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Boston Big Local’s plan review 2016

Boston Big Local’s current plan includes agreed activities to be delivered between April 2015 and March 2017. The Partnership Group recently completed a mid-plan review to reflect on and agree activities for the next twelve months. Here’s how we did it.

Our approach to reviewing

Rather than treating our review as a one-off event, Boston Big Local’s approach is to continuously review the work done at monthly partnership meetings. In the autumn, the Partnership also took steps to draw out key stories of activity and change which have been posted to the website. The Partnership also has a large collection of press cuttings which were revisited during the review.

Additionally, Boston Big Local gathers as many photographs and personal accounts as possible from the reports provided by partners who have received funding. These reports are shared on the Boston Big Local website. Partnership members also provide further feedback for the review, based on their personal observations and knowledge.

A two year plan for Boston Big Local was approved and began in April 2015. This review is at the mid-point within that two year plan and reflects the fact that we are strong on what has been done and the specific outcomes achieved, whilst recognising that wider impacts (beyond individual projects) aren’t always easy to discern in the short term.

What have we done against what was in the plan?

We have taken action on all four themes and priorities. In the autumn we reviewed progress in detail and rated activities in the plan as green for ‘on target’, orange for ‘OK’ and red for ‘risk’.

We are very pleased with progress on health and wellbeing, the environment and community spirit. Progress on encouraging enterprise is a little more mixed. The SLA with the Credit Union is in place but progress overall has been a bit slower than we hoped. However development of the Hanseatic League has gone from strength to strength and Boston Big Local is delighted to have been a key supporter of this initiative.

We are also pleased at the way we have been able to balance the activities specified in the plan against delivering other, more fluid and responsive funding through community chest and community events. Both of these schemes are helping to fund exciting and worthwhile locally run projects and events that contribute significantly to community spirit and cohesion, including across Boston’s diverse communities and cultures.

What money have we spent?

At 17 February 2016 we had spent £68,943. We have further committed spend by the end of this first year of £6,375. Our anticipated total spend by the end of March 2016 will be £75,318.

What impact have we had?

We are still less than a year into the Plan, but already we are gathering evidence of positive outcomes for individuals, groups and the wider community. Our newsletter and what’s changed stories provide information about some of the outcomes already achieved as well as emerging impact.

At the February 2016 meeting, Partnership members added their own personal reflections on what has been achieved so far. Here are a few of their comments:

Boston Big Local is building from strength to strength.

It will take some time for Boston Big Local to be well known, but after this year with the first marathon it should gain more visibility.

People want to be associated with successful enterprises.

The beach event was the jewel in our crown and had the biggest impact on public awareness of Boston Big Local.

The Arts for Dementia sessions have been a great success – so much so that other towns are copying our trial scheme.

The Hanse Group has been a great success.

What have we learned?

Our monthly partnership meetings are where we discuss and reflect on what’s been happening. The minutes of the meetings are always posted online. Our Big Local Rep also reflects on how things are going and what the challenges are and we post his quarterly reviews on the site for openness and transparency.

Since its launch in December 2012, Boston Big Local’s journey has had its ups and downs. It took a while to get the first plan submitted, partly because of some tensions and conflict within the steering group. As we overcame and worked through these difficulties, we learned that gradually good news will out and that the Big Local process enables residents to gain in confidence, strength, voice and authority.

For Boston Big Local to be successful, we have learned that leadership and management are crucial, and the authenticity of local resident leadership through our chair is vital. We know that we rely on having an able and very motivated Plan Co-ordinator, and that getting the foundations right is essential. For us, this has included full community consultation, resident involvement in early drafts of the plan, good business management, including operating policies, service level agreements, and clear recording and reporting requirements for those gaining funding. We have learned to trust our instincts and insights, and we know that sometimes it is necessary to take a step back in order to be able to move forwards. We have learned the importance of reviewing and updating our procedures and processes and know that they can be a great asset whenever we face challenges.

At our February meeting, Partnership members added these reflections.

It’s essential to have a fluid process which can be changed with need.

When dealing with people you have to be adaptable and see different points of view.

Being so flexible is our great strength.

Any issues are addressed quickly and efficiently. We don’t miss opportunities: openness and discussion are key.

Although not everyone can attend every meeting they still want to be involved and know what is going on, which is a real positive.

How do our plans relate to the achievement of the Big Local outcomes?

Our four outcomes in line with the Big Local programme are:

  1. The community agrees needs and priorities in the area and takes action on them.
  2. People gain confidence and skills for now and the future.
  3. The community makes a real difference to the needs it has given priority to.
  4. People feel this area is an even better place to live.

Boston Big Local is meeting all four Big Local outcomes. The initial profile was done through drawing together quantitative and qualitative information from local residents through surveys, community events, focus groups and partner meetings. It remains an accurate base line for the plan delivery as we move into the second year.

The What’s Changed element of the website is full of stories of the action undertaken by individuals, groups and the wider community and the difference it has made to them and the local area.

Our scrap book of press cuttings has over 75 articles covering 28 subjects reporting on what has happened through Boston Big Local and the difference it is making both in practical terms and through the consequential positive feel it has brought to the area. The summer beach event and the environmental action are just two examples of positive community involvement and engagement to address the issues the community wants to see tackled.

How do we know this is what our community wants?

We have strong two-way communications which ensures we share what is happening and hear back from residents. We have done leaflet drops and newsletters, including the latest newsletter in January. We share details of the progress being made by placing SLAs and work reports on the website (the link uses Theme 1 as an example). We also Tweet news links and post them on our Facebook page. Boston Big Local has a growing following. From the work reports, stories of what’s changed are created and posted and some of these then go into our newsletter.

We also aim to run at least an annual Boston Big Local event for residents, to which partners who have received funding must send at least one delegate. In 2016, this event is scheduled for May, at the beginning of the second year of the plan. During these events, we gather comments and observations and use them to inform our future direction. We are keen to explore an annual survey to help track change over the ten year period of the project.