Skip to main content

Big Local sees thousands of residents engage in grassroots change

Local Trust sets out a grassroots vision for the future as it publishes the findings from an evaluation into the progress of Big Local

February 2015

Press release
Embargoed until 20 February 2015

Community change champion Local Trust, which manages the Big Local programme, today publishes findings from its initial evaluation of the 150 communities across England taking part in the programme, which is aiming to make a lasting positive difference in those communities by inspiring genuine grassroots involvement and decision making. 

The key findings of the report are:

  •  More than £9m has been allocated to communities across England in the first few years
  • More than 2,000 places have been taken at Big Local learning events by residents and workers
  • The first 83 areas to complete their first phase of activity have reached approximately 94,000 residents, who have been given opportunities to get involved in developing plans for their local area

Local Trust wants the initial evaluation and overall approach of the programme to influence other charities, policy makers, service providers and funders to consider a different approach to community improvement, giving power and control to residents to help deliver sustainable, tangible change for local areas. 

The programme has seen success through being truly resident-led in its approach: over 90% of active community members surveyed said they felt confident that they had based their plans on what residents had identified as most needed in their area and 88% are confident in their ability to make Big Local happen.

Debbie Ladds, chief executive of Local Trust, said:

“Organisations are often guilty of thinking they know best. We want to challenge this mindset and demonstrate how a resident-led approach can be much more effective and empowering. It is early days for Big Local, but the results of our initial evaluation are promising and we’re confident that giving control to residents is the way to achieve lasting positive change.”

Residents have benefited from working together to address the challenges they have identified. The programme is tapping into a previously untapped resource of resident talent, and drawing out people’s passion for their own area. 85% of those most involved report that Big Local has given them a chance to put their skills and knowledge to good use for their community.

Other positive impacts include growth in confidence among residents and those who support them and an increased sense of community with hubs becoming catalysts for entrepreneurial activity. Examples of projects include giving new life to disused buildings and thinking about new ways to use existing community resources, with many areas also using in-kind contributions to help make their money go further.
One of the key strengths of the programme is allowing residents the flexibility to be ambitious, experiment with new ideas and learn from their mistakes.

Debbie Ladds added:

“Community-led regeneration does require risk taking but we believe it is the future for long-term sustained change when aligned to a community development approach. It is important to empower local residents and to trust them to make the right decisions. A key challenge now will be engaging new residents to make sure that each project is reflective of local community needs.”

Local Trust plans to share its findings with others considering a resident and community-led approach, providing insights around risk, the balance between inclusivity and productivity, inspiring leadership, and the importance of sharing interim success to maintain enthusiasm in a long-term change programme. 

The research was conducted by a partnership headed by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). Nick Ockenden, NCVO’s head of research, comments:

“This has been an incredibly exciting programme to evaluate. It’s early days for Big Local but it seems to be providing a real catalyst for change in local communities. Supporting this kind of thing is never easy, but Big Local appears to have struck the right balance between being there when needed, alongside a light-touch approach that doesn’t over-burden. It’s given communities choice and control, something that’s really helped to get people excited, inspired and active.”


Contact details

Forster Communications
Luke Guinness or Ruby Maguire – 020 7403 2230
Email – /

Notes to editors

Local Trust | Big Local

  • Big Local is administered by Local Trust using over £200m in funding from the Big Lottery Fund. It was launched in July 2010 to support 150 small urban and rural communities to come together to make their areas even better places to live.
  • Big Local is targeting areas that may not have been successful in gaining funding and resources in the past. Each Big Local area is receiving at least £1m Lottery funding over at least the next 10 years, along with support, training, and networking opportunities, to help residents develop plans to improve their area and empower them to find solutions that work for their communities. More information on Big Local is available at
  • Local Trust is a company limited by guarantee with company number 07833396 and charity, number 1147511. Local Trust is the corporate trustee of Big Local Trust, a charitable trust with charity number 1145916 established by the Big Lottery Fund and Local Trust to fund Big Local. Local Trust works closely with Big Local areas and partner organisations to support residents to help them make best use of Big Local and their funding.
  • For enquiries about Local Trust or Big Local please call 020 3588 0565 or email:
  • The Big Lottery Fund supports the aspirations of people who want to make life better for their communities across the UK. We are responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by the National Lottery and invest over £650 million a year in projects big and small in health, education, environment and charitable purposes.
  • Since June 2004 we have awarded over £6.5billion to projects that make a difference to people and communities in need, from early years intervention to commemorative travel funding for World War Two veterans.
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £32 billion has been raised and more than 450,000 grants awarded.

The evaluation
The evaluation was conducted by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in partnership with the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) and the Office for Public Management (OPM). It involved analysis of programme data and reports as well as primary research involving surveys, interviews, observation visits, case studies and workshops with residents in Big Local areas. The research team engaged with almost 400 stakeholders from 90 Big Local areas as well as staff involved in supporting the programme nationally and at the local level.

NCVO is the representative body for civil society organisations across England. For more than 90 years it has worked alongside and supported voluntary and community organisations and it currently supports over 11,000 member organisations. Its research team specialises in building the evidence base about the activities and effectiveness of civil society.
IVR is a specialist research and consultancy agency on volunteering with more than two decades’ experience as a leading provider of research on volunteering policy and practice. Since 2013 it has been a part of NCVO.
OPM is a not-for-profit consultancy with a 25-year history of conducting research and evaluation alongside other specialist consultancy services for charities, local authorities and government bodies


We are looking to appoint experienced research professionals, organisations or consortia with a good understanding…

7 hours, 33 minutes ago

Our phones are down

2 Jan 2019: Our office is open but our phones are not working. Please email us at while we fix them and we will respond to messages as soon as we can.

Got it

We’re making changes to the website. Your feedback will help us improve the site. Your feedback: