Economic Strategy and Impact on Communities

There is an increasing realisation that economic strategies need to impact on the residents of an area and in the past they were mainly focused on opportunities for business. As we work through how this can happen more effectively we have been examining the impacts of previous policy interventions.

What is Big Local and who is involved?

Big Local is a 10-15 year funding project, encouraging local communities to take control of their own development projects. To commence, each of the 150 participating communities were funded with £1 million with the aim to engage in local development opportunities. These areas were identified as suffering from low levels of civic activity, and Big Local aimed to increase community involvement where possible.

Unlike most funded projects, Big Local stands as unique as its projects are entirely led by the residents in the area, with the intention of the developments targeting the areas which the local residents believe required improvement. The funds were originally provided by the Big Lottery Fund to support this programme and it is the largest single-purpose, lottery-funded endowment ever made, and the biggest-ever investment by a non-state funder in place-based, resident-led change.

Big Local stresses the importance of community engagement in the development process, and its reliance solely on local residents encourages involvement in community projects, as well as providing training and generating learning throughout the process.

What has Big Local done so far?

Initially, £1 million doesn’t strike as a transformational amount, and would be assumed to not go very far when it comes to regional development but at a local level it can make a difference, but the principles to be learned are important. The programme is now halfway through and some success stories are coming into view.

Some community lead projects include new clubs and community centres, emphasising the longer lasting effects of involvement in the development process, as most projects funded by Big Local aim to provide a space for community engagement. The projects provide a social environment for residents to be involved in both during the development process, but also after the project has been completed.

As well as successful local development outcomes, the Big Local programme has also seen incredible growth in skills of participating communities, including budgeting, planning, and social/teamworking skills. These skills are transferable into the lives of residents, stimulating future involvement in other projects, as well as social and economic benefits, increasing employability in certain areas.

What problems have been identified at the halfway milestone?

Whilst the programme is deemed to be an overall success so far, some issues have been highlighted to be corrected during the second half of the project.

The inequality in progress between some participating communities has been noted. Some communities have delivered quick success, whereas others have been slower in decision making, development and outcomes. This has been mostly diagnosed as a confidence issue, whereby some residents are hesitant to spend the sum of money hastily. To correct this, some communities are encouraged to use local representatives from Big Local, who visit the area one or two times a month and provide advice and support where necessary.

What features of Big Local can be applied to other development projects?

The key element of Big Local which stands out as hugely beneficial in the development process is the emphasis on community involvement. Because of this, the projects directly target what the residents view as essential, instead of what developers, who are usually not from the area, believe is necessary. This also encourages communities coming together socially, both during the process and after the outcome, as most projects do provide social and community spaces.

Also, the spread of the investment over 150 communities provides lots of areas with small levels of funding, instead of targeting one area with large levels of funding. Perhaps this allows for small differences to be made more frequently, promoting growth in more than just one area.

Overall, the Big Local has been a successful programme so far, and is set to continue making differences in communities. It is essential to therefore consider that not all developments require extensive funding and bureaucracy, and success stories can in fact come from small investments into community lead projects.

In conclusion

It is this organic, self-starting and ground-up activity that we are extremely interested in exploring further and it is a topic that we will be returning to in the coming weeks.

Mickledore is involved in undertaking work in economic strategy; sectors and investment; business cases; and evaluation. We can be reached at or on 01925 837679 / 07747 085400.

If you would like to find out more about best practice in developing or finessing an economic strategy, please contact us.

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