On Thursday 9th November 2023, Jack, Jocasta, and Rosie from Local Trust went to visit BBL at The Local Community Centre to deliver a ‘Learning from Big Local’ workshop. The session was a space for participants to reflect on their Big Local journey, and what they had achieved and learnt over the years. This was also a way for Local Trust to gather the information needed from each of the 150 Big Local areas to populate a new website that will exist beyond the end of the programme. The Learning from Big Local website will capture information from across the Big Local programme alongside hosting profiles for each of the 150 Big Local areas, these will be in the form of a short summary outlining what each area did, how they approached decision making, and what they learnt and achieved. The information captured in the workshop will help us to create Central Boston’s area profile, which will be published on the Learning from Big Local website once it is launched and the

Big Local has officially closed out of the programme.

This output summarises some of the key discussions from the workshop. We really enjoyed finding out more about RWT’s excellent work and hearing your reflections. Thank you for taking part!
Quote from the workshop:

…we’re like Ven diagrams, very integrated into Boston.

We asked you to share a highlight from all the work of Central Boston Big Local…
Highlights included:

  • Boston Monopoly and Trumps cards.
  • Blackfriars lift.
  • The beach event.
  • Helping events and groups to become self-sustaining like the book festival and Boston
  • Friendships within the group and working together with local agencies.

We asked you about how you made decisions and delivered Big Local as a partnership…

You told us that:

  • The partnership makes decisions as a whole group. There are no subgroups because the partnership work together by following a consensus-based decision process.
    • One member reflected that: “We sometimes start from different points of view and talk it out until we come to a sort of unanimous agreement. Allowing opinions to be voiced is why it works so well; your opinion might not be chosen but you are reasonably satisfied it was listened to.”
  • The partnership reflected on a disruptive period of 6 months in the earlier years that they now view as “a necessary cleansing process”.
  • This point of tension led to the resignation of the previous worker and is considered by the partnership as a “point of growth”, with members taking on greater responsibilities within the partnership to deliver the plan, with the support of the wider partnership. Whilst this was an unsustainable model long-term, it enabled the growth of the partnership.
  • By taking a commissioning approach to delivery – providing small-grant funding for community activities and events – BBL were able to support groups to become self-sustaining beyond the Big Local programme.
  • BBL has a strict but creative eligibility criteria for accessing their community-chest and use their strong four themes to assess if applications will address community needs.
  • Accountability and transparency are important to the partnership and this model enables the partnership to effectively review applications on behalf of residents.
  • The partnership have long incorporated their understanding of legacy – which is support groups to become self-sustaining, and their role as enablers into their funding process.
    • A partnership member reflected that: “Part of the SLA is “how can you continue when we’re not here? You’ll have to find another pot, but we expect this to continue. How are you going to make this self-sustaining?”.
  • Another important aspect of their successful small-grants model is the partnerships own integration in Boston. Partnership members are well networked individuals and promote grants to charities and groups they meet, seeing themselves as “Ven diagrams” within the community.
  • A successful outcome of this model has been the partnership bringing diverse local groups together with the council that wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity.

We asked you about your work around heritage as a strong thread throughout your

You told us that:

  • Boston had received much coverage over its large Brexit vote, the partnership reflected that the Brexit coverage made moving forward with the programme challenging at times, as they were repeatedly asked to comment on national issues.
  • To counteract the negative press the partnership focused on heritage and history of the area as something that residents can be proud of. The partnership saw their heritage projects as a way to educate particularly younger people and people who were not born in the area of their shared heritage.
    • One member reflected: “I think heritage is bringing [residents] together but on a younger level… to appreciate the town and for shared narrative it unites, creates community in the longer term.”

We asked about how you adapted your approach during COVID-19…

You told us that:

  • The partnership wanted to remove as many barriers as possible to enable funds to reach the
    needs of the community.
  • One way the partnership did this was by adapting their approach to commissioning by having unallocated funds available to be reactive both during the pandemic and post-covid.
  • The benefit of this flexible approach meant BBL could respond quickly and led to partnership members building their own skills identifying needs that weren’t already provided for in the community.
  • Accessibility is important to the partnership and to further remove barriers for accessing funds, BBL introduced their 5-minute community chest application form. Their intended outcome was successful as community chest applications increased.
  • The partnership reflected on a local tourism boat that couldn’t access governmental COVID support but instead were supported by BBL. There was acknowledgement that without their support the boat wouldn’t have been able to continue beyond the pandemic.

We asked about your relationship with the local council…

You told us that:

  • BBL has an effective relationship with the officers at Boston Borough Council and have
    worked in partnership across multiple projects.
  • The relationship with the council hasn’t always been easy and the partnership learnt to be
    strict with their terms to ensure the council didn’t take advantage of their funding.

    • One partnership member reflected that: “…you have more bargaining power when
      you have cash, we make sure they put our logos on projects.”
  • It was acknowledged that the council brought substantial added value to the Big Local
    programme, however there is changing administration and the partnership reflected there is
    a mild panic about the vacuum BBL will leave in the community and how to continue

We asked about your specific understanding of legacy…

You told us that:

  • The partnership doesn’t see legacy in physical terms but instead understands legacy as a more fluid concept, viewing the groups and events they’ve supported to become self-sustaining as their legacy.
  • The partnership made the “positive decision to not do things”, however despite this there is a genuine sadness felt amongst members that the programme is ending because of the strong friendships forged within the group.
  • The partnership reflected that long-term place-based funding worked in Central Boston because it enabled them to be flexible and respond quicker than councils, they were able to provide instantaneous support.
  • One partnership member reflected that their approach was the “easiest and fastest way to support all of the community without formal bureaucracy.”
  • Another member reflected that “I hope the outcome [of the Big Local programme] is that funding needs to be given at the base and the power of bottom up is so important.”