Big Lottery Fund outlines new approach to infrastructure

England director Dharmendra Kanani says £20m Building Capabilities programme will focus on front-line organisations

England director Dharmendra Kanani
England director Dharmendra Kanani

The Big Lottery Fund has proposed that its new £20m infrastructure programme should adopt a new approach to capacitybuilding that allows front-line charities to decide what support they need.

The BLF has published a discussion paper about the programme, which is called Building Capabilities for Impact and Legacy. Interested parties have until 15 March to submit comments. A revised paper will then be drawn up.

The paper says the programme, first announced in July, will not be a traditional grants programme: "It is not sustainable in the present situation to use limited lottery investment specifically to maintain the current structure of voluntary sector infrastructure bodies at national, regional or local level," it says.

It says there is no single solution to the diverse needs of front-line organisations and this programme should "test different approaches" that enable front-line organisations "to get the support they need".

Bill Freeman, director of development at the local infrastructure organisation Navca, said the paper appeared to signal a shift in the BLF's approach to capacity-building towards a more demand-led system.

He said he welcomed this, but added: "The downside is that infrastructure providers do other things as well, such as represent the sector."

Organisations interested in tendering to administer the first phase of the programme have until 9 January to complete pre-qualifying questionnaires.

Five organisations will be shortlisted and a chosen applicant is expected to be named in March. The successful bidder will manage the first £6m from the programme over three years. The sum could be extended by £4m over another two years, subject to evaluation.

Dharmendra Kanani, England director for the BLF, said: "The investment aims to develop the capabilities of local and specialist support providers so they can offer higher quality support to front-line voluntary and community organisations and social enterprises to increase their effectiveness as well as respond to changing needs and a changing funding environment."

Big Fund, the BLF’s non-lottery arm, is administering the Office for Civil Society’s £30m Transforming Local Infrastructure initiative.

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