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Where could Lottery Funding make the best difference?

16 December 2008

Big-thinking arrived at the Fordbridge Centre in North Solihull last week where I enjoyed an interesting discussion with local people about where lottery funding could best make a difference in their borough.  Solihull is not somewhere I had been before.  It is a borough of extremes: wards in the north are ranked in the 10% most deprived in the country; those in the south among the 10% most wealthy.  Life expectancy falls by five years within the space of about five miles.

On this occasion, we had quite a long debate about the extent to which funders should interest themselves in the detail of what people who receive awards get up to.  So long as projects achieve the outcomes they promise, what else need the Big Lottery Fund worry about?

Clearly for our small grant programmes like Awards for All, the answer is very little, though avoiding law breaking, funding terrorism or whatever, in pursuit of one’s outcomes, would help keep me out of trouble as Accounting Officer.  Where awards are more significant in size, there is greater scope for debate about the extent to which a funder should probe the detail.

As we increasingly make awards for longer periods, you can make quite a strong case, in my view, that we should be showing an active interest in how projects are planning for life beyond the end of the award.  If we are not getting something extra for the longer awards then those failing to access the smaller amount of new money left available, will ask questions about whether we are using our funding to best effect.  On the other hand, I am only too aware that there can be a temptation for funders to micromanage process rather than outcome.

If you think there are rules or requirements the Big Lottery Fund insists upon that get in the way of achieving outcomes for what you deem to be no good reason, let me know.  We can then either remove the requirement or tell you what we think the good reason is for the rule existing.

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