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Our Bigger Story: Beyond the early years

Research by TSRC

July 2017

Our Bigger Story, the multimedia evaluation of Big Local, has shown that the programme is developing local residents’ skills and confidence.

The evaluation explains how Big Local is enabling residents to begin to make their area a better place to live. The longitudinal research, carried out by the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) at the University of Birmingham, will be of particular interest to funders and anyone who is looking for practical methodologies for putting power in the hands of local people.

Multimedia approach

The latest findings are based on two years of in-depth interviews, facilitated group discussions, filming and observations in 15 of the 150 Big Local areas around England. The researchers worked alongside residents in urban, rural and coastal areas to collect and create videos, podcasts and photographs of Big Local in action.

“Our evaluation of Big Local is using a wide range of media to record, visually and orally, what is happening in real time in communities over a period of 10 years. This multimedia dimension has never been attempted before over such a long time span.” - Angus McCabe, Senior Research Fellow, Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham

Key findings

  • The Big Local programme is developing local residents’ skills and increasing their confidence to take complex decisions about how to make their area a better place to live.
  • There are particularly clear positive impacts so far on the environment of Big Local areas and the wellbeing of people in Big Local areas.
  • Improved levels of community cohesion, reduced social isolation and a better feeling about the community were reported by some Big Local areas.
  • Residents are choosing to lead change in a variety of ways, combining approaches that include:
    - taking a community development approach
    - operating grants
    - commissioning projects
    - co-ordinating existing groups and services
    - focusing on delivering substantial capital or infrastructure projects.
  • Big Local is definitely a ‘a big’ ask’ of communities but they are rising to the challenge.
  • There are signs of ‘ripple effects’ – positive impact beyond the direct programme activities.

Local Trust will be using the learning points the researchers have brought out to help develop the programme and support the Big Local areas in the remaining 10 years of Big Local.

The report and the films

Explore the e-book of the report (preview pictured below)

View multimedia timelines for the Big Local areas involved in the research

Watch films by Our Bigger Story

Download evaluation reports as PDFs:


Summary report
Full report

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