Last week, we announced improvements to our Reaching Communities England programme, making it more flexible and responsive to people’s ambitions. In his second guest blog, England Director Dharmendra Kanani explains how the changes are part of wider improvements to the way Big Lottery Fund works in England.
One of my primary focuses when I became England Director three years ago was to look at how we could be organised to give us a greater connection between the people and areas most in need and the funding decisions that are made.
I had a vision to create even better networks purposed around impact and influence to improve the chances of people and communities who are most in need but who currently aren’t accessing the Lottery funding that will benefit them. We are now building our new locally focused teams, which will enable us to work more closely and effectively with VCS groups and communities across the country.
This local approach will see us providing advice or support to those who want to apply for our funding from the very beginning of the journey. We will also work with our stakeholders to plan, design and evaluate our investments.
The recent improvements to Reaching Communities is another of the changes that we are putting in place as we further develop our approach to being simpler, faster and better as a funder.
I want to provide greater clarity to organisations submitting applications so they understand upfront the information they need to provide and their chances of getting funding.
We want to reduce as much as we can the critical time spent on applications that for various reasons are unlikely to succeed. Our focus will be on supporting projects with great ideas that are clear about the difference they will make to their direct beneficiaries and the communities they serve.
Also, and importantly, it is about how we can create a single funding platform in the longer term and an approach in England that is more agile, easy to navigate, and enables us to spot emerging needs earlier. My ambitions are that we will be able to support projects that can scale up and share the learning and impact.
I want to be able to shine a torch on great projects so that others can use that learning and guide the development of policy to improve things for the better. Our new structure will enable us to use the vast range of intelligence we gather more effectively to inform policy and practice, both within Big Lottery Fund and beyond.
Voluntary and community groups have received over 90% of our funding so far. It is often these groups that are the closest to communities and people most in need. But we know that it is only by working together with the VCS, public services and business that we can tackle the most entrenched social problems to achieve lasting and significant impact. All of this is underpinned by our philosophy of People Powered Change.
It’s the test we apply to our thinking and approach – people and communities are not a barrier or cause of need, they are the source and strength through which positive social change takes place. It’s quite simple really, and a useful discipline to apply and remember that it’s the folk we fund that bring Lottery funding to life. Our job is to make sure that process is credible, relevant, accountable and shares the learning and impact from the projects we have funded.