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Learning from the Fair Share Trust

20 November 2012

In 2003, BIG put £50 million into the Fair Share Trust, designed to provide sustained funding to areas that had missed out on Lottery funding in the past. Community Foundation Network is the sole Trustee and delivers Fair Share Trust by working with its members and other local partners who use their local giving expertise to make sure funding is distributed based on what communities want.

In this guest blog, Bia Carneiro shares the learning around sustainability of community-led initiatives gathered at a recent programme event.

At a recent event of the Fair Share Trust Learning Series we gathered a diverse group of people to talk about the sustainability of community-led initiatives. There were people from Fair Share Trust funded projects, local panels, local agents and other community organisations all brought together to share experiences and learning.

People in discussion

Delegates discuss sustainability

We heard stories from some very hands-on individuals, like Neil Roberts, a local panel member in North Solihull and project manager for the FST-funded Three Trees project. At first, sustainability for his group was the need to create a physical legacy in the community.

However, along the way they realised that while a community centre was important to provide a space for the community, it was the engagement and commitment of residents that would guarantee the sustainability of Three Trees.

“The centre is about people with different skills coming in,” he said. “Some people love the building itself, some people love what they do and they try to use the building, and you need both. We don’t want the building to become a museum piece; we want people working alongside it”. 

Dawn Carr, who worked with the Fair Share Trust areas in the Birmingham and Black Country regions, was overwhelmed by all that was already going on in those communities when she arrived. She realised that sustainable community development was about unlocking the potential of these communities by building on the skills of residents, the power of local networks and resources, the physical and economic assets of the areas and on valuing the stories of local people. 

For Nick Cunliffe, manager of the Kickz project for Blackpool FC, sustainability goes beyond just keeping the project live. The kids who turn into coaches through their training will inspire more young people to follow suit and the confidence and values taught through sport become the real legacy of the project.

Funding is a given challenge in community development. Continuity and financial sustainability are crucial for any project that intends to create lasting change in their community. However, funders and groups alike should focus on how to move forward and embrace both the tangible and non-tangible aspects of sustainability. As we’ve learned from the stories above and throughout the life of Fair Share Trust, sustainability is not just about ongoing funding; it is also about ongoing skills, confidence, and partnerships developed at the community level.

Sustainability top tips from the Fair Share Trust Learning Series:

  1. Don’t do for others what they can do for themselves
  2. Focus on an area and invest in all assets, not just with money but with support
  3. Get stakeholders to sign up to the delivery of sustainability
  4. Start/finish knowing what you have: look at what’s there first, not what’s missing
  5. Create an accessible network, open for advice or information.
  6. Willingness to share and to learn from mistakes and others’ experiences
  7. Keep talking about it in plain English, in a way that everybody understands
  8. Accept that sustainability is not always tangible.

To find out more about the FST Learning Series visit the Fair Share Trust blog.

Bia Carneiro is research & learning analyst for the Fair Share Trust at Community Foundation Network.

Watch some videos from the Fair Share Trust Learning Series:


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