The future is looking bright for many of our Growing Community Assets projects according to a recent survey. We asked Eric Samuel, our Senior Policy & Learning Manager to tell us more…
“Over the last ten years, we have funded 171 projects totaling £86 million through our Growing Community Assets (GCA) fund. Following a recent survey, we are pleased and reassured to hear that some of the groups, many of whom are considered small businesses, are much more positive about their long term prospects.
One of the Big Lottery Fund’s objectives is to make the best use of knowledge and evidence, not just to improve our own effectiveness, but also that of the projects we fund, and of those thinking about applying to us to do similar things. That is why, earlier in the year, we surveyed 58 GCA projects, asking them to tell us how they were getting on and what they had learned since starting up.
28 projects, representing a cross-section of the wide range of project types funded, responded to the survey, supplying a wealth of fascinating information, including their positivity about their chances of long term survival.
Many of the public bodies from whom communities buy assets using GCA funding fret about what might happen “if it all goes wrong”. The projects that replied to our survey do not see this happening, and while they were all realistic enough to appreciate that they would inevitably face challenges, by far the largest number described their prospects as ‘good’. One project – a bunkhouse – said its long term prospects were ‘excellent’, and three rural community hubs thought theirs were ‘very good’. Even one of two projects that described their long term prospects as ‘challenging’ – a community hub in an urban setting – also claimed to be ‘optimistic’ about the future.
However, a potential ‘cloud on the horizon’ – and quite a large and dark one at that! – was identified by several community renewable energy projects. The confidence and optimism of these projects was tempered by an acknowledgement that if reductions continued to be made in subsidies like Feed-in Tariff (FIT), then this could have a seriously detrimental impact on their future viability.
While no one can tell what the future holds, the good news is that experience suggests the projects are correct to feel confident. That’s because in the ten years that the investment area has been operating, the number of GCA projects that have run into serious difficulties can be counted on the fingers of one hand – not a bad record when one considers the number of High Street stores that have gone to the wall in the same period!
Here’s to the next ten years…