Why I’ve come to believe in the importance of replication
For the Big Lottery Fund, it’s hard-wired into our legislation that we should fund and move on. We are heavily oversubscribed. If all we did was pick particular projects and support them ourselves for ever and a day, we would deny others with great ideas access to limited good cause cash.
There’s greater opportunity to take risk with Big Lottery money than is typically the case with central or local government budgets. A funder like BIG, with its inherent flexibility, should give a chance to approaches that have the potential to make a huge difference, but don’t necessarily have enough cash to establish themselves with evidence that will show the world, and those they seek to help, what they are capable of. This is the traditional case for innovation.
That said, we are increasingly aware of magnificent VCS-led interventions operating across the UK and beyond that, despite having evidenced impact, are neither touching many thousands more people who might benefit from them, nor the policy makers and public servants who design mainstream services. Some of these projects have no desire to extend beyond a local or specialised impact. But others cry out for expansion.
So I’ve come to agree with people who say that the most innovative thing the Big Lottery Fund could do is to replicate in a much bigger way, what is known to work. When I tweeted this on Monday it attracted a very positive reaction.
And that’s exactly what our Realising Ambition programme is about; investing £25m in 25 early intervention projects that have two essential characteristics: first, they have been proven to improve the life chances of young people, helping them avoid antisocial behaviour or criminal activity; second they are ripe for replication.
Identified by our programme partner, Catch 22, with the help of an impressive consortium of experts – including the Young Foundation, Dartington Social Research Unit, Rathbone and Substance – these 25 are some of the most well evidenced crime prevention projects currently operating. Our funding is extending their reach massively, to help more than a quarter of a million young people across the UK. As well as previous Big Lottery Fund investments like Shelter’s Keys to the Future, we are introducing several overseas schemes to the UK for the first time to see if they can be adapted to help young people over here with the same success. One example is the excellent LifeSkills project, which has reduced illicit drug use among targeted young people in the US by 75 per cent, and was recommended in Graham Allen MP’s 2011 review into early intervention.
Most innovative of all is the scale of what we are up to. Some projects will operate in new areas right across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales; others will bring to one UK country a model that has worked successfully in another. Some might not transfer to new locations as well as others. Part of our essential work here is to capture where, why and how replication succeeds.
To that end, we are conducting our most extensive evaluation to date, led by Dartington and complemented by a cutting edge cost-benefit analysis tool. Over five years, it will document how best to extend more effective work with young people right across the UK and we will be sure to share the learning as we go. Our new policy directions say the Big Lottery Fund should “generate learning to help the development of policy and practice beyond the Fund’s funding.” Realising Ambition is an exciting attempt to achieve that.
For more information about the 25 projects and to watch a film about the programme, click here.