BIG's People Powered Change may catalyse a more bottom-up big society

With the launch this week of People Powered Change, the Big Lottery sets out its plans for a distinctive niche in the Big Society agenda, supporting local bottom-up community projects.
My interest in Friday’s launch in Salford has so far centred on funding for the York Square Mile digital platform. This aims at developing “8000 local democracies” for community-based action through a mix of advice, signposts to funding, local web sites and benefits for anyone who joins the mutual. Earlier stories here and here on this blog, with discussion over on Our Society. On balance, so far I’m in favour.
However, the £5 million-plus Big Lottery package is much broader, involving collaboration with Unltd on a BIG Venture Challenge, supporting social entrepreneurs; NESTA on its Neighbourhood Challenge programme; and the Young Foundation. One of the Foundation’s initiatives is to launch the Citizens University, with NESTA, providing training for local social action.
(I should say that I don’t have any privileged access to Big Lottery briefing in advance of the event – details of the package are available online in Big Lottery England committee minutes for last November. Credit due for transparency).
The People Powered Change site offers a question and answer page that provides some insights into the policy behind the initiative:

What is People Powered Change?
BIG Lottery Fund is refreshing its England wide portfolio of programmes around the concept of People Powered Change. Using People Powered Change BIG will support people to unlock and inspire community action across the nation.
People are already the agents of their own change. We have countless examples where people have responded to the problems that they face with the strength and capability to make a big difference to their lives. We want to support people fulfil that potential.

Is People Powered Change a new programme that I can apply to?
No it’s not a new programme. People Powered Change is the over arching banner under which all BIG’s investments in England will sit. Any new programmes developed during 2011 and beyond will meet the aims set out under People Powered Change.

Why the new approach?
People Powered Change isn’t a new approach, BIG has been doing this for years. We believe that every community facing problems contains within it people and groups who step forward as the solution. BIG will use its resources, passion, and belief in communities to unlock and inspire community action across the nation.
Our goal is to ensure that through our investments people and communities most in need can make the most of opportunities that arise during this critical time.

If you have been doing People Powered Change for years why are you launching it as something new in Salford later this month?
On 25 March BIG will be announcing the first of its People Powered Change investments that all aim to work with and support communities to take charge and make a difference for themselves, their neighbourhoods and their communities.
We also want people to share and celebrate their work, and learn from others that are doing it for themselves.

How can I get involved in People Powered Change activities?

You probably are already! Countless people are already engaged in solving problems that they and the people in their communities face. The answers are already out there. What BIG wants to do is help you find the best solution to your problem and then support you to maximise the skills and resources at your disposal to enable you to act.

If I have a good idea where can I get money?
At the moment the two main programmes that provide funding are Reaching Communities and Awards for All. Further details about both of these programmes can be found on the Big Lottery Fund website. We hope to announce further funding opportunities during the coming year so watch this space!

As the q and a indicates, the approach isn’t new … although Big Lottery perhaps hasn’t received the attention it might wish for during all the more recent Big Society coverage. There was a discussion about responding to Big Society in the October committee.

Big Lottery has a lot of direct and indirect influence on support for local social action, particularly now so much other funding is being cut. For example, the Big Local Trust will be spending £200 million in up to 150 urban and rural neighbourhoods that previously have not received much support.

From the People Powered Change information so far available, it looks as if Big Lottery is using its funds and influence to bring together integrated packages that could help catalyse more of the local action so far under-recognised by many Big Society advocates. We’ve been doing it for years … let’s do more.

Hopefully Big Lottery is the emerging champion for our society … good society … or what You want to develop, bottom up.

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