Area-based programmes we have mapped

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Community Organisers

The CO programme (2011-15) aims to change the way local people are able to make change in their lives and their neighbourhoods. It is training 500 COs in neighbourhoods across England, who in turn build teams of resident volunteer COs.
The programme is led by Locality. Re:generate is the lead training partner and their 'Root Solution Listening Matters' approach forms the basis of the 51 week 'Foundations of Community Organising' course, accredited by the Open College Network.


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Community Organisers (COs) are dedicated, motivated people who build trust, respect and networks in local neighbourhoods using a systematic, broad-based listening process. They meet residents through door-knocking and where people gather; at the library, the gym, the pub, the café, the school gate or the bus stop. They do not bring an agenda or a message, but instead listen to people’s own concerns and aspirations, building relationships and helping people take action on their own behalf about the issues that are important to them. Crucially, COs work at consciousness-raising rather than capacity-building; they find out what motivates people to act and support residents to take action to change the decisions of the powerful or to create a DIY response, or both.

COs are recruited, hosted and supported in teams of between two and five by locally-rooted host organisations. Hosts provide a place to be, a learning environment, reach into communities and local knowledge. The programme looks for hosts that are excited by the transformative potential of community organising for their areas and their organisations. Applications are welcome from potential hosts with specialist reach as long as they can support the broad-based geographical approach central to the programme.

New cohorts of approximately 40 COs join the programme every few months. The training year involves ‘learning on the job’ with four key outcomes: learn to listen; build your team; build your network; begin to prove your value. The year starts with a residential and is followed by face-to-face and online training sessions and action learning sets. At the year mid-point COs choose from four additional training options called ‘Go Deeper’ to explore fields of work relating to organising. Go Deeper offers a mix of practical and academic courses delivered by experts on: working with community conflict; digital organising, ideas into action around land and buildings for community use; and a Post Graduate Certificate in Communities, Engagement and Enterprise.

The programme funder, the Office for Civil Society, has made available employment start-up grants to give the added time to help COs prove their value and attract further funding going forward. This provides COs another year to improve their practice, build on the work and to further embed themselves and their teams within the community. The grant, payable to the employer, needs to be matched by cash and in kind locally. Employers could be organisations that have hosted, other local organisations, or new organisations established by COs themselves.

The work and legacy of the CO Programme will be taken forward by CoCo, the Company of Community Organisers, to support individual members, create solidarity through bringing people together and grow the national movement for community organising in the UK.

Community First

Community First is a government-funded programme that will run for four years until March 2015. It will use £30m across almost 600 wards to encourage people in deprived communities to give their time and expertise to local projects, to raise money and help make their local area a better place to live. There is also an endowment challenge that aims to help sustain this funding through mobilizing both national and local giving and philanthropy. Community First is managed by the Community Development Foundation.


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Community First is an £80m government-funded programme that will run for four years, until March 2015. It will help communities come together through new and existing community groups, to identify their strengths and local priorities, plan for their future and become more resilient.

Community First consists of the £30m Neighbourhood Match Fund small grants programme for some of the most deprived areas in the country and a national £50m Endowment Match Challenge.

The Neighbourhood Match Fund will use the £30m fund to encourage people in deprived communities to give their time and expertise to local projects, to raise money and help make their local area a better place to live.

The Endowment Match Challenge will mobilise both national and local giving and philanthropy. It aims to raise £100m in donations, which will be matched with £50m of government investment. This money will continue to grow over the life of the programme ensuring a sustainable source of funding for communities in years to come

Community First is funded by the Office for Civil Society, part of the Cabinet Office, on behalf of the Government. It is delivered by a consortium led by the Community Development Foundation.

The prime objective was to identify neighbourhoods subject to significant deprivation and low social capital and to invite them to become part of Community First. The 2011 Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) was used to identify the 30% most deprived Lower Super Output Areas (LSOA). This list was then cross cut with Job Centre Plus (JCP) benefit data between May 2009 – 2010. This identified LSOAs which have had a 10% increase in benefit claimants.

Big Local

Big Local is a £200m Lottery funded initiative that will run for 10 years to support 150 communities in England to make their areas an even better place to live. The funding can be used in a number of different ways, including social investments, and there is a range of other support available to areas, including the Unltd Star People and Star Partner programme. Big Local is managed by Local Trust.


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Big Local is an opportunity for residents in 150 areas around England to use at least £1m to make a lasting positive difference to their communities. It aims to bring together all the 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 being run by Local Trust, which is working with £200m from the Big Lottery Fund and a range of partners providing expert advice and support for residents.

Big Local is not just a grants programme; local areas can also use the funds to make social investments such as personal loans, micro finance, small business and civil society loans or the commissioning of services. This means that some of the money distributed in each area can come back to Big Local and be reused in the local area again. Local communities will drive Big Local in their area and there will be a unique programme of activity in each area based on local needs but sharing the Big Local outcomes:

  • Communities will be better able to identify local needs and take action in response to them
  • People will have increased skills and confidence so that they can continue to identify and respond to local needs in the future
  • The community will make a difference to the needs it prioritises
  • People will feel that their area is a better place to live

And Big Local will work to the following principles:

  • Have continuous, inclusive, thoughtful involvement of local people
  • Provide an accountable local partnership
  • Maximise long-term, inclusive benefit
  • Build local capacity and share learning
  • Provide flexible and realistic planning
  • Be additional to public money

The 150 areas were chosen by the Big Lottery Fund, based on the index of multiple deprivation, low levels of take-up of Lottery Funding, and the views of local stakeholders

New Deal for Communities

New Deal for Communities was a £2bn neighbourhood programme that ran for 10 years up to 2011. It covered 39 deprived areas in England. It was managed by the then Neighbourhood Renewal Unit in the Department for Communities and Local Government, working through the Government Offices of the Regions.


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New Deal for Communities (NDC) was a key programme in the previous Government's strategy to tackle multiple deprivation in the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country, giving some of the poorest communities the resources to tackle their problems in an intensive and co-ordinated way. The aim was to bridge the gap between these neighbourhoods and the rest of England.

NDC partnerships were asked to tackle five key themes of: poor job prospects; high levels of crime; educational under-achievement; poor health; and problems with housing and the physical environment. 17 pathfinder partnerships were announced in 1998, followed by a second round of 22 partnerships in 1999. Approximately £2bn was committed to the 39 partnerships.

Key characteristics of NDC were:

  • Long-term commitment to deliver real change. Communities at the heart of this, in partnership with key agencies.
  • Community involvement and ownership. Each NDC was managed by a resident-led partnership board.
  • Joined-up thinking and solutions. Action based on evidence about 'what works' and what doesn't.

In the first quarter of the financial year each NDC Partnership undertook an assessment of its performance, together with the Government Office. This was followed in October or November by a review of progress made against its improvement plan made at the annual assessment. At years 3 and 6, partnerships undergo a more thorough review of progress by re-examining their baseline data and "targets". A large national evaluation programme was also commissioned.

An extensive system of support and advice was available to each partnership, including regularly updated guidance documents, regionally organised seminars and training events and access to Neighbourhood Renewal Advisers. Partnerships were encouraged to build regional networks of support and advice with other NDCs, in order to establish local learning programmes to build capacity in NDC neighbourhoods.