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More active collaboration is the ultimate goal

23 July 2015

Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive, Big Lottery Fund

Feedback from all of our stakeholders offers opportunities to improve our performance – but how well we do it presents a mixed picture. At the Big Lottery Fund we see it as fundamental to the success of our new Strategic Framework, People in the Lead. To succeed in future, we need to move from collecting feedback to listening, responding, sharing and developing with the people and communities we work with – in short, an open dialogue. girl on assault course

We have a huge variety of ways of collecting feedback, from regular satisfaction surveys to co-designing some of our largest funding interventions. It’s towards the latter end of that spectrum that we see some really exciting opportunities to improve our grantmaking. We’ve also used many approaches to involving beneficiaries in the development of our strategic investments in England (five programmes each targeting a complex social challenge, such as ageing or mental health).

To take an example, our Talent Match programme, which seeks to support young people into work, was co-designed with a group of 20 16-25 year olds. They spent two months consulting peers across the country to identify priorities, eventually focusing on youth unemployment and negative perceptions of young people. The group has since worked with us to design the programme and has been part of decision-making committees making major investments.

In Northern Ireland, our Empowering Young People programme also involves young people in the planning and delivery of £50 million of funding over six years – including participation in decision-making panels. All our grantees can budget up to 10 per cent of their grant for monitoring and evaluation and we require applicants to demonstrate they have engaged with their beneficiaries, through feedback, evaluation or other dialogue.

Some of our funding programmes, such as Our Place in Scotland, go further in the level of community engagement they need to evidence. Funding is ringfenced for neighbourhoods and support is provided to build skills and confidence to draw down the money for chosen projects. One of the three core outcomes is that ‘communities have more influence on decisions taken locally’. Priorities are set by residents as part of a shared vision statement.

Feedback isn’t just about funders gathering insight for their own strategies. Our new Online Community aims to encourage a much broader network of projects, organizations and people to share their stories and what they’ve learned. It’s been developed through user testing, and will continue to be shaped by the people using it. Our ultimate goal is to build on what we’ve learned from collecting feedback to go beyond it towards a more active collaboration. We see this as vital to improving not only our own grantmaking but also the practice of a whole host of other people and organizations.

This blog was part of a wider feature by Alliance magazine, published on 18 July 2015 (behind paywall).

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