from its funding? What support and networks could a funder enable to help people and projects help themselves? What is the next social innovation or intervention that a funder could intelligently make that would support communities in these aims?
From March this year we (Big Lottery Fund) identified ‘People Powered Change’ (PPC) as a platform to build, accelerate and extend new and different approaches to develop great community-led action already underway across England. The announcement was accompanied by grants to UnLtd’s Big Venture Challenge; Your Square Mile; Young Foundation’s Building Local Activism; Media Trust; and NESTA’s Neighbourhood Challenge. Ten months on, we’ve asked them to contribute to this blog, to help share some learning, insights and considerations that will help us address the questions I’ve outlined above and inform our approach to PPC.
The roots of our thinking behind PPC lie in Asset Based Community Development, which Jim Diers explains with a little more authority here. This approach is about focusing on the opportunities, strengths and the ‘latent power of communities’ building on the assets they already have.
[Deep breath…] We believe that every community facing problems contains within it people and groups who can step forward as the solution. We want to use our resources, and belief in communities, to unlock and inspire community action across the nation. We want to help people to share and celebrate their work, and learn from others that are doing it for themselves – whether this is through on-line spaces or meetings.
But we recognise that we can’t do this alone. There are some amazing people, stories and groups out there who are already doing some inspiring stuff. And as Linda Quinn explains here we fund thousands of projects every year who are making a real difference in their communities with great ideas that others could learn from, share solutions with or be inspired by.
But how do we help harness that learning? How do we help broker those connections? How, as a funder, should we/could we support people and projects beyond our grant investments? And what about those we don’t fund?
Will Perrin of Talk About Local helpfully starts to flesh some of this out in his earlier blog here.
Will’s blog is a useful prompt. We believe that People Powered Change is about more than just funding. It should be about an intelligent funder that proactively engages and facilitates conversations across communities, people and experts. Creating supportive connections, it is about making BIG’s activity and engagement more ‘social’ so that learning and conversations have greater reach so that we maximise the use of social media, for example, as a means of sharing best practice and sourcing creative ideas.
Or in other words supporting those wider conversations and hearing what’s being said.
This is a lot easier to write about than to do in practice and so part of the purpose of this blog is really a call for thoughts and ideas, what’s already happening and working that we can learn from? Notably:
How do we develop a communication network that could join BIG, partners, groups and others so they can share stories, support and engage with each other?
Where are some of the gaps that need to be filled? What might the helpful funding interventions be that would support communities in these aims?
Over the next few weeks the funded partners I outlined above will blog with updates on their project progress and reflect upon some of their learning so far that will help inform some of this future thinking.
But we want to share this with others so others can share with us their ideas so do feel free to contribute either in comment or via twitter using #ppchange.
There’s a summary of earlier posts here.

  1. I wonder if the methods / techniques used in @biglotteryfund or People Powered Change funded projects could be added to a “social apps store” with an accompany “social report” (i.e. blog/video/visual/etc which is already happening in the NESTA neighbourhood challenge)?
    Often, community groups have strengths in particular areas which they’ve built up either through experience of tackling specific issues or through the skills and enthusiasm of the people involved. In other areas of their projects, they may have a need for some bite-sized learning in a way that they can relate to. By looking in the social app store (an idea by David Wilcox), they could not only find what they’re looking for, but perhaps more importantly connect with groups that could complement their work and who knows work together in the future?

  2. Thanks Noel – I think the idea of bite-sized learning is really important, and might be combined with the move to mobile and apps mentioned here and as you say bundled up into a store. I wonder if that has to be a new place, or might be hosted by one of the existing knowledge hubs

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