On Wednesday 28th November we held a launch event in Blackburn for the second stage of the HEIF funded Funding Accelerator project. We held the event in the Victorian Gallery at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, an open and inspiring space reminding us of all the innovative ideas which blossomed in the Victorian Age.
It was great to see familiar faces from our first cohort of partners on this project as well as many new faces hoping to bring their ideas to life for the benefit of their local communities.
After a short introduction about the aims of the project we welcomed John Harrison from Blackburn College to speak about the alliance between the college and Lancaster University and how it has benefitted both institutions. Sadly Ken Barnsley from Blackburn with Darwen Council was unable to attend at the last minute, however Professor Leon Cruickshank gave a short precis of how Lancaster University and the council work together and have created a successful strategic alliance over the years.
Following on from John’s talk we had the chance to hear first hand from three of our project partners who went through the first round of our bid writing workshops. They spoke of how the workshops, and the support they received throughout the project, helped them not only with the skills to write a bid proposal but also the confidence to do so and the confidence to ‘dream bigger’ – for some of them a £500 bid for funding was a huge amount yet here they were having bid successfully for £21000+ and looking at bigger bids in the near future.
After their talks all three partners kindly agreed to take part in a Q&A session so that those new to the project could ask questions relevant to their own needs and experience. It was great to hear the lively discussions and see how everyone was open to learning, feedback, and new ideas.
A short break for refreshments was had, and then we gathered around the long table and began to think about how we can shape the next few months of workshops and support to help our project partners in the best possible way.
We had prepared some suggestions to start off the discussion, however they weren’t needed as everyone was full of ideas and eager to share them with the group. Each suggestion was discussed and refined and then we invited the attendees to let us know which ones they would find most beneficial. This process allowed us to create a program of events which truly addresses the needs of our project partners so that we can help them create wonderful projects and successfully bid for them. In fact, there ended up far more workshops requested than we could fit into the time we have available.
Discussions and sharing of ideas continued over an excellent lunch with everyone looking forward to attending the new workshops and bringing projects to life with help from the Funding Accelerator project and other attendees. Listening to them talk truly underlined the necessity for both formal and informal support networks and learning for our partners.
We are currently organising a series of workshops and other events which we will publish once all the dates are finalised.