Big Local is a major Big Lottery funded programme of resident-led regeneration running since 2012, managed by Local Trust https://localtrust.org.uk/big-local/ . In that time, 150 neighbourhoods around England have come on board, each allocated over £1m to invest in their communities over 10 years, using an asset-based community development approach. It enables local people to build on local talents and aspirations and identify and act on their own needs to make their areas better places to live, now and in the future. R4C has worked with the programme since it started.
One role has been as Community Representative, working as a mentor, critical friend and adviser, for over nine years, guiding several of the initial groups of residents in setting up their partnership, identifying local visions and developing successive community plans for lasting and sustainable change. Our support includes facilitation of events and meetings to review progress, addressing issues including strengthening inclusiveness, and resolving conflicts.
This is an exceptionally valuable programme of long term investment and support in lasting community change. The ethos aligns with R4C’s core belief, evidenced by our experience, in the effectiveness of a bottom-up approach to community development. We are working to connect local residents’ commitment and understanding of ‘how it works here’ with the expanding ambitions of the national programme to build capacity and skills, using all our experience of working at different levels, from grass roots to strategic.
One major aspect has been the building of partnership skills and confidence. Local Trust is committed to a supportive rather than directive structure. This approach gives space and time to local partnerships, many of whom have little or no previous experience of managing projects or making decisions on investing in their communities, to grow into their role. As Community Reps we have supported partnerships through conflicts and difficulties to becoming strong, welcoming, mutually supportive, open and honest in their relationships with each other and residents in their communities.