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Community spirit Coronavirus

Bouncing back: Resident-led participation is on the up post-pandemic

Our latest annual partnership review reveals the impact of the pandemic on resident-led participation and a compelling story of the commitment, passion and resilience of Big Local volunteers who continued to deliver their plans or adapted them quickly in response.

The response of Big Local partnerships to the pandemic was remarkable – with areas innovating their approaches to continue to interact with their communities. Our partnership review 2021 painted a compelling story of the dedication and resilience of Big Local volunteers who continued to deliver their plans, provide vital support, and create new connections within their communities.

However, COVID-19 did have a clear and understandable impact on partnership participation, with around 150 fewer people joining Big Local partnerships in 2020 than in pre-pandemic years. This reflects the difficulty the pandemic posed for continued community connection and securing volunteer time.

150 fewer people joined Big Local partnerships in 2020 than on average in pre-pandemic years

Post-pandemic, our review revealed that participation is beginning to bounce back with 374 new partnership members joining in 2021, bringing the total number of partnership members up to 1506 for 2021 and to over 4,300 across the span of the programme.

4,300 volunteers have participated in the Big Local programme since it began

The increase in partnership members in 2021 has also upped the number of areas that meet our criteria for being resident-led (at least eight or more partnership members, with over 50% of them local residents). Stronger partnerships mean more resident-led decision-making, with local people taking the driving seat to create lasting change in their communities.

However a number of areas are still below the criteria, or on the cusp with 8 members. These areas will be encouraged to restore or grow the number of partnership members involved in 2022, so that the partnership is as strong as it can be and support is available to help them increase participation.

How are we supporting partnerships to bounce back? 

The continuation of volunteer engagement with Big Local, despite the pandemic, has been remarkable. Areas have constantly innovated their approaches so that they can continue to interact with their communities, and the bounce-back of partnership membership indicates that there is still a desire within Big Local areas for volunteers to get involved.

Understandably though, the pandemic has drained many Big Local areas of resources and energy. That’s why we’ve re-energised the package of support we offer to partnerships. We’ve brought in new support partners, whose expertise matches what Big Local areas told us they needed more help with, from assets to climate and community engagement. We’ve upped the number of days of fully-funded support areas can get with these partners (previously 2 days, followed by match-funded support) to up to 10 days.

This support has been designed to help partnerships re-energise their plans as we enter the last phase of the Big Local programme, so they can continue delivering vital and transformative change to their communities both post-pandemic and long into the future.