Analysis: New Personal Best campaign aims for 'mass participation'

The Society Network Foundation has been given £1m to build on the Olympic volunteering legacy

The public launch of Britain’s Personal Best, a campaign designed to reignite the spirit of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, was held last Tuesday at the head offices of Channel 4. It had already been launched to the charity sector on 3 July at the Institute of Fundraising convention in London.

The project is the brainchild of Steve Moore, the chief executive of the Big Society Network, and Sky Sports presenter Charlie Webster. The Big Society Network was launched in 2010 by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to "bring all the elements of the big society together".

Britain’s Personal Best is being delivered by the Big Society Network’s charitable arm, the Society Network Foundation, which in April received £997,960 from the Big Lottery Fund to establish BPB as an "annual mass participation event that promotes personal accomplishment, group interaction, volunteering and charitable fundraising".

The funding was awarded as part of the BLF’s £5.3m investment into four UK-wide initiatives aimed at maintaining the Olympic spirit. As part of the funding application process, a spokeswoman for the BLF says, it has agreed a 100-day progress plan with the Society Network Foundation to ensure that the project has clear timelines and milestones for reviewing specific activities.

Gareth Thomas, the shadow minister for civil society, describes the plan as an unusual step that might have been taken because of "extensive concerns" about the Big Society Network. He has called for the plan to be published.

"Twice before, the network has failed to deliver, despite huge sums of taxpayers’ money being invested – more than £3m," says Thomas. The BLF’s spokeswoman says the organisation is aware of the concerns raised about the Big Society Network.

Britain’s Personal Best has recruited Sukhvinder Kaur-Stubbs, former chief executive of the Barrow Cadbury Trust and chair of Volunteering England, as its chief operating officer. The project has 10 strategic partners, including the chief executives body Acevo, the local infrastructure body Navca, and the volunteering charity Community Service Volunteers. The NCVO has not joined. Jennifer Finn, director of member services for Acevo, says it has partnered with BPB because it sees an opportunity to draw additional resources and attention to its members’ organisations. "We’ll be delivering some regional events for our members in partnership with BPB to highlight the opportunities," she says.

According to BPB, its aim is to "become synonymous with motivating and inspiring individuals and communities". The focus of this year’s project will be the Britain’s Personal Best Weekend, from 4 to 6 October. BPB will invite people and organisations to achieve their own "personal best" in a challenge of their choice. Participants are encouraged to register on its website and record what they have achieved. A spokeswoman for the charity says the concept "is not a million miles from Comic Relief", although no media partners have been confirmed for the weekend so far.

Charities, she says, can encourage people to take part and fundraise, or they can use the project to promote their own challenges. The disability learning charity Mencap recently announced that it is aligning its fundraising Spellathon project with BPB. After 2013, BPB has aspirations for future annual events and a strategy for future funding is in place, the spokeswoman says.

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