Report urges funders to think in the long term

A study by the think tank NPC says only in this way can successful 'place-based' funding initiatives be successful

The NPC report
The NPC report

Funders need to think in the long term and understand the context in which they are working if they are to achieve successful place-based funding initiatives, according to the think tank NPC.

In a report published yesterday, A Framework for Place-Based Funding, NPC sets out what it calls the "six pillars of place-based funding", which it says are the common characteristics of effective place-based funding approaches.

The report defines place-based funding as an approach that focuses on creating holistic approaches to solving a set of interconnected issues that might exist in a neighbourhood, rather than focusing on a single policy area or individual.

The first two pillars or necessary elements for this approach to be successful, the report says, are long-term thinking and understanding the local context.

To achieve this, it says, longer-term funding must be offered to allow for capacity-building, along with opportunities for repeat grants and additional support when funding ends.

It also advises funders to look before they leap, saying they should "build connections and understand the dynamics of an area, before choosing to begin a programme of work there", and invest in community coordinators with lived experience who can help understand what would and would not work.

It also recommends having a physical presence in the area and commissioning research on those who live in the area.

The next two pillars the report recommends are seeking expertise, and learning and adapting as the work goes along.

To do this, it says, funders should value specialist knowledge, including lived and learned experience, and work with existing assets in the community, such as local knowledge, relationships and spaces.

"Let the community dictate the direction of travel," the report says. "’Follow the 'energy' of a place rather than going in with a pre-formed idea of ‘problems’ and ways to solve them. Start with questions, rather than answers. Consider enabling community champions to co-design and lead the strategy and delivery of solutions."

The final two pillars, the report says, could be the hardest to achieve: recognising connections and collaborating with others.

Funders should recognise the complexity of issues in an area, it says, which can have multiple causes, and be prepared to accept that dealing with complex problems might mean helping fewer people.

But the report adds that funders must realise that tackling root causes at a systems level, such as institutional behaviours, has the potential to affect huge numbers of people in the long term.

And it says funders must also recognise that solutions should be connected.

"Consider how your funding fits with wider efforts in a place and how multiple partners can work together to address different parts of the system," the report says.

"Support people (their skills and capacity and the networks they rely on) as well as the place (the social and physical infrastructure) in which they live for the greatest impact."

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