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16 May 2014

Friday 16 May

3 things the Big Lottery Fund could do to make a difference for young people

London Youth is a network of 400 community youth organisations serving 75,000 young Londoners. Our members deliver a range of opportunities that support and challenge young people to be healthy, socially responsible and have the skills and networks to navigate fulfilling careers and relationships

There are three key things that the Big Lottery Fund could do to maximise its position to make a difference to young people in our network. All are about leadership.

1. Learning not proving: too often in the evidence and impact debate I hear charities talking of proving their interventions rather than learning from and improving them. Too often good ideas become ‘property’. We need more genuine honesty about what works and what doesn’t and the sharing of effectiveness and failure across the sector and with government. This will only happen when funders and the sector create the space for mistakes to be shared; and when the purpose of charities becomes about the best way to achieve social change rather than survival of their own institution. With its influence in the sector and the large amount of data it aggregates, the Big Lottery Fund is able to lead this shift in emphasis and we can create a culture change in the sector away from one of reinvention and often over-claiming on impact and distinctiveness to a real dialogue on how we tackle social problems more permanently.

2. Long-term investment in outcomes: to enable the above, we need to strengthen our sector through ensuring longer term investment, giving us time to evaluate, learn from and improve our interventions without being forced to magically sustain or reinvent them. Too often charities tie themselves in knots trying to deliver what we think the funder wants through rushed short-term initiatives. By investing over a minimum of five-year periods, requiring outcomes rather than outputs, and being open to learning and flexing the exact delivery model along the way; the emphasis of senior leaders in charities can be far more long-term in focus.

3. Genuine community involvement: too often in the voluntary sector we are guilty of designing programmes that meet the interest of prospective funders or our own enthusiastic staff rather than genuinely co-producing and leading programmes with young people or other beneficiaries based on evidence and need. This isn’t completely our fault, often short-term funding cycles do not give us the time or resource to genuinely build the social capital and skill of the communities we work with to engage them meaningfully in design and evaluation. The Big Lottery Fund is in a unique position to value and resource this well; and set the bar for the rest of the charity and funding community.

The Big Lottery Fund, with its scale, reach and position is in a unique position to lead change in these three areas; and thus deliver genuine transformation for communities in the UK that creates a whole far more than the sum of its parts.

The original blog piece can be found here http://yourvoiceourvision.org.uk/3-things/