News and Comment

The Big Local early years evaluation

Friday 20 February 2015

Local Trust sets out a grassroots vision for the future as it publishes the findings from an evaluation into the progress of Big Local

Community change champion Local Trust, which manages the Big Local programme, today published findings from its initial evaluation of the 150 communities across England taking part in the programme, which is aiming to make a lasting positive difference in those communities by inspiring genuine grassroots involvement and decision making. OPM was one of the partners who worked on this project, and we were delighted to take part as the programme is such an innovative and different way of working.

The evaluation involved analysis of programme data and reports, as well as primary research involving surveys, interviews, observation visits, case studies and workshops with residents in Big Local areas. The research team engaged with almost 400 stakeholders from 90 Big Local areas as well as staff involved in supporting the programme nationally and at the local level.

The programme has seen success through being truly resident-led in its approach: over 90% of active community members surveyed said they felt confident that they had based their plans on what residents had identified as most needed in their area and 88% are confident in their ability to make Big Local happen.

Some other key findings of the report are:

  • More than £9m has been allocated to communities across England in the first few years
  • More than 2,000 places have been taken at Big Local learning events by residents and workers
  • The first 83 areas to complete their first phase of activity have reached approximately 94,000 residents, who have been given opportunities to get involved in developing plans for their local area

Local Trust wants the initial evaluation and overall approach of the programme to influence other charities, policy makers, service providers and funders to consider a different approach to community improvement, giving power and control to residents to help deliver sustainable, tangible change for local areas.

Debbie Ladds, chief executive of Local Trust, said: “Organisations are often guilty of thinking they know best. We want to challenge this mindset and demonstrate how a resident-led approach can be much more effective and empowering. It is early days for Big Local, but the results of our initial evaluation are promising and we’re confident that giving control to residents is the way to achieve lasting positive change.”

Other positive impacts include growth in confidence among residents and those who support them and an increased sense of community with hubs becoming catalysts for entrepreneurial activity. Examples of projects include giving new life to disused buildings and thinking about new ways to use existing community resources, with many areas also using in-kind contributions to help make their money go further.

You can read the full report here, or a shorter summary here.