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Supporting environmental groups

7 January 2015

Idea and content originally published by Kimba Cooper on our Wales blog

Young people digging

Young People got involved in the project on the Marks Gate Estate

Did you know that the Big Lottery Fund supports projects that use the environment as a tool to help their community?

We have created a short animated video to tell you what that means and there are resources available on our website to help you to plan your environmental project and application. We have published research and articles that can help you to consider environmental, social and economic factors in your project- here are some worked examples.

You can read about some of our environmental projects that we have funded here:

More ‘Environment’ blogs

We hope that this has been useful, please leave a comment below.



Here at the Big Lottery Fund we are huge fans of the environment. We want to see more applications from project that use the environment as a tool to help their communities. And that’s the key – ensuring that your community is at the heart of your project.

So how can we do that?

  • Why not hold outdoor activities for older people; to reduce social isolation?
  • A community farm is an effective way to get the community involved in the environment by providing volunteering and training opportunities.
  • Your project could help people with disabilities to access their local environment.
  • Or bring the community together to create a community garden that would engage people of all ages.

As you can see there are many ways to incorporate the community in your environmental project. and don’t forget, your project might not start with environmental outcomes but there are lots of ways to help the environment.

You could install a compost toilet in your local community centre instead of that old porcelain one that no longer works. Need to replace your water heating system in your community hall? Consider solar panels as a possible option. Eco friendly and sustainable! If experience tells you that your community engages best with leaflets and posters; make them from recycled paper and ask people to recycle the leaflets when they are done.

There are so many ways that you can improve outcomes for your community and improve your local environment at the same time and those are the kinds of projects that we, at The Big Lottery Fund, want to fund. So remember to keep the community at the heart of your environmental project.

Improving Futures: the story so far

7 January 2015
Abigail Ryan

Abigail Ryan

Abigail Ryan, Policy and Learning Officer at the Big Lottery Fund, tells us more about the Improving Futures programme which recently published its year two evaluation.

Our Improving Futures programme is funding 26 projects across the UK  to transform outcomes for children living in families with multiple and complex needs.

Now two years in we have looked at the difference the projects are making for families. Research shows vast improvements for children and families with a 71% increase in parents setting appropriate boundaries for children. Risk factors for the average family have fallen by a quarter after receiving support, while strengths have increased by about two thirds.

Improving Futures - the outcomes

Improving Futures – the outcomes

Other key stats include:

  • 51% reduction in poor quality housing with significant cold, damp or mould problems
  • 43% reduction in child harm by domestic abuse
  • 74% increase in children’s regular participation in sports or leisure activities
  • 51% increase for children in regular contact with friends outside school
  • 44% increase in listening to and reading with children on a regular basis.

We had quotes from families themselves to show how much they value the support that projects are providing:

“I thought it was Social Services so I said ‘no, you can’t help, there’s nothing wrong here’…but we got involved with them and realised they could help.” (Parent)

“My children love our key worker. They are nice people, they make you feel like a friend, they don’t look down on you.” (Parent)

“The personal help I got was amazing… the key worker was there for anything I needed… they’re really compassionate with what they do… it’s not just a thing – they really listen to you and your family. They listen to you personally and put you on to what will help you best.” (Parent)

Improving Futures - the support

Improving Futures – the support

The projects are using a range of different approaches to achieve these, including dedicated key workers, family support service and parenting support.

You can read the executive summary for more information about the evaluation findings so far.

Start the New Year with a smile

6 January 2015

Just a little happier: DIY Happiness

By Alvi Rahman

Seated women laughing

DIY Happiness!

“Is everything okay? Why are you upset?” I kept hearing these questions when I saw people and I was so confused.  I soon realized that I had stopped smiling. But the scariest part of this was that, everyone around me didn’t seem to be happy either. Every day for the last three months I counted the people I saw smiling on the Tube. I never counted more than three a day. This really scared me and so I made a conscious effort to try and smile more.

When I started working for Well London, I was able to see this on a more microscopic level. Well London delivers health and well-being activities across London and I have been travelling to the different Well London areas, and my search for helpful projects led me to DIY Happiness.

DIY Happiness, held every month, aims to give participants a few tips – some provided by Londoners themselves, and others based on the ‘science of happiness’. The tips fall under the six categories – body, mind, spirit, people, place and planet to create a “wheel of well-being”. Almost immediately, I saw the impact that this project was having on the participants who are being supported to deliver well-being activities in their communities.

How can we be happy?

How can we be happy?

At the DIY Happiness sessions, we talk about how to be grateful for your life and to look at life from a positive point of view. We do not ignore difficult times but rather find ways to cope with these situations together. The participants have become friends with each other and it is easy to share our experiences, and how best we deal with different problems. There’s a common sense approach to happiness and everyone can achieve it. “What I like the most was that I learned about taking notice of my surroundings and enjoying what is happening and appreciate it”, says Sarah from Lambeth.

The techniques shared at the sessions can be easily implemented and you do not need to digest a lot of information.

I personally feel better equipped to handle stress. But I’m not the only who has been benefiting from these sessions. Khadija from Camden says: “Before the sessions, I used to spend hours just not living. I only recently learned how to handle stress and connect to people and that is so essential to our lives.”

I kept asking myself the question – how can I keep myself happy? I feel now that DIY Happiness has given me the answer that I have been elusively searching for the last six years. To be happy is not a permanent state. Rather, it’s embracing a way of living that allows you to cope with the hard times and realise the good times when you’re living them.


“Everyone has a stake in their own happiness so why shouldn’t we try to be happy?”

- Neetu, DIY Happiness Coordinator


Check out DIY Happiness tips at

Find out more about Big Lottery funded health and well being projects at

All about Awards for All

19 December 2014

Do you want to make a difference in your community? Have you got a project in mind?Two men working at  a desk

Awards for All grants funding is open to a wide range of voluntary and community organisations, as well as some statutory organisations, like schools and health bodies. A wide range of community, health, educational and environmental projects can apply for these grants.

Grants start from a minimum of £300 to a maximum of £10,000:

Minimum grant

Maximum grant




Northern Ireland









Clicking on this link will give you access to the types of projects which have been funded in the past  (we’d recommend you use the drop down boxes in the advanced search section)

Awards for All will fund a range of projects from improving local spaces to bringing local people together to learn or be more active. We will only pay for Arts, Heritage or Sports activities that meet one or more of our outcomes:

  • people have better chances in life
  • stronger communities
  • improved rural and urban environments
  • healthier and more active people and communities.

Need help? Read our guidance

Any arts, heritage or sports activities that do not meet one or more of our outcomes should apply for funding from another source.

Linda Yeo from our England Big Advice team wrote this blog’… have you read our other Big Advice blogs?

Home by the Fireside

17 December 2014

As most of us look forward to a chance to cosy up and relax with our families, hundreds of thousands of people in England have nowhere to celebrate and no-one to celebrate with.

Drop-in centre with clients in attendance

SIFA Fireside drop in centre

It is thanks to Birmingham homelessness and alcohol misuse charity SIFA Fireside, that Gary, 45, has both of those things. Down on his luck, out of work and with no home to go to, SIFA helped Gary get back on his feet, train for a job and find somewhere to call home. That’s why this Christmas he’s returning to SIFA to repay the kindness by volunteering.

“The wife and I were married about eight years and we started having real problems. She had an alcohol problem. We separated, then got back together and separated and got back together again. I didn’t want to give up on her, but in the end, by staying, I was giving up on myself. When I finally walked out all I had was a little rucksack and a plastic bag. I was in an out of hostels until I heard about SIFA.

It was here that I got the help I needed. I wanted to do a gas safe course for a while. I hadn’t been in a learning environment since polytechnic in the 80’s. SIFA helped me get the funding to do it. I’m on the first year of my course now and I’m looking at being self-employed by 2016.

I’ve got my own front door now. They helped me sort that out and provided me with basics furnishing to get started. I pop in and out as I want.

SIFA is also helping me to sort out my debts, the house repossession and all the legal things to do with that. Solicitors volunteer here and give us advice.

At Christmas, I’ll come down here when I’m not in college and help out. I’ve made new friendships. It’s been a learning process. I enjoy helping out. We are all human beings and I want to do whatever I can to help.”


Gary sorted his life out with help from SIFA’s Changing Lives project which received £326,956 from Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities funding programme.


Reducing reoffending… have your say!

17 December 2014

by Carolyn Sawers

Many community and voluntary organisations across the UK are working to support people who have a history of offending to change their lives for the better.

As a funder we are keen to champion this work and learn from it. Since 2006 the Fund has supported more than 1200 projects in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland (worth around £390m) working with people at risk of offending, ex-offenders, their families and their communities.

Some are large initiatives like our Realising Ambition programme, aiming to prevent first time offending; but many are small projects, like the local restoration project my colleague Michelle Cherry visited in Northern Ireland.

Man and woman talking at a desk at Catch 22 offices

In 2013 we asked Fiona Ellis to write up and analyse 12 case studies from all four countries. These stories show different approaches to reducing reoffending, as well as revealing common themes like the importance of access to employment, stable accommodation and strong family ties.

From keeping an eye out for other initiatives in this area I’ve also increasingly come across examples that are focused on mentoring, volunteering and sometimes volunteer mentors!

Which leads me to ask five questions about reducing reoffending:

  1. What other examples of effective work are there out there?
  1. Which models respond best to local differences?
  1. What strengths do ex-offenders themselves bring to the table?
  1. What other data is there that would help us understand what works, and what doesn’t?
  1. If you had £10k, £100k or £1m to help bring about change for ex-offenders and the communities they live in, what would you do?

I’d love to hear your answers to any or all of these questions, or to hear what questions you would add to the list.

You can share your views using this quick survey or by emailing your numbered answers to

Update: First of all a huge thanks to all of you that have already completed the survey, we will be getting back to you on this. The deadline has been extended to Friday 30 January … so for those of you yet to get back to us, come and have your say!

How do we measure our impact?

12 December 2014

Our 12 HeadStart test and learn projects are busy working to build the resilience of thousands of young people, but how do we capture all of this to share and learn from?  Mia Eisenstadt from Reos, one of the partners delivering our HeadStart evaluation explains more:

Close up of child playing with lights

Impact… how do we measure it?

HeadStart is providing funding for 12 local partnerships to pilot projects that aim to prevent serious mental health conditions in young people and build personal resilience, in a context of rising rates of serious mental health issues in children and young people. But, how can we understand the impact these projects have on young people’s lives?

Big Lottery Fund have appointed a collaboration between the Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU) part of the Anna Freud Centre and UCL, University of Manchester, Common Room, and Reos to conduct an evaluation. The evaluation will look into the extent that local projects meet three HeadStart outcomes:

  1. enabling young people to cope with difficult experiences and do well in life
  2. reducing the onset of serious mental health conditions through resilience building
  3. learning from approaches to contribute to an evidence base for service re-design and investment in prevention.

The evaluation team are currently implementing the first of four phases of the evaluation. During phase one we are working with all 12 partnerships through workshops and information sharing to develop a common measurement framework (CMF). This framework will be rolled out across all areas to show changes in children and young people’s mental health, well being and resilience. As part of this activity we have been mapping out what types of support each partnership is providing to children and their families to support their mental well being and resilience.

Mia Eisenstadt

Mia Eisenstadt, Reos

Future phases will look to collect online survey data, refine and trial the model and collect qualitative data for each site through focus groups and interviews. At the end of this work a report will be published to share the results of the evaluation.

To make sure that the work of the evaluation team is both engaging and accessible to young people, two young advisors Amy and Naomi have been working with us to help design processes and governance to enable young people to make a valuable contribution in the local and national evaluation.

Our hope for the future is that the evidence we capture adds to the understanding of how to help young people navigate through adversity and bounce back from problems in life. Our wish is that it will not only contribute to an evidence base for the prevention of mental health problems, but also support more young people across England to live happier and healthier lives.

Mia Eisenstadt, Reos


To keep up to date with HeadStart please sign up to the Big Lottery Fund’s quarterly ebulletin

Also check out the Fulfilling Lives: Head Start projects

Together, helping young people bounce back

11 December 2014

Experts in young people’s mental health get together to support our HeadStart projects.

Raynal Somiah from YoungMinds tells us more about what they hope to achieve…

Group of young people looking at cards

HeadStart Blackpool residential training session

YoungMinds in partnership with boingboing / University of Brighton and Achievement for All are excited to be working with the Big Lottery Fund and local area partnerships in what could be ground breaking and revolutionary work.

Collectively we form the HeadStart Support and Development consortium. We bring a wealth of experience around children and young people’s mental health, resilience, commissioning support, systems planning and change, and in depth work with schools.

Using our expertise and experience, we will support and challenge the local partnerships to:

  • achieve positive change for young people and their families
  • strengthen their partnership working and delivery
  • develop bids for further investment in stage three of HeadStart
  • develop sustainable whole system approaches to building resilience.

Each local partnership has been appointed a HeadStart Advisor who will coach and support; offering development opportunities for individuals and partnerships.

Group of young boys working  with an adult

Getting everyone involved!

We want to make sure young people’s ideas and experiences are shaping this exciting programme. We are bringing together a network of young people with an interest in resilience and mental health to become a ‘HeadStarter’. HeadStarters will work with us, the local partnerships and their young people; making a valuable contribution our work.

Our first important task is to hold a review workshop with each local partnership. This is an opportunity to take stock of progress so far and reflect on future areas for development. We will also be exploring how the partnerships are doing against our specially developed self-assessment framework. The framework describes our expert view on ‘what good looks like’ in approaches to building resilience for vulnerable young people. It is based on the existing evidence, experience and practice we hold across our consortium. Throughout the programme we will be returning to this framework as a benchmark against which partnerships will be challenged and supported to develop through our support.

For more information please visit


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