The Big Assist programme, delivered by the NCVO under contract to the BLF, was orginally scheduled to last for three years, but a one-year extension, beginning on 1 April this year, has been agreed. The contract was worth £6m in total over its original three years.
The forthcoming year of the project will include four strands: a further £1m investment in infrastructure organisations; evaluation of the programme’s impact so far; outreach and consultation with funders and other stakeholders to secure investment to support the longer-term sustainability of Big Assist; and engagement with infrastructure organisations to learn from and share their vision of the future.
Between Autumn 2012 and December 2014, Big Assist handed out a total of nearly £2.7m in vouchers to infrastructure organisations, each worth a maximum of £15,000, which can be spent with approved suppliers.
Justin Davis Smith, executive director of volunteering and development at the NCVO, said: "We must continue to invest in infrastructure organisations as they adapt to the changing landscape, reforming their services and moving on from simply being providers of services to become enablers and brokers. Many are developing new ideas and services but need an injection of funding and support in order to help them realise their ideas. Sharing knowledge and expertise as they undergo this process will enable the sector as a whole to become more sustainable and resilient."
Lyn Cole, deputy director of the BLF, said: "Over the past three years, Big Assist has helped more than 900 voluntary organisations to develop new ways of supporting the sector. This additional funding aims to give the people who have shown they can make change happen the opportunity to get expert support. We also aim to enable them to share their learning and use their networks and relationships to shape the future of a strong and resilient sector."
Last month, the Independent Commission on the Future of Local Infrastructure, an independent working group of 20 people, including Davis Smith and Cole, and commissioned by the local infrastructure body Navca, said in its report that local voluntary sector infrastructure must adapt to a changing landscape, with some already having done so.