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Organising and deciding

The partnership members survey 2020 – what’s the point?

Following the launch of our 2020 Big Local partnership members survey, Local Trust’s senior researcher, Jeremy Yung, takes a look back at what we’ve learned from previous surveys.

The Big Local partnership members survey is an opportunity for partnership members to tell us about their experiences of leading Big Local in their area. We’ve done the survey twice, in 2016 and 2018, and the findings have helped us to better understand the successes and challenges experienced by partnership members and how these have changed over time. We’ve also used the findings to improve the support we provide to Big Local areas, to promote the programme and to inform and influence others in the sector and more widely.

Partnerships are aware that they need to be more reflective

As a resident-lead initiative, partnerships continually struggle with being fully reflective of their community. They continue to direct resources to recruit and engage with new residents to ensure their partnership better represents their area. Almost all partnership members (95%) want more people involved in their partnership and 63% think their partnership relies too much on a small group of people.

Add new local people to the partnership. Ensure that the partnership is more reflective of the diverse and complex nature of the area.”

I believe we need to find more young people to sit on the partnership to ensure we have a fair balance.”

We at Local Trust understand that partnerships continually look to do more in terms of diversity and inclusion. In response, we will be holding an event for Big Local areas looking at these issues. The intent is to provide a time for Big Local partnership members to consider, share, listen, learn and challenge one another. Watch out for the event later this year.

What are the experiences of partnership members?

The motivations to become a volunteer partnership member vary and include wanting to contribute to positive change, to share and learn skills, and because they have the time to contribute. However, their role as a partnership member differs in that it involves a great deal of responsibility like overseeing budgets, implementing activities and making decisions on large amounts of money.

This level of responsibility comes with both benefits and challenges. While the Big Local programme does lead to positive individual outcomes for partnership members, in some cases, it can also lead to increased stress and pressure on individuals to deliver. In a broader context, this transfer of power through the Big Local programme can also bring about conflict within partnerships or communities that can significantly hinder the progress of Big Local areas and even intensify local conflicts.

When asked what being involved in Big Local has been like over the last year, partnership members said it was generally positive. Almost two-thirds said Big Local was challenging which can be both positive or negative, and more than half said it was a learning experience, satisfying, worth it, rewarding, friendly and enjoyable. However, almost half said it was frustrating (47%) and a quarter (25%) found it stressful.

What are these challenges?

Partnership members highlighted three main challenges – engagement, relationships and delivery.

For many partnerships, engagement is a constant challenge and something that they regularly do. As noted earlier, almost all (95%) want more people involved in their partnership and a relatively low 58% think residents outside their partnership know about Big Local.

A big part of Big Local revolves around relationships both within partnerships and with external partner organisations (delivery partners, local councils, religious organisations, charities). These relationships can become strained and lead to tension, disagreements, clashes and even formal complaints. When asked about some of the challenges they have experienced, partnership members highlighted both internal and external relationships as a challenge.

Friendships and egos have been tested to the limit.”

Trying to get the local parish council to realise we are here to work together.”

Many areas also experience challenges with delivery. This may be because of poor relationships mentioned above, bureaucracy, difficulty in finding the right partners or other reasons. Over the last year, half (76) the Big Local areas did not spend the total amount of their current funding amount.

Achieving anything that needs council approval is extremely difficult and a frustratingly long, hard process.”

Do partnership members think they are making a difference?

For partnership members, there is a strong sense of responsibility to deliver with 43% of partnership members thinking there is pressure in their area to get results more quickly and almost a quarter (24%) concerned with the pace of their progress. However, there is sense, over time that partnership members do think they are making more progress and are starting to see real change in their areas.

By comparing the 2016 and 2018 results, we can see if partnership members believe they are making progress in their areas. Compared to 2016, partnership members are more likely to see progress and change in their Big Local area than in 2018. More think they are better at getting residents involved, that Big Local is contributing to lasting and sustainable change and that they are making good progress compared to 2016.

Partnership members are also starting to see real change in their community with 83% thinking their Big Local contributes to lasting and sustainable change – up from 67% in 2016.

What do these findings mean?

These findings help us to better support Big Local areas through our networking and learning events. We’ve looked to incorporate some of the challenges into our support including events supporting areas to capture the change they are making and to plan for their legacy after Big Local. We also use these findings to demonstrate the benefits of the Big Local model and to influence and campaign for more place-based approaches to funding.

As a partnership member, your views are important to us. We want to hear from you for the current survey so that we can continue to improve our support and share the Big Local story. If you haven’t received an email from us via Survey Monkey, or would prefer to complete a paper survey, please email me at so that we can get the survey to you.