Good Grant Making Can Achieve Change
Joanne McDowell, NI Director, Big Lottery Fund, says they did something ‘a bit different’ with Building Change Trust.

Good Grant Making Can Achieve Change

06 August 2014

Joanne McDowell, NI Director, Big Lottery Fund, talks about how they did something ‘a bit different’ with Building Change Trust.

When we set up Building Change Trust we marked a radical departure in the way National Lottery Good Cause funding was distributed in Northern Ireland.

Good grant making can achieve real social change and I believe we have many great examples of how community and voluntary organisations – big and small - have used our grants to change the lives of the people they support and build stronger communities.

We wanted to try something a bit different with Building Change Trust and make a longer investment that could look at ways to help community and voluntary organisations adapt and develop new ways of working.

Timely investment

We wanted the Trust to take risks, to develop, test and deliver models of practice that would eventually support longer-term changes in the voluntary and community sector across Northern Ireland. We also wanted to provide a legacy that would extend beyond the life and scope of our investment.

When we set up the Trust we knew there were challenges ahead for the sector - the Review of Public Administration was set to change the fabric of local government and the impact of the recession was only beginning to be felt by communities.

It was a timely investment and we knew we had to be patient in realising what could be achieved. We were changing the conversation and moving away from a grant making model to a longer term investment.

Real difference

 So five years in, is Building Change Trust delivering on our ambitious vision?

I think there are a number of great examples where Building Change Trust is making a real difference to the way the sector is developing and responding to major issues such as the affects of the recession and a changing funding environment.

Collaboration NI has supported many organisations to come together to share resources and expertise, allowing them to deliver much better services to their communities.

This is so vital at a time when austerity measures and reduced funding is hitting the sector hard.

The Trust’s involvement in Inspiring Impact is also helping the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector to put impact at the heart of what it does and tell the story of the difference their work is making across Northern Ireland.

Increasing demands

But there are challenges ahead as organisations cope with ever increasing demands on services, for delivery through new models, and meeting the very different needs of people across Northern Ireland.

Perhaps there are more questions for us all: How the voluntary and community sector has the time and space to consider what might be the options for future support for vulnerable and excluded people in our society?  

What will charities look like in the future, when we consider how much things have changed in the past five years?  What are different roles in that future, and what are the linkages across the public, voluntary and private sector? 

I believe the Trust’s investments will support more effective collaboration between organisations, increased learning and influence, as well as promoting more sustainable approaches for the voluntary and community sector.

The Big Lottery Fund looks forward to hearing about these investments over the next five years.

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