Who controls the Third Sector? The usual answer is “follow the money”. Many organisations receiving grants experience “mission creep”. They find they follow the agenda of their funding body and struggle to keep their original vision in focus.
All sources of income imply some sort of accountability. The Charity funded through donations must use its income for the purposes of the charity; for the purpose it was given.
Even where a social enterprise that raises funds through trade, it must make sure it offers what its customers want. If not they will not buy and the enterprise will fail.
The goal is not independence. It isn’t possible. The goal is how to be clear about your original vision and realistic about what can be achieved with available resources .
There is a long-term need in the UK to drag community development out of the control of local and national government. I have had a ring-side seat over the years, watching politicians drain the life out of community development. Community development needs to find its own resources and build networks independent from political control through funding.
We must focus on how we build local economies and not funding for projects or workers. If local economies pool resources, they might purchase the developmental support they need.
So far there is one case study under this heading. Burngreave New Deal for Communities received £50 million of public money over 10 years. A few years after the end of the programme, Burngreave is more disadvantaged compared with the rest of the city of Sheffield.
Some might think it is Burngreave’s fault. I think it is the model of government funding that is at fault. It would be interesting to compare notes with other New Deal areas. Burngreave was told it was third best in the country. If so, the model would seem to be at fault.
- Burngreave New Deal for Communities: A Case Study introduces the New Deal programme.
- Are Grants Bad News for Community Projects? – in which I offer seven reasons why grant funding can be a bad idea.
I’ve based the next 6 posts on the local evaluation and so I quote the paragraph from the evaluation that inspires each post:
- “there is a need for community based partnerships to establish processes and mechanisms for collaboration before embarking on delivery; a year zero in which BNDfC has been able to establish a robust partnership might have helped overcome some of the difficulties experienced at the outset of the programme”
- “there is a need to establish from the outset the role, remit and boundaries of the accountable body, and expectations of the contribution of the community and partner agencies”
- “sound project management is vital in ensuring that objectives are met: this means not only ensuring financial probity but also that business planning is based on solid and legally binding contractual agreements; BNDfC was optimistic in its assumptions around support from government and statutory agencies which was not subsequently forthcoming and this resulted, ultimately, in the early end of the programme”
- “in common with other NDC partnerships BNDfC achieved more in the way of observable change in place related outcomes – environment, crime and community. This is perhaps to be expected as interventions in these outcomes are likely to effect larger numbers of people than, say, projects which target those with specific health problems or skills needs. Nevertheless, evidence from BNDfC does suggest that investment in improving the physical fabric of communities, alongside projects which enhance community safety and provide diversion and engagement for young people can contribute significantly to reductions in crime, and to improvements in area satisfaction”
- “it is important to recognise that community engagement, and community development, are not the same, although community development occurs through a range of channels and does not need necessarily to entail the development of single organisation. However, demise of the BNDfC partnership has left a significant gap in the community infrastructure in Burngreave and there is a strong case for the development of community based partnership to take forward the regeneration of the area”
- “the contribution of agencies was vital to the change observed in the NDC area over the lifetime of the programme. However, changes in leadership, funding and priorities have meant that interventions have not been maintained in the longer term. Although reductions in public spending have impacted on all statutory agencies it is important that a strategic overview is maintained to ensure that the benefits associated with the NDC programme are not lost, and that problems which prompted the allocation of NDC resources to Burngreave in the first place do not re-emerge in future.”
Finally two posts summarise my evaluation:
- Why Do Partnerships Fail? – takes a closer look at the way too optimistic philosophy underlying the New Deal programme. The fault is not with any particular group, including the community groups or the local authority, but with the idea of imposing this grant regime on a neighbourhood.
- Alternatives to Grants weighs up grants against using loans or equity arrangements instead. All three should be based upon projects that are trading and so contributing to the local economy.
Equity arrangements are particularly important because they encourage mutual arrangements between organisations and people in the local economy.