Today saw the announcement of the next wave of 50 Big Local areas in England, along with a celebratory event with the Big Lottery Fund and the local project which is already underway in South Bermondsey, London.
Big Local is arguably the best approach ever to a national community development programme because it empowers local people, in a genuine and uncomplicated way, to take decisions about their locality and to exploit opportunities. It’s precisely the kind of programme that my former boss at CDF, Alison West, campaigned for passionately, so in some ways I see it as a testimony to her and to sound community development arguments.
It’s also striking that digital media are an integral part of the mix for the Big Lottery Fund (who came up with the scheme), the Local Trust (who are managing it), and some of the local trusts themselves at an early stage.
At the celebration event tonight it was a treat to hear some of the stories from three of the localities, and to witness the commonsense readiness to exploit the internet and social media as part of their activities.
It was also an inspiration to feel the enthusiasm and sense of involvement and momentum in the stories that were shared.
Our work with three of the pioneer Big Localities continues. Margaret Pritchard, a resident in one of these areas, Lumbertubs in Northampton, has prepared a short case study for the Local Trust website. She notes:
‘We felt that a great way to bring people together would be a virtual community space, as a digital platform would ensure the space is open and long lasting. Coincidentally, we were asked at this time to participate in an online pilot project with the consultancy Networked Neighbourhoods. It was just what we were looking for.’
We look forward to sharing and learning more lessons with some of the new projects as they get up to speed.
The list of new areas in receipt of funding is here.