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Green spaces

Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities evaluations
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Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities was a programme which brought together disadvantaged communities to improve their environment. It saw the development of new community green spaces, improved playing fields, cycling and walking routes and more. It also worked to reduce use of the world’s scarce resources.

Through our Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities evaluation we’ve seen that the impact of environmental projects can have a wide reach. They can engage local communities. This can lead to the development of neighbourliness, mutual support and an improved ability to work as a community.

Our evaluation goes further than indicating the programme’s impact. It considers how well the programme worked and why. This in an important part of our work at the Big Lottery Fund.

This page outlines some of our main learning points from the programme evaluation.

Evaluations help us understand how programmes work. Our learning can help improve future programmes, so we support communities in the best way.

Planning successful projects

Our Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities evaluation highlights some important factors in running successful programmes:

  • community-led projects tend to be more successful at promoting community involvement and developing social capital
  • working from the bottom up brings greatest value for the community
  • linking social, environmental and economic factors brings the most benefits
  • enablers/mentors are a useful tool in supporting new and inexperienced applicants from disadvantaged communities.

The programme adopted an Award Partners system which delegated grant-making and programme delivery to selected organisations. This approach can be successful because:

  • it brings environmental expertise and enthusiasm to the initiative
  • it enables partners to increase their capacity
  • it helps to strengthen links to other sectors and allows other funding to be drawn in.


Despite the programme’s success, we’ve seen that community groups can be vulnerable. This is particularly evident as:

  • community groups can overstretch themselves
  • funding and support can disappear
  • progress can be lost when the funding ends.


Understanding challenges helps us address them. Some of the challenges faced by the Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities programme can also be relevant more widely:

  • clarity is needed about the purpose of programmes and desired outcomes
  • programmes with too diverse a target can lose focus
  • tailoring work to the needs of potential applicants and providing support during project delivery is expensive
  • there is no single route to the successful maintenance of green spaces
  • project sustainability needs to be considered at the outset. It cannot wait until the final few months of funding
  • sustaining the benefits of the project after our funding ends is a complex issue.

More about the research

We ran Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities between 2000 and 2006. It was our first environmental initiative. It ran across the UK through 11 programmes, with a £126 million investment.

Each programme was run by an Award Partner. These partners held specific expertise in relevant areas of environmental work.

We commissioned Sally Downs Associates and Alison Millward Associates to evaluate the programme. We wanted to find out how effective Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities had been in:

  • promoting social inclusion
  • using award partners to deliver the initiative.

Our evaluation covered ten of the eleven Award Partners. The eleventh, the Scottish Land Fund, was evaluated separately. The full report is available below.


Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities evaluation
Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities evaluation: Northern Ireland
Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities evaluation: Scotland
Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities evaluation: Wales
Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities: Award Partner Delivery
Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities second year report
Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities first year report summary
Green Spaces, Sustainable Communities and Transforming Waste evaluation summary