We are leading the learning and evaluation partnership for the first ever cross-government Building Connections Fund, dedicated to reducing loneliness in England.
We are leading a consortium of evaluation and learning partners for the Building Connections Fund—an £11.5m partnership between seven government departments, The National Lottery Community Fund, and Co-op Foundation.
The fund aims to:
- increase social connections, helping people form strong and meaningful relationships and creating a sense of community and belonging, and helping people feel more connected
- support organisations to build on their existing work, e.g. by reaching more people, or working in a new area or with a different method or group of people
- encourage organisations to join up with others locally
- improve the evidence base and use learning to inform longer term policy and funding decisions.
The Building Connections Fund has given grants to 126 voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations working with different groups across England, beginning in January 2019. Grants lengths vary , but most are for two years.
Alongside our role as learning and evaluation partner for the Building Connections fund, we have also evaluated an associated fund focussed on maximising the use of community spaces to tackle loneliness, particularly for young people. We conducted a qualitative evaluation of these projects to better understand the role of co-design and community spaces in reducing loneliness for young people.
We are undertaking a Developmental Evaluation of the grant-holders’ post-Covid 19 response to learn from the current situation and capture emerging findings. Sign up to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter to stay up to date with our latest research. For resources and further evidence on tackling loneliness, visit the What Works Centre for Wellbeing’s dedicated webpage.
As part of our developmental evaluation of the Building Connections Fund, we facilitated monthly collaborative learning sessions open to all grant-holders. These typically consisted of a mix of peer-to-peer support, and structured learning. Grant-holders shared challenges and solutions they had encountered over the previous month with each other and we suggested some structured approaches to these challenges, primarily through the purposeful use of data. Session slides, summaries and tools are available for download here.
This is a really exciting opportunity. Focusing on learning and impact alongside programme delivery will create an evidence base that will benefit the sector well beyond the Building Connections Fund.
It will build the capacity of organisations in this space to understand their impact and improve their services.