The New Infrastructure Programme: the story so far
We set up the New Infrastructure Programme last year to give critical community infrastructure organisations the opportunity, space and time to plan for the future. Today we have announced funding to 14 vital and varied infrastructure organisations across the UK. We have focused this funding on infrastructure organisations who support informal groups, local social action, specialist communities, and voluntary and community sector organisations across the UK. We recognise their ability to support a wide variety of organisations and communities, bring together a cross section of groups, and provide a uniquely systemic lens on what needs to change, where there are gaps and where there is potential.
The 14 awards, made possible thanks to National Lottery players, are split equally into two groups: established infrastructure; which has the main remit of supporting the voluntary and community sector, and emerging infrastructure; which may be newer, networked or self-organised. Our conversations with infrastructure organisations in 2019 when planning this programme showed a clear differentiation in the types of organisation and work that was happening. This is why we have made this distinction and have funded both types of infrastructure across the sector.
The projects we are funding are incredibly diverse, covering all four countries of the UK, and working with young women of colour, people experiencing food poverty, people with disabilities, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, as well as refugees and asylum seekers. Several of the grant holders are community and voluntary sector support organisations, including work in specific urban areas, with rural groups, supporting young farmers, and in the vital areas of community transport and community connections. All important for building community power.
We understand that for grassroots and community led organisations to thrive, it's important they have access to effective support, which infrastructure organisations provide. And to be able to do this, the infrastructure organisations themselves need resource and support to figure out how to keep adapting and strengthening what they do to be fit for the future.
That is why, alongside funding, the organisations funded through this programme will also be supported by two ‘Design Labs’. They provide a dedicated support team that will give technical and design expertise alongside coaching and mentoring. While the 14 grantees will be supported as individual organisations, the Design Labs will also facilitate ways for them to share and learn from each other. These labs will work in the open, sharing the common themes and challenges they are finding, with the ambition that there will be learning, opportunities and information that all infrastructure organisations across the UK could benefit from.
In total we received 149 applications for this programme last year, a large amount showing the energy and need for this headspace and resource. We don’t take it lightly to have to say no to projects, therefore we will be hosting workshops in the next month with those who didn't receive funding this time to share what we did fund and why, but also to hear from them about their needs and how they found this funding process. We want to give these organisations the opportunity to talk to us directly.
The New Infrastructure grant holders will all start their projects in April and work with the Design Labs over the next year to enhance their digital capabilities and become more flexible, resilient and responsive ready for the future. We are excited to share how this work develops and share insights that we, as a funder, gain from this programme.