when will we move beyond the pilot?

Nesta has announced its 18 month Neighbourhood Challenge programme which is intended to provide practical advice, support and resources to enable organisations to trial innovative approaches to community-led regeneration. It is a great opportunity for organised local groups to get their project ideas off the ground and to shape the big society debate – here’s hoping they are inundated with projects.

Something is nagging at me from the press release however. The dreaded spectre of the word ‘trial’ is lurking in the announcement with only 10 organisations set to benefit from the pot of £3M. It makes sense that they will only be able to fund about 10 projects from the fund but to call them trials only reinforces the view that community-led regeneration isn’t the norm nor should it be unless we have tested it and made sure it is safe for consumption.

At the RIBA lecture last week, Nabeel Hamdi asked the panelists when they thought we would be able to go beyond calling things pilots and just show them as projects that are achieving what they set out to do. If the sustainability debate has given us anything, it is that the obsession with pilot projects and trials has the ability to quickly lead to bling responses when a practical solution is needed.

The trial of 10 also raises the issue of how small but effective community ideas will get heard over the racket of projects pitched at £300K…

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