Community Reporter’s contribute to Big Lottery consultation

Over 120 stories were collected by reporters which contributed to the Your voice / Our vision consultation held by the Big Lottery. These stories supported the development of the new strategic framework. Thanks to the reporters for their contribution. You can see the film here.

Is it possible to buy community engagement?

On friday  the Your Square Mile summit in Birmingham took place. It’s hard not to think that it’s just another example of funder money being thrown at yet another pointless digital platform. I’ve seen enough grand scheme ICT funding rounds over the last six years to know that projects like this are usually a damp squib.

The Your Square Mile project – as part of Big Lottery’s People Powered Change funding stream – aims to “provide people with access to local information and resources, including information about local groups, opportunities and local support services”, starting out with 16 pilot projects before a UK wide roll out.

The £830,000 that’s gone in to YSM from Big Lottery (not including the money from four other funders) could, for example, train over 1,500 community reporters in the tools and techniques for telling their stories and sharing them online (or over 800 people in the skills to be able to train others). They could then use the Community Reporter website to distribute their content. Or perhaps support the evaluation and roll out of a project like the Social Media Surgeries where people would then use free, pre-existing tools to create their sites.

(A little bit about community reporters if they’re new to you….)

It is reassuring to see that people like David Wilcox are involved in the project, a man who would never want to reinvent the wheel and who you can trust to tap in to existing projects that are working well.

I don’t want to sound too dismissive, I’m more than happy to be proved wrong, I mean, what could be better than more and more connected and vocal communities. I look forward to keeping up with the progress of the project as the platform is publicly unveiled and the pilot projects are evaluated.

Lottery Becomes more transparent – Social Media at its best

I am really pleased to tell everyone that Third Sector News announced today  that the Big Lottery Fund will explain how and why it solicits bids for money. Chief Executive Peter Wanless says “The BLF will publish a summary on its website of the process”.

This is a great success for myself and Richard Caulfield  from VSNW  who  initiated this as a response to some significant bids being awarded . It’s nice to see a large organisation like the Big  Lottery listen to the criticism and then respond.  Of course the discussion is still on fairness so I look forward to seeing the policy. Hope it takes note of the comment from Jamie Ward-Smith who said

“I think fairer approach is the one that Cabinet Office is about to adopt with its infrastructure fund, ie that of inviting people to submit ideas within set parameters with funding going to those that are most convincing and, hopefully, able to deliver.”

This issue was completely carried out on Twitter and Blogs which stated the ball rolling but it clearly hit a chord and thanks to Third Sector News for picking up on it and also Dave Wilcock for promoting the issue.  Twitter and Blogging is certainly a way forward for organisations to comment and raise issue with organisations.

The issue was never about the large  award to the Media Trust but about the Big Lottery transparency. However, I do hope that the Media Trust takes note and develops a partnership with other organisations in order to achieve there objectives.   Lets wait and see.

Big Society or the Cocktail Party Lottery? No bidding round from the Lottery they decide

 It looks like there has been a significant change in the way the Lottery gives out its money. In the past there were programmes and you applied for one.  Now it looks like it is all about who you know.  The Media Trust  have just won a  £1.89 million bid and the Square Mile has recently received  £850k . The Lottery has announced this under its People Powered Change Programme . But if you look at the programme, you can only apply for  up to £500k from the Reaching Communities Awards  and £10k for the Awards For All.  So how do these organisations manage to secure £1.89 million and £850k respectively? Is it secret meetings with the  Lottery? Going to the right cocktail parties?  Is this the future of the Big Society: not about what you do, but about who you know?
People Powered Change says they are keen to support  projects that:
  • help talented people make their ideas a reality
  • allow people to develop and use their skills more
  • enable people and groups to work together better
Maybe they should add, ‘Have to be based in London and attend the right events’.  Fairness does not seem to matter any more and this is a real shame.
In the past, the Lottery was always a good funder willing to take some risks, but this is one innovation too far: it lacks transparency, lacks integrity and leaves many  bewildered. We now seem to live in a world of deals behind closed doors where only the connected will prosper. Is this the true Big Society? Let the Chief Executive of the Lottery know what you think about these issues. You can get him on his Twitter account @PeterWanless
Also see Richard Caulfield blog Chief Exec Voluntary Sector North West and Dave  Wilcock blog on Social Reporter