Building Better Opportunities

Progress, Building Better Opportunities
Logo - European Union - European Social Fund

The Building Better Opportunities Programme is now closed. The Programme was funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, with matched funding from the European Social Fund for projects across England that tackled poverty and promoted social inclusion.

What’s it all about?

The National Lottery Community Fund matched funds from the European Social Fund (ESF) 2014-2020 to invest in local projects tackling the root causes of poverty, promoting social inclusion and driving local jobs and growth.

The funding was delivered in 38 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas according to local priorities, which were set by the LEPs themselves. It supported a variety of projects, ranging from those improving employability for the most disadvantaged, helping those with multiple and complex needs, to improving financial literacy.

The amount of funding varied across different areas as LEPs and the LEP area European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF) Sub Committees decided how much of their ESF allocation to devote to this strand of work.

In your area

Cross-Cutting Themes

The BBO programme has two Cross-Cutting Themes, mainstreamed across all partnership work and project delivery. The two themes help ensure that BBO delivers fairer, greener engagement and support for a huge range of people:

  1. Environmental Sustainable Development
  2. Equality & Equal Opportunities

For each of the two themes, all BBO partnerships (grant holders and their partner organisations) are required to upkeep relevant policies and specific action plans to demonstrate progress over time. These policies and plans are subject to regular scrutiny through quarterly reporting, periodical audits and evaluation.

The two themes hold deep resonance for communities, VCSE organisations and The National Lottery Community Fund alike. Indeed, the two themes loudly chime with two of the guiding principles inside TNLCF: Climate Action and E.D.I. (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion).

BBO’s dual focus on ‘environment/climate action’ and ‘equalities/EDI’

BBO is a significant programme: over £500 Million of multi-annual funding since 2016, supporting well over 100 partnerships (approx. 2,000 organisations, majority VCSE/Voluntary sector).

That large scale and multi-annual nature is due to BBO having been co-financed, through TNLCF investment alongside European Social and Investment Funding (part of European Social Funding). Certain EU policy drivers have underpinned the BBO programme since its initial design and from its launch in 2016. These policy pieces are like the DNA of BBO, they span ‘social inclusion’, ‘combating poverty’, and ‘combating discrimination of any kind’.

Such clear policy pieces helped shape the programme’s Equality and Equal Opportunities cross-cutting theme. As for the Environmental cross-cutting theme, the programme’s main aims of boosting employability and employment, as well as training and education, directly relate to only two of the three sustainable development goals – the social and the financial – that have become the international standard since the turn of this century. The third goal – environmental sustainability – was effectively missing. So the focus on environment/climate action made sense as the other cross-cutting theme actioned during this programme.

More on the two cross-cutting themes within BBO

Explore the links below to understand more about the two important themes that are mainstreamed across all BBO partnership projects throughout England. The key take-aways refer to both themes, taken together, and is followed by a dedicated section for each theme.

Cross-Cutting Themes: Key take-aways

Environmental Sustainable Development (climate action)

Overview: Stakeholder sessions on Environmental Sustainable Development (climate action)

Discussion points: Topical conversations Re Environmental Sustainable Development (climate action)

Weblinks & further resources Re Environmental Sustainable Development (climate action)

Equality & Equal Opportunities

Overview: Stakeholder sessions on Equality & Equal Opportunities

Discussion points: Topical conversations Re Equality & Equal Opportunities

Weblinks & further resources Re Equality & Equal Opportunities


The National Lottery Community Fund appointed Ecorys to deliver the national evaluation and learning services for its Building Better Opportunities programme. The contract started in 2016 and ran until 2023. The final evaluation report can be found below along with each of the annual reports and learning papers.

The evaluation concentrated on examining the approach to programme implementation on the ground. In doing so, it took a formative perspective to generate insights and timely lessons during the life of the programme. The key areas for investigation and analysis through the national evaluation were access and impact.

Key research questions for the evaluation centred on whether the BBO programme worked in relation to successfully moving people towards and into work, and what benefits there have been for those participating in the programme. The evaluation explored the following questions:

  • What models / approaches / principles effectively support those furthest from the labour market to move along their pathway to employment?
  • What difference has BBO made to the lives of participants?
  • How successful has the BBO programme been in enabling the VCSE sector to access the funding?
  • What difference has BBO made to existing services?
  • What learning can be identified to take forward for future employment programmes?


Learning Papers

The below video highlights many of the achievements of the programme, and also shares some stories from our participants:

Visit the case studies page to read about some of the people who have been helped so far.

Reports on progress are collected quarterly, and are then validated at The National Lottery Community Fund. As of the end of September 2021 (quarter 3):

Support for grantholders

For Building Better Opportunities, The National Lottery Community Fund is matching funding from the European Social Fund. It is important that grant holders follow the regulations laid down by the ESF. Our Guide to delivering European funding will support you in applying these requirements.

Our Building Better Opportunities resources page contains documents from throughout the programme. Here you can find general information about the programme, logos, templates, FAQs and lessons learned in delivering the programme.

The National Lottery Community Fund has appointed Ecorys to deliver the national evaluation and learning services for this programme. The evaluation concentrates on examining how the programme is implemented, primarily concerning access and impact. Valuable learning along the way will be shared here

If you have a query about Building Better Opportunities, please contact or call 0345 4 10 20 30.

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