When we set up the Neighbourhood Challenge, one of our priorities was finding ways to draw out and share learning throughout the lifetime of the programme. I’ve no doubt that we’ll publish some research and policy stuff at the end of the programme, but we wanted to find a way for people to follow (and get involved in) the stories of each of the 17 community organisations throughout the year. We also wanted to keep it simple and make sure that people could tell their own story, in their words. That’s why we settled on the idea of WordPress blogs as a low cost, user friendly way of people telling their authentic story.

Philip Colligan and Alice Casey

Alice and Philip ready to send out blogging prizes!

We’ve gone a little bit further too. Community organisations up and down the country will know the horrors of monthly reporting to their funders. Systems created with good intent, but that end up generating tons of work and reams of paper that adds questionable value. Accountability for public money is of course hugely important for funders, but does anyone really read the monitoring information that you send in to them? So we thought we’d try something a bit different.  We’re trying to manage all of the project “reporting” through the blogs.

Imagine a world where community organisations posted their own reports of performance and expenditure online and all of their different funders used that to satisfy themselves that they were using the money appropriately. Perhaps there are funders that already take this approach? If so, we’d love to hear from you.

Of course, blogging isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and it can be intimidating for a first time blogger – publishing to the world can be a bit scary. So we’ve got the fantastic Talk About Local supporting the “bloggers” and as an added incentive, I rashly offered to dish out some prizes for the best blogs.

Almost all of the 17 community organisations have now posted their first blogs and I’ve really enjoyed reading them. The competition was so tough that I ended up awarding three prizes:

  • Best blog: Brixham YES – The fantastic pictures and stories in Brixham’s blog really bring the project to life. We really liked the slideshow: http://brixhamyes.wordpress.com/
  • Best monitoring blog: Holy Trinity – As well as some really interesting and lively posts, Holy Trinity have put together a good go at  a first monitoring blog post answering the questions we’re particularly interested in: http://parishpeoplespower.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/12-march-2011-0027/
  • First blog posted: Surrey Community Foundation – This blog is coming along well, and crucially, they were first to post up using the email address – very speedy!: http://lgnchall.wordpress.com/

Each of the winners has been sent a digital camera to help keep up their marvellous work and add more photos to the future posts. We keep asking all of the projects to post photos so in the spirit of practicing what we preach, so above is a photo of our own as we get ready to send out the cameras to the three winners. Thanks to all for making the blogs such a great read!