How do you get a neat line of effect and accountability between regional government, local authorities and funded third sector groups?

Community Evaluation NI (CENI) and Thrive, on behalf of Arts Collaboration Network, are exploring this using the Community Festivals Fund (CFF) as a hypothetical example.

The Fund is run by the Department for Communities (DfC) which distributes it to councils, provided they match the contribution. The councils then make grants to third sector groups to run community festivals.

DfC operates CFF in line with guidance set by a past Minister. Each council (26 at the time, now 11) interpreted these to create their own criteria, application, assessment and reporting forms.

Anecdotal evidence suggested that CFF was becoming disproportionate heavy to run in relation to its financial value.

We wondered if this might be because outcomes were no longer clear (there are 40 effects stated in the guidance) it having been set up before the Draft Programme for Government and its Outcomes Based Accountability approach was introduced.

With no Minister, and so no possibility of the CFF being changed, it provided safe space in which to explore how a regional to local grant system might be designed to give outcome centred congruence and simplicity from policy to practice.

During 2018/19 are bringing the culture and community planning elements of the DfC and seven local councils, along with local grant applicants, together to explore what an outcomes-based, Community Festivals Fund might look like.

This is a learning exercise where all participants gain insight into how outcomes planning and co-design work.  It cannot change the CFF. But, should there be a Minister in future – we will all be match fit.

We will publish a report on what was learned through this process in the spring of 2019.