Tag Archives: ppchange

BIG promotes a positive approach to community building

The Big Lottery Fund is the largest single funder of the community and voluntary sector (more than £1.6 billion since 2004), providing over 9000 small grants last year through Awards for All alone. As it says in its strategic framework, it is also committed to being an intelligent funder not just a distributor of cash.

It is therefore significant that BIG is putting a lot of emphasis through its People Powered Change programme on what’s known as Asset Based Community Development. Put simply, this means looking for the skills, wisdom, creativity and enthusiasm of people in local communities rather than just starting with the problems, packaging up projects to meet the needs, and saying “give us the money”.

If Government were promoting the approach you might be suspicious that it’s all part of deficit-reduction and cuts … but coming from  BIG it is perhaps more credible, not least since they have a lot of successfully-funded projects to point to. In hard times we do have to do more with what we have – but that can be a good thing anyway.

Yesterday BIG hosted an event in London where we heard from international proponents of ABCD –  Jim Diers and Cormac Russell – and also from Anne-Marie Yiannis of Peckham Settlement. Jim writes here on the ppchange site, and Cormac has produced an excellent guide (download pdf) to the 12 domains of activity where people can change their lives and bring about solutions to their problems.

After the event I talked to Jim and Cormac – asking Jim how things had changed since we last met up just before the launch of the Big Society manifesto. You can see that 2010 interview here. Earlier in the event I interviewed Cormac while we were playing a game – actually a serious exercise devised by Tessy Britton and Cormac.

Over the past few months Tessy has taken the idea of ABCD on the road through Travelling pantry workshops, and made the ideas engaging and understandable through the stories in Hand Made Books. Do take a look here.

For yesterday’s exercise we cleared away the coffee cups on our tables and opened up some beautifully designed packs of cards that enabled us to lay out the 12 domains (like health and wellbeing, safety and security, the environment) down one side, and then across the top choices about things only we could do on our own, things only government could do, and things that needed citizen-government collaboration. We then had to sort lots of possible activities onto the grid.

The government-only areas were far more sparcely-filled.

You can read more about Cormac and Jim’s organisation Nurture Development UK here, and also join a European online community about ABCD here.

I believe that the cards exercise will be available for DIY use, and I’ll see if I can find out more about that and report back. I like the way that the exercise puts a framework for thinking about strengths-based community development on the table and provides some conversation starters.

You can see from blog posts here that Tessy’s repertoire of workshop props extends to Lego and beyond, so that talking moves toward creating together.

One thought that occurred to me yesterday: the next creative step for Big Lottery might be to think about ABCD at national level. We have an enormous wealth of creative talent among different organisations and individuals working with communities, but often we end up being protective of our skills and ideas in order to pitch yet another funding bid or tender at funding agencies. Groups outside London can feel disadvantaged in this process, and it is enormously frustrating and wasteful.

BIG is unusually well-placed to act as convenor and encourager of a more open approach – helping us figure out where we have to compete, where we might collaborate with each others, and how we might work more productively with agencies. That would be a good game.

Update: More videos from Guardian Voluntary Sector Network

Media Trust explains how local news hubs will work

The Big Lottery grant of £1.89 million to enable the Media Trust to develop a network of news hubs, supporting citizen journalism throughout the UK, caused a stir recently because it was awarded without competition, organisations with a track record outside London felt excluded … and in the age of localism should we have central systems or something more bespoke? Read the backstory herethe original announcement, and the latest response from BIG’s CEO Peter Wanless.

Fortunately a more positive story emerged when I was able to talk to Media Trust CEO Caroline Diehl, chairing sessions at the Third Sector Social Media Conference, and the Trust’s director of marketing and communication services Gavin Sheppard.

In the interview Gavin explains that their proposal was based on research commissioned from the Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre, led by Professor Natalie Fenton, and published last year.  That argued for the need to support quality local reporting at a time when local papers where disappearing, and for better aggregation through news hubs of the emerging work of  citizen journalists and community reporters. read more »

Open innovation reporters and a Social App store are needed to complement local news hubs

In my last post, on Big Lottery’s investment of some £10 million in five projects to support the People Powered Change programme, I said I would come up with ideas on how to fill what seems to me to be some of the gaps around helping community groups and citizens share experience and get the know-how they need.

On reflection that’s rather presumptuous – so my best idea is a pretty obvious one … look at the assets and skills we have already,  and open the process up to those are already bubbling with suggestions, and create some innovative solutions from there. We might build a Social App Store.

Here’s the backstory: Big Lottery have made grants to the Young Foundation, Unltd’s Big Venture Challenge, NESTA’s Neighbourhood Challenge, and Your Square Mile, announced in March. None of these was competitive. Then last week BIG announced a further non competitive grant, this time to the Media Trust for a network of local community news hubs. read more »

How helpful is journalism for People Powered Change? Further thoughts.

What sort of community media and support for knowledge sharing, learning and innovation do we need – both locally and nationally – when the big society policy agenda expects so much more of citizen-led action?

The significance of this issue - which I touched on rather theoretically here – is now given more practical import by the Big Lottery fundingfor the Media Trust’s ambitious £1.89 million programme of news hubs for local communities, which I reported here and here. read more »

Big Lottery, Media Trust and People Powered Change. Positively.

Update: Caroline Diehl, chief executive of the Media Trust, has provided more detail about their approach in a comment to my earlier post.

The rise of community and citizen reporting and journalism and the critical need in communities for vibrant local media, as revealed by the Goldsmiths Leverhulme research we commissioned last year, is the reason that we feel a UK-wide project to connect, resource and amplify this grass roots activity is needed. It’s also in response to the increasing demand for Media Trust support from local organisations across the UK, which this will help meet.

The news hubs project is about finding and supporting existing activity as much as it is about inspiring new innovation to take place. Our role will be to work with local news platforms – be they hyper-local websites, blogs and twitter feeds or church newsletters, local parish papers or parent-teacher news – to help them meet their own individual aspirations to improve the quality and reach of their journalism. It’s absolutely about local to local news but it’s also about celebrating what’s happening in our communities across the UK and bringing those stories to the widest possible audience – yes on TV but also online and in print.

It’s a similar approach to our Community Voices project, which worked with many local community digital media projects around England to get projects off the ground or to add value to their existing activity. For example, we worked with Vintage Radio in Birkenhead to develop community radio for older people by older people, Meadow Well Residents’ Association on an estate in North Shields to challenge stereotypes with digital photography and on a film project with Club Soda in Croydon to address the isolation that people with learning difficulties experience, amongst many others.

Our experience through our Press Association partnership ‘Community Newswire’ is that there is an appetite for local news stories in the mainstream media, as much as there is an appetite locally to project relevant news from further afield. We hope this project will go some way to make those connections whenever and wherever the local community or mainstream media feel appropriate.

This is about adding infrastructure that local people can use in whatever way suits them and hopefully to play a part in improving the quality and reach of citizen and community journalism that will mean we all have our voices heard and can all create positive change in our own lives and the lives of those around us. We’ll be working with local organisations across the UK. If you want to be involved or kept up to date – let us know.

I wrote what follows before seeing the comment, but I think the main points are valid, and hope the approach Caroline outlines offers some scope for collaboration. What do you think? read more »

Big Lottery funds £1.89 million of citizen journalism. Is that what communities most need?

I can well understand why Gary Copitch is very cross about the Big Lottery grant of £1.89 million to the Media Trust for its three year project “to establish connected news hubs around the UK to support citizen journalism and to help communities and charities get their voices heard.” But it is complicated.

At one level it seems to about be about a big organisation getting funds for work smaller groups have been pioneering for years … and those with London connections picking up opportunities without competition. However, I think it is also about the difficulty funders may face in trying to turn bottom-up innovation into something that scales-up across the country.

Beyond that it is also about what sort of communications is community-friendly, and whether we can hope professional journalists will develop it.

Gary and People’s Voice Media have run an excellent community reporter training programme for some years, and while based in Manchester they work across the UK. They didn’t get a chance to bid. Nor – so far as I can gather – did others who have done so much to promote local blogging, online communities and use of social media to benefit neighbourhoods, towns and villages. The grant was awarded without publicity or competition.

There’s now some 15 years of hard-won experience in the field, and it’s not something that Media Trust have really engaged with in the past, as far as I can see. read more »

People Powered Change needs ppchange communications

The launch of Big Lottery’s People Powered Change, which I wrote about earlier and have just attended, generated the usual mixed reaction online and in the room from romantics, boosters and critics.

On the romantics and boosters side we had huge enthusiasm for a BIG vision of bottom up community action catalysed by £5.76 million of funding, including £2.2 million support for 25 social entrepreneurs though Unltd,  £830,000 for the Your Square Mile online system for local communities, and £820,000 for the Young Foundation. NESTA Neighbourhood Challenge gets £2 million. Links below to details.

From the critics we had “nothing new here, people have been doing it for years”, ” real community activists won’t use the technology” and “it’s too top-down, with too little grass-roots experience”, plus “give money to local projects not national programmes”.

We may not know for some years who is right, but at this stage it is possible to see where the challenges lie, and where early action could increase the chances of success. read more »