The Big Green Challenge

  • Seoana Sherry-Brennan

    Seoana Sherry-Brennan

    Digital Communications and Prize Engagement Officer

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The Big Green Challenge was a £1m challenge prize designed to encourage and support community-led responses to climate change.

The project explored how far an outcome based prize – which rewards results not activity – could stimulate innovation in communities while encouraging the drive and focus needed to achieve measurable change.

Through the Big Green Challenge, we aimed to uncover what support communities needed to transform their bright ideas into viable solutions that will improve all of our lives.

In early 2008, 355 groups came forward with a wide range of imaginative and practical ideas for reducing CO2 emissions in their communities. We selected 100 of the most promising groups, who received support from the Big Green Challenge team to develop their ideas into detailed plans.

From this group, we shortlisted ten finalists who then put their ideas into practice to compete for the £1m prize. After evaluating the success of the finalists, a panel of judges chose the winners and they were announced in February 2010.

The finalists reduced CO2 emissions in their communities by between 10–46% in the Big Green Challenge delivery year.

Following the Big Green Challenge we produced an evaluation report detailing what we learned from running the project. You can read the full evaluation document, but below are a few key lessons we took away from the project:

  • Outcome (performance) based funding should be considered as an additional option to traditional grant funding of community action. It has the potential to mobilise community resources and to accelerate change.
  • Spotting and rewarding success can help communities to mobilise more resource than they might be able to do on their own.
  • Providing small grants to pilot the delivery of innovative ideas is a useful model for selecting organisations with the most potential; but the administrative burdens on those taking part need to be kept in proportion to the risk that they will get no further funding.
  • Communities provide a resource for real and measurable change that can complement and work alongside ‘top-down’ interventions and behaviour change programmes.

As well as producing an evaluation report we also created a guide on how to use social prize challenges to promote “people-powered public services”.

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