In 2013 the Diocese of Lichfield transformed the Bishop’s Lent Appeal into an exercise in helping congregations learn about participatory budgeting and work with their local communities to bid for funds. Trust funding supported the process…

Practising Generosity, Lent Appeal 2013

Bishop Jonathan divides the proceeds of his annual Lent Appeal between a project abroad and a project within the UK. In August 2012 he agreed to use the methodology of participatory budgeting (PB) to disperse the local portion to projects addressing poverty within the Diocese of Lichfield. The Director of Transforming Communities was keen to promote PB as a form of community empowerment, and was working with PB Partners, at that time based with Church Action on Poverty.

Initial contact was made with 101 parishes within the Diocese containing areas of deprivation within the highest 10% of the country. An open meeting was held in November 2012 out of which a steering group was formed, consisting of five members of the laity, two parish clergy, the Director of Transforming Communities and a consultant from PB Partners. The project was promoted through diocesan media channels, directly to core parishes, and through the Lent Appeal publicity.

Expressions of Interest were forthcoming from 28 projects, of which 26 submitted applications.
Church: 12 Anglican, 2 Methodist, 3 independent churches, 5 ecumenical, 4 charity.
Location: 6 Stoke, 4 Tamworth, 7 Walsall, 5 Wolverhampton, 3 Sandwell, 1 Oswestry.
All projects were offered support from Saltbox (Stoke), Church Links (Walsall), WIFRN (Wolverhampton) or from a member of the steering group.
Project themes included food, children & youth, social isolation, addiction, asylum, buildings, and debt

Applications for the £20,000 available ranged from £500 to £2,000 (upper limit), totalling £39,565.

The Practising Generosity day was held in Stafford on Saturday, 29th June. Bishop Jonathan opened and closed the event, and the Diocesan Secretary and Canon Chancellor hosted the presentations thus strengthening the common bond of the Diocese. Of the 26 submitted applications, 4 withdrew.
With over 10% in “give-back”, 16 projects were funded. There has been immediate follow-up with the six those unsuccessful projects, and on-going contact with those that were funded.

Of the 116 attendees at the event, 82 noted their support for a particular project at registration, the largest groups of committed supporters being 14,12,9,9 and 7. The age range was broad. Guests included 4 local authority representatives and 3 church-related charities. Of the 98 participants returning feedback forms returned, 82 thought it was a good way of distributing funds, and 88 would do it again.

The steering group met six times, and 15 days of admin support were devoted to the project. Local infrastructure agencies were involved. PB Partners provided consultancy. The Practising Generosity day cost about £2,500, with another £2,000 on the project, most of which was covered from grant-making bodies interested in investing in new projects. A follow-on day was held in September to encourage participants to approach statutory sector budget-holders requesting the release of funds for distribution using participatory budgeting in their own locality. In the last two years, there have been several occasions when this has been considered, though we are not aware of any further funds being disbursed using this methodology within the diocese.

Saltley Trust contributed £820 towards the cost of the Practising Generosity event, which along with other donations, ensured that all the monies raised by the Lent Appeal were disbursed to the groups applying for funding.

The Practising Generosity event is recorded in this video:

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