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Realising Ambition: lessons in programme management support

22 April 2014

Catch22 is the lead consortium partner for Realising Ambition, a UK-wide £25m five year programme funded by the Big Lottery Fund, which invests in projects that help young people to fulfil their potential and avoid pathways into offending.

Ruth Marriot

Ruth Marriot


As the deadline for applying to be UK portfolio lead for Our Environment Our Future approaches, Ruth Marriott, Realising Ambition Programme Manager at Catch22, shares her top lessons on providing programme management support to projects.

  1. Spend time building relationships. This is the key to everything else, whether it is with your fellow consortium partners or the projects delivering interventions across the UK. This means you need to invest in building them at the start of the programme. Nothing can beat face-to-face contact. It shows you have the willingness to travel and understand each project’s context, builds relationships quickly and means that when difficulties arise projects are more willing to come and talk to you about them.
  2. Balance delivery with learning. As the Programme Managers, you need to ensure a balanced contract culture. One where organisations are supported to reach agreed delivery targets whilst honouring the spirit of the programme (in this case building an evidence base of what works and what can be replicated across the UK).
  3. Analyse local area knowledge. Some partners might have an unrealistic estimation of demand; meaning there may be a shortfall in meeting planned delivery numbers in the first year. Sometimes projects struggle to engage the eligible beneficiaries because there is insufficient data about the level of need or the distribution of need in target areas.
  4. Allow sufficient set up time. It is important to build in sufficient time when replicating in a new area. This includes gaining a greater understanding of the area, particularly where local authorities are the deliverers and funding cuts locally may impact their capacity to deliver. In the worst case scenario, projects may have to withdraw due to an inability to deliver or renegotiate new replication areas. You need to be prepared for this.
  5. Understand the key issues in delivering the services. You, as the lead organisation, may be the only partner in the consortium that has direct experience of delivering services to the target cohort – in this case children and young people. This gives you a unique understanding of what the day to day issues are, how they can affect delivery, how those issues can be resolved, and means you can offer support to meet the challenges. It also gives that level of credibility that your organisation ‘have been there and done it’. As a social business delivering public services, we understand the sector and its current issues well. This actively compliments the expertise and experience of the consortium, i.e. organisation health (Young Foundation), data collection (Substance) and model fidelity and programme evaluation (Social Research Unit).

Further information on applying to be the UK portfolio lead on Our Environment Our Future, the £30m Big Lottery Fund programme which is set to support young people to shape their local environment and secure careers in the green economy, can be found here.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 22 April 2014 9:16 am

    Good points – i would also add think about how you will monitor and evaluation the programme before you start work and develop an Exit Strategy, both for the host organisation and for the beneficiaries – essential preparation work for when the funding ceases.

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