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Connecting Policy with Practice

17 January 2013

Today sees the launch of a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund and The Institute for Government which will explore and share insights with key policy makers about ‘what works’ in communities.

In this guest blog, BIG’s Dharmendra Kanani explains more about the Connecting Policy with Practice: People Powered Change initiative and the important role the Voluntary and Community Sector can play in leading effective project partnerships.

Times are tough. People and communities most in need face a very challenging economic climate.  Resources for the delivery of local services and for those that depend on and benefit from those services are tightening. It is time to give serious thought to how we can learn from what works so that we can better inform the effective use of the limited resources available to society. Doing more with less is going to be a particular challenge for the next few years.

Dharmendra Kanani

BIG’s Dharmendra Kanani

Like other public bodies, Big Lottery Fund (BIG) wants to be alive to this context and respond effectively to it. We’ve long recognised the amazing work community projects deliver across the country with our funding.

We respond to local community need and opportunity by funding thousands of bright ideas, big and small, every year.  But we also think we have a responsibility to use Lottery funding in a targeted and strategic way where we can focus on an issue and demonstrate a difference or change achieved by that funded intervention.

We think we have a further responsibility to take the learning from these strategic approaches to evidence what works, to champion the role of Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) (particularly as lead in partnership working) and help inform wider policy, practice and commissioning in the future.

Our ‘A Better Start’ investment is a case in point. The first three years of a child’s life are universally accepted as a critical period in which to have a positive effect on the development of baby and child. Which is why I’m so pleased we have agreed to invest £165m to deliver partnerships that will improve the life chances of children aged 0-3.

This investment hopes to make a compelling case for early intervention and thus change systems, policy and budget decisions locally and nationally. This is achieved, not just by research, but by demonstrating practice on the ground and accumulating the economic benefits and making a case for such an approach.

This thirst for common learning and exchange was shared by the Institute for Government (IfG) who have been considering the Government’s Civil Service Reform Plan and in particular how the Civil Service can meet the challenge of delivering public policy in the ‘real world.’

Today BIG and IfG will launch an exciting new partnership called ‘Connecting Policy with Practice:People Powered Change.’ The work will explore and share insights with key policy makers about ‘what works’ in communities.

It will give an opportunity for Whitehall Civil Servants to hear directly from beneficiary voices and from those delivering effective and innovative approaches in local communities. These will relate to our strategic investments in England, namely: Talent Match, focusing on young NEETs; our investment to support people with Multiple & Complex Needs; A Better Start which aims to deliver a change to improve the life chances of children aged 0-3; and our investments in Older People.

For BIG, this is about tapping into a rich resource of Lottery funded projects, putting the VCS in the driving seat and giving Whitehall the opportunity to come along for the journey, to see first-hand the incredible work being delivered in communities across the country so that this might shape policy development and future service provision. For the Institute this informs and accelerates work on their core programmes: A more effective Whitehall; Better policy making; and new models of public services.

Over the next 12 months BIG and IfG will deliver a programme of research, seminars, visits and public events which we hope will:

• Take ‘real life’ experience to inform government’s understanding of how policy can be developed, how services can be commissioned, and how success can be achieved and replicated
• Visit VCS led projects in communities across the country to see how they are effective in building on existing community assets
• Providing civil servants with fresh examples of collaboration and innovation in the design and delivery of services – showcasing what is happening at a grass roots level
• Creating new networks of civil servants and those delivering and benefiting from BIG’s investment to facilitate better understanding of what constitutes success in service delivery

This will be a challenging but rewarding piece of work that will shine a light on the excellence across the VCS. To keep in touch with developments and debate visit or follow #BIGIfG on Twitter.

Dharmendra Kanani is England Director, Big Lottery Fund

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