One of the biggest successes of the Fourteen programme has been the creation of its local panels: groups of committed individuals with deep local roots, often representing community organisations in the area. Many of the panels have continued to operate post-programme, securing additional funding, forming local trusts or joining reinvigorated residents’ associations and community centres.

Others no longer meet formally, but see a continued legacy through partnership working and connections that had not previously existed.

The research findings outline several areas for those of us who are continuing to fund and deliver this sort of work. 

    • Selecting communities – need vs opportunity: Local community foundations were given considerable latitude in selecting the areas where the project would be delivered. The research distinguishes between communities selected because they already had a buoyant voluntary infrastructure to make a success of the programme (‘opportunity-led’ choices) and those where the foundations felt deprivation or lack of activity was greatest (‘need-led’ choices). Need-led choices tended to be riskier, slower to start and required more support from the community foundation. 
    • Supporting organisations: The local community foundations in England, Scotland and Wales and the community partners in Northern Ireland played a vital supporting role for the volunteer panels. They also dedicated more time to the programme than they had originally anticipated. This was more pronounced in the communities with a less developed voluntary infrastructure. Some local people were initially critical of money being spent on management (and evaluation – all programmes of this nature face pressure to justify their reasons for diverting any funding away from the ‘frontline’. However, Wavehill’s research suggests that the SDPs were essential in brokering relationships and driving the project forward. The Fourteen funding allowed organisations across the community to coalesce around a shared project in a way that would have been difficult to do without a pot of money. Increased partnership working is one of the main legacies of the programme. Some organisations have shifted from competing with each other to collaborating, whilst for others the benefit has primarily been a greater awareness of what other organisations were also operating in their area.
    • Skills development: The research also suggests that the panels developed skills over time which helped them to make better decisions about their community. The need for this development is sometimes missed by funders who want to devolve funding decisions as much as they can to participants, without acknowledging that making these decisions will not be easy. Whilst undoubtedly panellists brought local knowledge and different types of professional expertise, they also brought their histories, varied agendas and particular perspectives. This is both a strength and a potential weakness. 
    • Spark grants: One third of the grants awarded through Fourteen were under £500. At Spirit we were keen to ensure that the bulk of funding was spent on activities that could offer participants the opportunity to take part in sustained activity. However, events can also play an instrumental role in bringing people together and acting as a catalyst for change. While we gave communities the autonomy to choose how they allocated their spending, we could have been clearer about different monitoring and evaluation expectations depending on the size of grant. 
    • Timescale: The Wavehill evaluation report argues that three years was too short a timescale to be able to talk meaningfully of ‘legacy’, and indeed that this “severely limited the ability to secure long term impacts”. For Spirit this is a challenging message. It is one we have given to others when talking about the impact of one-year grants, and similarly have seen in reports talking about ten-year grants.  We clearly need to adjust our expectations depending on the timeframe of a particular programme, and that includes funding projects that build in sufficient time to reflect and change their practice. However, successful programmes also need to operate over a timespan that helps them to maintain momentum. 

Further information 

To read the final reports from Fourteen, and learn more about the programme, click here