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Realising Ambition: lessons in programme management support

22 April 2014

Catch22 is the lead consortium partner for Realising Ambition, a UK-wide £25m five year programme funded by the Big Lottery Fund, which invests in projects that help young people to fulfil their potential and avoid pathways into offending.

Ruth Marriot

Ruth Marriot


As the deadline for applying to be UK portfolio lead for Our Environment Our Future approaches, Ruth Marriott, Realising Ambition Programme Manager at Catch22, shares her top lessons on providing programme management support to projects.

  1. Spend time building relationships. This is the key to everything else, whether it is with your fellow consortium partners or the projects delivering interventions across the UK. This means you need to invest in building them at the start of the programme. Nothing can beat face-to-face contact. It shows you have the willingness to travel and understand each project’s context, builds relationships quickly and means that when difficulties arise projects are more willing to come and talk to you about them.
  2. Balance delivery with learning. As the Programme Managers, you need to ensure a balanced contract culture. One where organisations are supported to reach agreed delivery targets whilst honouring the spirit of the programme (in this case building an evidence base of what works and what can be replicated across the UK).
  3. Analyse local area knowledge. Some partners might have an unrealistic estimation of demand; meaning there may be a shortfall in meeting planned delivery numbers in the first year. Sometimes projects struggle to engage the eligible beneficiaries because there is insufficient data about the level of need or the distribution of need in target areas.
  4. Allow sufficient set up time. It is important to build in sufficient time when replicating in a new area. This includes gaining a greater understanding of the area, particularly where local authorities are the deliverers and funding cuts locally may impact their capacity to deliver. In the worst case scenario, projects may have to withdraw due to an inability to deliver or renegotiate new replication areas. You need to be prepared for this.
  5. Understand the key issues in delivering the services. You, as the lead organisation, may be the only partner in the consortium that has direct experience of delivering services to the target cohort – in this case children and young people. This gives you a unique understanding of what the day to day issues are, how they can affect delivery, how those issues can be resolved, and means you can offer support to meet the challenges. It also gives that level of credibility that your organisation ‘have been there and done it’. As a social business delivering public services, we understand the sector and its current issues well. This actively compliments the expertise and experience of the consortium, i.e. organisation health (Young Foundation), data collection (Substance) and model fidelity and programme evaluation (Social Research Unit).

Further information on applying to be the UK portfolio lead on Our Environment Our Future, the £30m Big Lottery Fund programme which is set to support young people to shape their local environment and secure careers in the green economy, can be found here.

Transforming infrastructure

14 April 2014

In this guest blog Barney Mynott, Public Affairs Officer for NAVCA, talks about a series of Transforming Local Infrastructure workshops.  


Barney Mynott

Over the past month I have been at five workshops that NAVCA have held to talk with local infrastructure charities about the difference Transforming Local Infrastructure (TLI) funding made. The workshops aimed to maximise the learning from TLI, making sure that a good idea from South London can be used in Cheshire and Devon benefits from ideas formed in Leicester.

The workshops have been incredibly creative; at times I’ve been drowning in brainwaves. Now the workshops are completed it is possible to pull ideas together into some common themes.


  1. TLI gave people space. It allowed people to take a step back, think about what is possible and do things they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
  2. You need to be in the right place to make the most of opportunities. It was said that sometimes you need to ‘just do it’. Rather than just doing funded work you need to take a risk and do something unfunded to be in a better position to win paid work.
  3. Infrastructure charities are in an ideal place to broker support from local businesses and their knowledge of local needs can maximise impact. The majority of support available is in kind (such as providing pro bono help or providing venues) rather than cash.
  4. Localism increases the desire of local statutory bodies to consult with local communities but without the necessary resources. Low cost representation solutions are needed and TLI provided some solutions.
  5. There is agreement that consortia can help smaller charities get commissioned but different approaches to doing this. In some areas partnerships were formed to look for contracts, in other areas consortia are built in quickly response to contracts.
  6. Many organisations are introducing/increasing charging. The debate is about what sells and what will need subsidising. How can you make sure that groups with no money or emerging groups can still get support?
  7. People have an affinity with their local area. A lot of areas successfully developed local giving schemes to support smaller local charities who struggle to compete with national brands.
  8. Finally, many coming to the workshops were from areas which didn’t get TLI funding. They brought their own ideas and thoughts about ways for infrastructure to evolve.

ransforming Local Infrastructure event

Voluntary sector infrastructure has existed for over 100 years and it is as innovative as ever in finding new ways to meet the needs of local charities and community groups.

NAVCA has learnt a lot from these workshops and we are putting these ideas along with our learning from the End of Grant reports into six themed documents. These reports will give information about what has been tried by different TLI partnerships and help us understand what has worked and what hasn’t. We will make these available for everyone. TLI funding has finished but, as the workshops have shown, the work continues.

Could you be a local partner delivering basic online skills?

10 April 2014

Last October we launched the UK-wide programme Basic Online Skills. We invited applications from lead organisations who felt they could improve the basic online skills of people who rarely or never use the internet.
The first stage of the application process has now closed; we were hugely impressed at the range and quality of the applications we received.

Older women use computer

Around 7.4m people in the UK have never used a computer or the internet

Of the 33 who submitted applications, seven have been invited to develop their proposals further. They have been asked to consider the local needs of people not engaging with the internet and this is where local support could come in.

If you are an organisation interested in becoming a local delivery partner please follow this link to find out more on the Big Lottery Fund website. Each of the seven lead applicants have produced a one-page strategy document that outlines their project and they urge you to contact them directly to find out more; contact details are included in each of the strategy documents.

The people we will help with this funding are currently without basic online skills; they might not have the ability to safely interact online and evaluate websites they can trust, they might lack the confidence to apply for a job online or send and receive emails to keep up with loved ones.

Some of the proposals are targeting specific groups such as older people, social housing tenants, people with sensory loss, the homeless and families with disabled children. Do you have experience with these groups?

Please follow the link to find out more and for the opportunity to be part of a UK-wide movement to get more people connected to the internet and each other.

Why are we investing in this programme?

The Big Lottery Fund is a founding member of  Go ON UK, with whom we are developing this programme to encourage and support more people to use computers and the internet.

Nearly one in five (9.8 million) adults in the UK don’t have the basic online skills to fully benefit from the internet, and around 6.7 million have never used a computer or the internet at all. This means that some of the most vulnerable people in society are missing out on the many benefits of the digital world.

Local Food programme generates £7 for every £1 invested

8 April 2014

In this blog Professor Paul Courtney, of the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) at the University of Gloucestershire, explains how the Big Lottery funded Local Food Programme is generating real value for society beyond its original remit of making locally grown food accessible and affordable to local communities.

Professor Paul Courtney

Building on the CCRIs wider evaluation of the Local Food programme, a Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis was undertaken to establish how many £s of value are generated for every £1 invested in the programme.

Three case study projects took part in the SROI – a ‘Community Growing’ project, an ‘Enterprise’ project and an ‘Education and Learning’ project:

Growing Well in Kendal is a farm-based community enterprise that supports people to improve their mental wellbeing by involving them in a range of activities in the organic growing business. This award-winning project is also a City and Guilds centre training participants in horticulture. In addition, through its Crop Share scheme, Growing Well supplies local families with fresh season vegetables.

Growing Greenwich is a community project building upon existing food growing projects and partnerships to promote local food and community cohesion. The project operates in a number of local farms, schools, allotments, parks and community centres. Volunteers are involved in roles ranging from growing, cooking and distributing food to running community cafes and events; enabling them to learn new skills.

Get Growing in Stroud has created growing spaces in 22 schools in Gloucestershire and has supported them to set up gardening clubs to involve pupils in food growing and cooking and to educate them about food production. Most children participating in the project have said they have a greater understanding of healthy food and now eat more fruit and vegetables.

The researchers first met with a range stakeholders and beneficiaries from each of the three case study areas to help understand the main outcomes of their project, and how one outcome might lead to another in a ‘chain of events’.

For example, knowledge of food growing and provenance then leads to improved diet and in turn improved physical health over the longer term; while reduced social isolation through volunteering can lead to an increased sense of belonging leading to improved resilience and self-esteem. These benefits are highlighted by feedback from participants, for example, one volunteer at Get Growing said: ‘Often I feel so bad I don’t want to do anything but after coming here, working with my group in the sunshine, I always feel more cheerful. They are my friends now.’

Next, we conducted surveys to measure improvements to mental health and well-being and included questions around food expenditure and the extent to which people have reduced their supermarket spend in favour of more local food procurement, for example through fruit and veg box schemes, as well as their Local Food allotment.

Gardening tools

In the final stage, financial proxies were identified in order to assign a monetary value to each of the outcomes. So for example the unit cost of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was used as a proxy for improved mental health, and average weekly household food spend was used to approximate the improvements to food affordability as a result of the programme.

The findings revealed that, based on the three case studies involved, every £1 invested in Local Food (including not only the grants but also the value of volunteer time and other in-kind contributions) is generating just under £7 for society, representing a 700% return on investment for Local Food.

The positive impact of Local Food projects is far reaching. The value of the initial investment made by Big Lottery Fund is being returned directly through training, education and skills, with the majority of additional benefits attributed to health and well being, community benefits in terms of increased participation and vibrancy, impacts on the local economy and improved food affordability.

Through helping people and communities to shape their own future, Local Food is generating real value for host communities and for wider society.

Local Food is one of a number of environment focused initiatives the Big Lottery Fund has invested in. Earlier this year, the Big Lottery Fund announced its latest environment funding programme – Our Environment Our Future – which will invest £30m in supporting young people to improve their local environment and to gain skills to equip them for jobs in the green economy.

Meet the England Big Advice Team

1 April 2014

Ever wondered who is on the end of that phone when you ring Big Lottery Fund? Just who is it sending you that reply to your email? When you contact us through our live chat feature, is that really a person typing back to you?

Big Lottery Fund


Well, if you call our switchboard or helpline number, send an email to our enquiries inbox or connect via webchat, you will get through to one of the helpful, happy and very much human members of the England Big Advice team.

Based in Newcastle, we are a team of ten funding officers that combine a wealth of experience and knowledge gained from working across our funding programmes. We offer pre-application information and advice to people and organisations thinking about applying for funding. We want to make sure that people understand what they need to do before they apply and don’t waste their time filling in applications that are not suitable for their projects.

We deal with around 300 calls, 40 emails and an increasing number of webchats each day and get asked lots of interesting questions, from where to find an application form to how to make an application stronger.

Big Advice photo

When should you contact the Big Advice team?

The first port of call for anyone interested in finding funding is our website. The website contains information on all of the different funding options available including detailed guidance notes and access to application forms.

If the guidance on the website doesn’t answer your questions or you are not sure what to do then please email us, use webchat or give us a call.

We can identify if you are eligible to apply, point you to the most suitable funding option and answer specific questions about our programmes. Whether you have an application form ready to go, or want to know if your good idea is something that lottery funding will support, the team can provide feedback on how ‘application ready’ you are, once you have reviewed our guidance and have a project idea in mind.

The Big Advice team are available on email, on webchat and via our helpline number 0845 4 10 20 30 from 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday.

What if Big Advice can’t answer my question?

Then we will know someone who can! We can get back to you with a speedy response, or put you in touch with an expert in another team. For advice on other funding available in your area, it may be worthwhile speaking to a local funding advisor or support agency. Details of a local contact can be found at the NAVCA website at its member’s directory page

Climate Change Week at Sustainable Sunderland

13 March 2014

Dean T Huggins, programme manager from Sustainable Sunderland, explains in this blog how  they marked Climate Week.

AFrican drummers welcome people to the event

Sunderland Black and Minority Ethnic Network Limited (SBMEN) is the lead partner for the Sustainable Sunderland project and works with several other local organisations to deliver their Communities Living Sustainably (CLS) project.

This project focuses on energy saving and we target in particular four wards with the highest levels of fuel poverty in the city. After engaging local people, voluntary groups and businesses, we introduced the concept of ‘One Planet Living’ which we are promoting to local residents to help them reduce their carbon footprints and live more sustainably.

During Climate Week we promoted our work and ongoing activities to a wide audience through events including an Environmental Showcase. Organised by the International Community Organisation of Sunderland, and hosted by Sunderland University and the University Students’ Union, we used the event to share information about our partnership and talk to students about how they can be involved with the work that we’re doing.

We think that students will be good ambassadors for energy saving and One Planet Living, and can help spread the word to other young people. We can also give them opportunities to take on projects that relate directly to their studies. For example, we are recruiting students from the MSc Environmental Science course to do projects around behaviour change and climate change and currently have an MA Marketing student helping us to develop our marketing processes.

Many students from the university, mainly those studying environmental sciences, attended the event to hear presentations on a range of topics from experts in the field. They also had the opportunity to meet people representing a range of organisations, including Sunderland City Council’s recycling officer. Sunderland University are now reviewing the feedback from the event which was successful in drawing around 50 students and lecturers during the day.

Sustainable Sunderland open eventAt Sustainable Sunderland we’ve been using our project to engage with a range of people of all ages including students. We’ve found many young people are keen to find out more about how they can protect their environment which is why I think it’s great that Big Lottery Fund is going to help young people to do just that through its new programme, Our Environment Our Future.

We, along with our partners all agreed that through this event and Climate Week we had raised awareness of work on climate change, particularly with young people, and we now plan to organise something similar again next year.

Sustainable Sunderland is one of twelve projects supported by the CLS programme which aims to encourage behaviour change among individuals and communities so they can cope better with the environmental, economic and social impacts of a changing climate.

A magical evening in Water Vole Woodland

10 March 2014

Access to Nature, which is run by Natural England and funded by the Big Lottery Fund through the Changing Spaces programme, has run over 100 successful projects since it launched in 2010.

In this blog Kerry Rowe, Education Coordinator at Lawrence Weston Community Farm, tells us about an imaginative event recently held to engage the local community.

Kerry Rowe

Kerry Rowe

Lawrence Weston Community Farm runs a community-managed Access to Nature project, Discovering Nature, in the Bristol area. The farm aims to improve the quality of life for local people and its service-users through a range of innovative activities.

To celebrate the culmination of our Discovering Nature project we held a special event to give the volunteers and our supporters a big thank you for their hard work. We invited Whispering Woods group to hold a magical event which included fireside tales, aerial artistry, music, dancing and twilight adventures in our newly opened Water Vole Woodland.

A programme of activities led up to the big event, including a woodland trapeze workshop for children, storytelling and lantern making. Four young people received training from Knowle West Media Centre giving them the skills needed to act as our press photographers on the night.

At the event itself a cold and frosty evening saw 80 people gather, wrapped up warmly. As the crowd waited for the event to begin, quiet speculation grew about what the evening held in store. We started by circling around the fire. Young children sat on knees and older ones were already mesmerised by the jumping flames. The scene was set by the storyteller and then off we trailed, following huge fire beacons into the woodland.

Bridge of Elder

Stepping over a bridge lit by candles we felt a shiver of excitement as up in the trees a beautiful figure swung on a trapeze strung between the branches. The woodland, so familiar to us in the day with its chirruping birds, was suddenly magical and mystical. Our journey around the woodland was interspersed with whispering storytellers, musicians and wonderful tree high performers leading us on a story of twists and turns.                                   

The finale drew many gasps of awe as the performer bound in silk ropes danced high above our heads in the trees. The evening is still fondly remembered by everyone that participated and has inspired many to make return visits to the farm and the woodland.

To find out more about Lawrence Weston Community Farm check out their YouTube film

The Access to Nature funding for Lawrence Weston Community Farm comes to an end in March 2014. The farm has recently been granted £456,544 from the Big Lottery Fund through the Reaching Communities programme. The funding will be used to build a Community Café and Training Facility. It is envisaged that construction will start in May 2014 and that it will be open for business towards the end of the year.

Calling all social entrepreneurs!

5 March 2014

The Social Enterprise Spring Fayre has been postponed on this occasion. We will be touch with new details on our website soon. Thank you to everyone that expressed an interest at this time. 

***Competition now closed***

We’ve got three market pitches to give away at our Social Enterprise Spring Fayre in Newcastle on 28 March 2014. The venue will be The Boiler Shop, Sussex Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 3PD.

Manor house square

Would your business benefit from showcasing your products at our Spring Fayre? Meet with other social entrepreneurs and creatives, share experiences, gain insight from the sector and showcase your products to new audiences. You might even sell a thing or two.

You must be prepared to dress your stall, sell your wares, interact with your peers, have fun and come away with new contacts and insights.

Be quick, the competition runs for one week only and closes at 17.30 on Wednesday 12 March 2014.

Entry is simple! All you need to do is pitch to us – in no more than 250 words – a bit about your social enterprise and what you would sell or do at your market stall. You might want to support your entry with pictures or a film and mail us at

Other stall holders confirmed include Myddfai Trading Co Ltd, who supply a range of locally sourced, quality, hand-made crafts and gifts, and Gandy’s Flip flops, a unique brand of footwear; what could you bring?

Please read the terms and conditions below for more info and good luck.

Spring Fayre Pitch Terms and Conditions


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