Saturday, 15 May 2010

Village SOS - Save our Sanity

Well, six months of hard work as village champion for West Norfolk village Hilgay did not result in a £400k grant for the village, a £30k fee for me and a 50min BBC One documentary for us all early next year.

It has however been a learning experience I'd not have missed for anything. To work with a great bunch of individuals from a small community, all determined to see things get better was been a humbling experience. It has also been incredibly frustrating. My June column in 'New Start' magazine will offer my top five tips for dealing with difficult people who simply cannot see that funders have their own agendas, rules and expectations. Self belief is not enough; you have to convince others.

Throughout the process I was in touch with several other village champions. It was clear all along that we were going to have to be different to stand out from a very well organised crowd. The strength of our project was its simplicity and scalability. It did not regrettably offer a nice building on which could be fixed a shiny Big Lottery plaque.

Setting aside me innate mercenary focus on income and a desire to appear on mainstream TV - the project is I think destined to be funded in other ways. From the village's point of view, this means regeneration at a more realistic pace. For me, it means less income but actually a more scalable, achievable process I might help other communities through. Not everyone can attract big funding from the Big Lottery. For most I suspect a more modest gradual series of changes are going to be better suited.

As ever I am looking for the opportunity. Now the Lottery hopes have vanished, the real opportunity is actually becoming clearer.