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Big Local

The Big Local programme is an opportunity for residents in 150 areas around England to use at least £1m each to make a massive and lasting difference to their communities. Big Local brings together local talent, ambitions, skills and energy from individuals, groups and organisations who want to make their area an even better place to live.

Big Local is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and managed by Local Trust who work nationally with a range of partners to deliver Big Local, building on the skills and experiences of others to provide expert advice and support for residents.

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IVAR has been the Research and Learning Partner to Local Trust and the Big Local programme for the last five years.


The journey started in 2011 when the (then) Community Development Foundation led a successful consortium chosen by the Big Lottery Fund to set up and manage a new independent charitable organisation – Local Trust, which was endowed with £200m of BIG lottery funding. Other members of the consortium were CCLA, Capacity Global, National Association for Neighbourhood Management, Renaisi, UnLtd and IVAR.


A lot has changed since 2011. Local Trust was created as a new organisation to manage and develop the Big Local programme which is now up and running in 150 areas across England.


In the first couple of years, our work was mainly about helping Local Trust with its strategic thinking. Our reports and inputs have been used widely by Local Trust and its senior team to help them describe, promote and enthuse others about the most important features of the programme.



IVAR appointed as the Big Local Research and Learning Partner



IVAR helped Local Trust to think about how they would support collaborative working and the kind of working relationships they wanted to develop with consortium members



‘What’s new and different’ set out the positives and pitfalls of similar programmes in the past



IVAR: Big Local Annual Learning Review



‘Building on assets’ and ‘Funding for resident controI’ provided an evidence base for the core principles of the Big Local programme.



IVAR reappointed as one of Local Trust’s research providers


It was the first time the funding approach had been articulated on paper and helped people understand the approach we are taking. It was the product of IVAR being really immersed in the organisation – getting in the DNA.”

Jayne Humm

Research report

Front cover image for Whats new and different

Research reports:

Big Local: What’s new and different?

Leila Baker, Charlotte Hennessy, Marilyn Taylor


From the moment Big Local was announced there
was enthusiasm that this programme would be ‘new & different’ from those that had gone before.

Big Local 1 - whats new and different


Big Local: What’s new and different?

A consortium of passionate and experienced individuals pooled their knowledge and experience of what had worked and failed in the past and this was included the 2010 bid.

In 2012, IVAR challenged Local Trust to take a systematic look at lessons from past community development programmes to see how Big Local was measuring up. Our report found that Big Local was indeed proving to be ‘new and different’ and was building on the past. It also helped identify even more ways Local Trust could build on past lessons.

Residents in control - we identified five important lessons from the past.

Big Local 1 - whats new and different


Residents in control

5 important lessons from the past

  • Pace: Building trust and getting started take time. Local Trust gave the Big Local programme a ‘year zero’ to build trust and get organised. This was a recommendation from the evaluation of the New Deal for Communities
  • Assets not deficits: Big Local is about unlocking the potential that already exists in communities
  • Few strings attached: Unlike government programmes, Big Local can be more hands off about what residents do
Big Local 1 - whats new and different


Residents in control

5 important lessons from the past

  • Light touch: Support is there for residents but it’s not imposed. Local Trust engages Big Local reps who are there to enable, to mentor, to be on the end of the phone. This builds on the lessons from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Neighbourhood Programme

  • Peer support: Big Local has a year round programme of events where residents can meet and share stories and learn together

Research report

Front cover image for building on assets

Research reports:

Building on assets

Leila Baker, Charlotte Hennessy, Marilyn Taylor

Four years into the Big Local programme, Local Trust wanted to be able to describe clearly its approach to community development. This report considers the theory, and then at what asset based community development looks like in Big Local areas.

Research report

Big Local 2


Funding for resident control

During December 2014 IVAR carried out research on behalf of Local Trust to identify the distinctive features of their funding model and the journey so far in developing that funding approach.

  • Resident control
  • Time and pace
  • Willing to take risks
  • Light touch and flexible
  • Sustainability through making investments and maximising assets
Big Local 2


Resident control

This is the core principle of Local Trust's funding model, from which four key features flow. The focus is on investing in strengths and assets that exist locally, rather than the deficit model (needs-based funding) that has characterised many community programmes in the past. The Big Local programme aims to fit around, and not impose external priorities on, the resident volunteers who are at the heart of the programme.

Big Local 2


Time & pace

Big Local areas have at least ten years to spend their funds. The areas are not bound by annual spending targets – they can decide when, as well as where, to spend. The time-frame reflects how long it can take to develop a Big Local Partnership and build strong relationships between Local Trust and the Big Local areas.

Big Local 2


Willing to take risks

Local Trust has a positive attitude to risk and accepts that not everything will succeed. The emphasis is on the importance of building strong relationships with Big Local areas as the basis for trust. Proper oversight of public money is balanced with the commitment to not interfere.

Big Local 2


Light touch & flexible support

Enabling, not doing for, in line with principles of resident control. Support is there when areas want it, with a flexible range of options on offer, including:


  • A small central team, who produce guidelines, reviews, inspiration and troubleshoot
  • Outreach through reps
  • Specialist support through national partners
Big Local 2


Sustainability through making investments & maximising assets

By bringing together local talent, ambitions, skills and energy from residents, groups and organisations who want to make their area an even better place to live. As Big Local activities progress, residents build long-term networks and capacity.

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Front cover for funding for resident control

Research reports:

Funding for resident control

Leila Baker, Charlotte Hennessy, Marilyn Taylor

Solutions are not imposed from the outside – residents are treated as assets themselves & trusted to lead.

Research report

Big Local foresighting: Feedback report

Government reforms: 
What do they mean for Big Local areas?

This report focuses especially on the effects of public spending cuts and welfare reform, including poverty among people in work, reduced benefit entitlement and housing hardship. The report brings together government policy, national data and a modest series of conversations with Big Local reps.

People’s capacity to get involved may be affected by personal hardship; difficult times may have knocked their confidence; or there may be real or perceived prejudices against people who are out of work or going through other kinds of difficulty.

Front cover image for Big Local Foresighting

Research reports:

Big Local foresighting: Feedback report

Leila Baker, Ben Kyneswood, Marilyn Taylor

Latest research

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Research reports:

People, places and health agencies: Lessons from Big Local residents

Leila Baker, Helen Garforth, Marilyn Taylor, Katie Turner

This research addressed two questions:


Do Big Local areas and health agencies have common goals?

How can they develop workable relationships?

Earlier reports

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