Big Lottery Fund Wales director John Rose explains how we want to make great choices for communities the length and breadth of Wales by better understanding the ‘future of doing good’.
What do we mean by ‘doing good’?
For me, it’s building goodwill and trust in communities through a shared understanding of the challenges and priorities of those living there. It’s about having a concern for the wellbeing of citizens, supporting them to take action, and empowering them to participate in making the decisions that affect them.
‘Doing good’ is arguably everyone’s business. Communities, individuals, and the third, public and private sectors all have a stake in the agenda of making Wales a better place in which to live. The Big Lottery Fund believes that people should lead that change to improve their lives by drawing upon the skills, assets and energy in their communities. We distribute around £40 million every year in Wales to projects that make the changes that communities want to see.
Working in partnership with the Bevan Foundation, we are reaching out to a broad cross section of Welsh society in thinking about what the future of ‘doing good’ might look like in Wales. As part of a UK-wide conversation, we are stimulating discussion with communities, charities, social enterprises, government and business. While we have a good idea of the challenges, we certainly don’t have all the answers, so here are a few questions to stimulate the conversation.
What is the future role of government in ‘doing good’?
Government has historically focused on addressing need rather than preventing it from arising in the first place. The decline of traditional Welsh industries and increased globalisation has made the needs of Wales more complex. But economic slowdown and budget restraint in the public sector have limited government’s ability to respond. The public policy response has been to edge very slowly towards prevention, but dealing with the need of the ‘here and now’ makes this very challenging. It means that government is asking communities and the third sector to take more of a lead, but are they in a position to do so?
Can the Welsh third sector do more?
A Welsh third sector that relies significantly on public funds has also felt the financial pressure, at a time when both expectations and service demand are increasing. Government funding is now much more likely to be for specific projects aligned to its priorities, which has led some to question the third sector’s independence. Has this compromised its role as a ‘critical friend’ of government and other funders such as ourselves? There is a real need to diversify third sector income streams and attract people with the right skills to volunteer and work for third sector organisations to address these pressing challenges.
Are communities able to do more?
Wales has a strong history of social action. Many of the workingmen’s halls and hospitals were paid for by mining communities through subscriptions. It was a model that influenced the early years of the Welfare State and helped to foster a sense of community and shared experience that is still evident in some parts of Wales today. But it is also these communities that have experienced the greatest changes and economic shocks in recent decades, and it’s where much of the current need can be found. To what extent can these communities be expected to take more of a lead, and what support do they need to allow them to do it?
Others are sure to have their own questions. While we are starting the conversation, it isn’t ours to own.
In partnership with the Bevan Foundation, we will be launching the conversation in the Senedd on 24thNovember, and we will be hosting a series of subsequent conversations across Wales. Click here if you would like to join the conversation