At one level this is a story about a game to help community groups decide how to invest £1 million over 10 years in their neighbourhood. At another it’s about how an organisation – Big Lottery Fund – found the in-house skills to create a very successful method for community engagement, and then tell us about it. First the background:
I’ve been writing a lot recently about how communities may achieve more if they start with local strengths rather than problems, and then immediately jump to the need for outside help. Tessy Britton has developed a Social Spaces game that helps people understand what they can do themselves, when to get help, and what is really challenging.
The same idea of appreciating your assets can be applied to organisations too. There’s a rather good book on it called No More Consultants – we know more than we think.
Big Lottery Fund (BIG) favours asset based community development, as I reported here – and staff in East Midlands have taken the idea in-house. Faced with the challenge of helping community groups think about how to use the support on offer from BIG, they too decided a game would be good, and set out inventing their own. In this instance, there is money on offer: £1 million over 10 years … so Biglopoly was born.
I heard about Biglopoly from Ben Lee at the National Association for Neighbourhood Management. They are working with the Community Development Foundation on the Big Local Trust, that is distributing an endowment of £200 million to 150 areas over the 10 years, and he put me in touch with Kelly Hart, Regional Development Manager in the East Midlands.
Kelly sent me an impressive package including game rules, facilitators guide, card examples and photos from sessions. At that point I wondered about a trip to interview Kelly and see more of the game … but then thought I might suggest a bit more DIY. Could BIG staff please do their bit of social reporting, and send me a report? Here it is, with the video they shot in-house. No more consultants … or social reporters!
Big Local is a new way of thinking for distributing our funds. In the first four East Midlands Big Local areas many people imagined the concept to only be a £1 million grant pot for the local community groups to apply to. But this money could be so much more and could potentially bring in more money to reinvest in the community through methods such as loans or investment in social enterprises. It could also encourage lots more community engagement and help people to make a big difference in the area they live. We wanted to show Big Local areas how they could use their £1 million to make a long-term difference, as well as demonstrate the difficult decisions they may have to make.
We like to think that here at BIG and in the East Midlands regional team that we are creative when it comes to our work and we like to try new ideas to get our key messages across in a more enjoyable way. So after a team brainstorm (with tea and biscuits!) Biglopoly was created just in time for its first outing in Sutton on Sea, Lincolnshire at an East Midlands Big Local network meeting.
The game helps the players to understand that in order to spend £1 million some kind of plan or strategy is required. Not everyone on the panel or in the community will see things in the same way or make the same decisions. We had four games going at once at the network meeting and every team was making different decisions (sometimes after very long debates) which impacted hugely on their monies going forward – could they last longer than 10 years with extra income made? But it also showed the difference they made in their communities each time they received different amounts of community stars.
The game was fun and brought our programme alive making the community members see what they would be going to potentially encounter in the next ten years. The Community Development Foundation thought the game was so good it was rolled out at all the other regional networks and we hope it has provided our first wave of Big Local areas with an insight into what they could potentially achieve with their £1 million.
We are keen to develop the game and use for other programmes and general support for organisations looking to apply for our funding but also to help with community development in communities across the UK. So feel free to contact us with ideas or with similar games and activities you are delivering or working on so we can share learning and enable communities to make a difference.
You can reach Kelly at kelly.hart [at] biglotteryfund.org.uk
- Also on socialreporters.net:Reporting events and games – including saving Slapham community spaces