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September 26, 2019

Round the table at Westminster

I was invited to take part in a round table discussion on September 16 at the Cabinet Office on grant making across Government. The invitation stated that the discussion would be for feedback on what has been effective and what could be improved in government grants. It’s fair to say I was more than a bit intimidated by the whole thing but knew it would be a good opportunity to share our learning in Leeds so, as they say, I put on my big girl’s pants and pretended to be totally fine with it all!

Since 2015 Time to Shine has funded 92 projects in Leeds and we have tried to work in an open way to learn where we could have done this better. As we approach the last 18 months of the programme it’s more important than ever to use this learning to influence others.

There was no need to worry about the discussion; everyone was lovely and friendly. Even being in Whitehall wasn’t as daunting as I had imagined! I think we all felt a little unsure of how the session would run, but as often is the case the thought of doing something was more daunting than the reality.

The meeting involved 12 third sector representatives from across the country. Unsurprisingly we all experienced similar things and had agreement on what works well in grant making and what could be improved:

  • Varied application process – two stage applications work well and restrict the resources taken to complete the application form if the project in mind isn’t a goer
  • Clear language and description of purpose of the grant
  • Co-design from a very early stage – is the purpose of the grant actually what communities/people want and need?
  • Good lead-in time to help planning
  • Ability to develop trusted relationships
  • Proportionate monitoring

The discussion was really interesting and gave insight into why at times our political system doesn’t help achieve the above. If a new minister comes in there may be an immediate change of direction; budget cuts all make it difficult to plan for.

The meeting gave me a genuine sense that Government is listening and there is a desire to learn and improve approaches in the future, so we will watch this space.

This is another way we have been able to contribute some of our learning from Time to Shine, and use it to build a far-reaching legacy.

Hillary Wadsworth
Time to Shine Programme Manager (Learning)