On Wednesday I was in London to take part in the first annual Big Assist Conference – The Changing Face of Infrastructure – at the British Library. Big Assist is a major new programme, funded by the Big Lottery Fund and administered by NCVO, which supports voluntary and community sector infrastructure organisations across England. Justin Davis-Smith, Executive Director of Volunteering & Development at NCVO, opened the conference with the suggestion that we might be at the end of a golden age of Government support for voluntary sector infrastructure and that infrastructure seems to have become a much maligned concept. He thought we are not making our case strongly enough and outlined a 6-point ‘manifesto’ to address this. Dharmendra Kanani, England Director for the Big Lottery Fund, said rapid and significant change is taking place in communities. The Big Assist programme is rethinking how best to support infrastructure. Dharmendra said that Big Lottery Fund is keen to fund learning within networks and was placing support, learning and capacity-building at the heart of what it does. Later in the day I took part in workshops on ‘marketisation’ and ‘partnerships’. It was an interesting conference and a great chance to meet people from a wide variety of local, national, specialist and generic voluntary sector infrastructure organisations.
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