Putting people and partnerships at the heart of lasting system change

Written by Martin Cawley on 14 June 2017 in Comment

ASSOCIATE FEATURE: Martin Cawley of Big Lottery Fund Scotland on why people and partnerships are the beating heart of system change 

System change. It’s a concept that’s easy to talk about but much more difficult to define. And it’s one I’ve been reflecting on recently as the Big Lottery Fund in Scotland has been developing our new early action fund that will put people and partnerships at the heart of lasting system change.

As a funder awarding life changing National Lottery funds, we know that if we don’t intervene early, and get the right help to people at the right time, this can result in ongoing challenge, discrimination and disadvantage that escalates and follows people throughout their lives. Late responses come at a high cost for individuals and the public purse.


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Now wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could work together to stop that happening?

That’s the thinking behind our new Early Action System Change fund which opens to applications today. With £7.5m available, it will bring together people and organisations to explore how they can make early action more central to their work and help re-design the policies, practice and resources needed to sustain it – ‘system change’.

To help us focus our early action investment we have chosen three areas where we believe our funding can make a difference. These are:

  • Health diet and active lifestyle
  • Children, young people and families
  • Women and criminal justice

We know from our grantmaking experience there are a whole range of innovative service delivery models across the country that are delivering good results in these areas. What’s frustrating, however, is often they tend to be isolated examples, rather than a more joined-up infrastructure of effective services, support and investment.

So what we would like to see with this funding are proposals to create more integrated, aligned and co-ordinated services. We are looking for strong collaborations between third sector and public sector agencies who are willing to identify what currently doesn’t work well and can shift resources as a result. In addition we want to see partner organisations contribute their own investment that will in turn see our pot of funding go that little bit further.

Most importantly, we believe successful system change must be driven by those who directly benefit from these services and we will want to know they are at the heart of any re-design.  This means challenging existing systems and service delivery to become more fluid, flexible and responsive to the issues that families and individuals in our communities are facing. Only then will we will be able to act earlier to help people live longer, happier and healthier lives.

For more detail on the Big Lottery Fund’s new early action fund and what it can support visit https://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/easc

Martin Cawley is Scotland Director of the Big Lottery Fund 

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