Bishop releases £20,000 for projects in deprived neighbourhoods

Bishop Jonathan Gledhill with some of the recipients of funds from his Lent Appeal

The Bishop of Lichfield has released the first £20,000 in donations raised through his Lent Appeal.

Just over £40,000 was raised by individuals and parishes throughout the diocese in response to Bishop Jonathan Gledhill's appeal. Each year, the money raised is divided between projects in the UK and projects abroad.

This year, the proceeds were shared at a 'Practising Generosity' event hosted by Bishop Jonathan Gledhill.

The event was attended by 21 groups requesting between £200 and £2,000 for their cause. A system called participatory budgeting was used in which each person present voted for their top 10 projects.

Once totalled, the project with the most points was awarded the funds it requested, then the second, third and so on, until there are no funds left. Twelve projects were fully funded and one partially in this way.

The top score went to a project in Tamworth to provide a hot lunch each day during the summer holidays to children who normally rely on free school meals. The large team presented their project in song, dressed in aprons and waving kitchen utensils.

Second place went to the 'Crafty Tuesdays' project in Pleck, Walsall, which brings isolated people together around arts and crafts.

"It is so often the case that we who are given positions of authority are asked to make decisions from a detached position," said Bishop Gledhill about using the voting system.

"This can have impartial benefits, but often loses sight of what it feels like to be part of a community.

"I felt it was one of the best events I've ever been to in this diocese. It was so inspiring to see how generosity spreads."

At the end of the distribution, the 'winners' were invited to give back part of the funds they had been awarded so that more projects could benefit and a further £2250 was made available, allowing 14 fully-awarded grants and one partially funded.

The Reverend David Primrose, Director of Transforming Communities for the Diocese of Lichfield and leader of the team that organised the event said: "Practising Generosity is a core value of this diocese and the Christian life. It is a most generous act by the Bishop to release the funds from his Lent Appeal for others to distribute as they see fit."

The event was supported by Alan Budge of the Participatory Budgeting Unit who said: "Participatory Budgeting has a good track record around the world and increasingly in local communities in the UK. It hasn't been tried for distributing funds over scattered groups like this before so we had to work hard to help people from around the diocese to come together and learn about each other's projects."

Reverend Primrose continued: "Many people I've talked to before, during and since the event are really enthusiastic about the strengths of this process. It is wonderful to see so many projects moving forward.

"But for me the real mark of success will be to see some of these groups going back to their local councils, police & crime commissioner or other grant bodies and persuading those funding providers to embrace participatory budgeting as a means of prioritising and funding local projects."

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