It gives me great pleasure to introduce this first dedicated grants strategy for Natural Resources Wales.
At the heart of what we do is a desire to make a difference to the environment as well as to people’s lives. This grants strategy’s arrival coincides with the increasing urgency to act on the climate and nature emergencies. We recognise that taking action in the face of these emergencies is not for one sector or organisation alone.
There needs to be collective action, drawing in communities, public, private and third sector organisations to work together. Our new grants strategy is designed to facilitate this.
NRW and its predecessor bodies used grant funding in different ways and for different purposes. But as NRW’s new Chairman, I know that we have not met our partners’, nor our own, aspirations for grant funding. This strategy sets out to right that wrong.
We have listened to the concerns of staff and stakeholders and now have an organisation-wide grant funding strategy supported by new, streamlined procedures and processes.
Central to our grant strategy is our commitment to providing greater certainty over our funding priorities. We are committed to moving towards a longer-term funding approach and being more flexible and responsive in getting the money out of the door.
We will provide a clear statement in our business plan on our intentions for grant funding that year. Before doing this we will talk to you to make sure that we factor in the capacity of you, our partners, to deliver.
I am committed to putting this strategy into practice and driving improvements for our customers and partners. I hope that by setting out our clear direction for grants it helps you to plan your work and focus on the greatest opportunities for securing investment and resources for the natural resources of Wales.
Sir David Henshaw
Why we need a grant funding strategy
We want to reach out to public, private and third sector organisations to work together to maximise investment in natural resources across Wales.
Our grant funding powers and resources give us the opportunity to effectively drive investment to the communities, sectors and organisations who can deliver best for the environment and natural resources of Wales.
We have listened to feedback from staff and partners and simplified our application processes and requirements.
We have prepared a new grant funding policy and procedure that sets out four principles that are at the heart of grant funding decision making:
- Consistent, transparent and fair
- Risk assessment and management
- Due diligence in line with Managing Welsh Public Money
This strategy sets the direction and ambition for our grant funding, to align funding to the strategic objectives set out in our corporate plan and the priorities and opportunities identified in Area Statements.
Our vision and ambition for grant funding
We are changing the way we work.
We are a placed based organisation actively engaging with local communities, sectors, partners, charities and Public Services Boards to collaborate more effectively and better understand opportunities to work together.
Healthy, resilient ecosystems underpin the well-being of communities. Action across the public, private and third sector is the key to building ecosystem resilience.
Our vision for grant funding is to enable and facilitate action by others. We recognise that together with our partners we can extend our reach further, enhance expertise, and generate a better understanding of the issues and people working in a Place. Others bring additional strengths and are often better able to make the connections and build the collaboration.
As a funding body in Wales we want to use our grant funding to test innovative approaches and opportunities. We recognise that in time this may contribute to the creation of new markets.
Area Statements are driving us to engage and collaborate with public, private and third sector organisations. By March 2020 we will publish seven Area Statements across Wales identifying the priorities and opportunities for action.
Our ambition is to use our grant mechanisms to fund prioritised actions emerging from Area Statements as well as those identified in functional plans and programmes.
In the face of the climate emergency and nature emergencies, we all need to seek out and drive innovative and creative approaches.
Our grant funding will explicitly support outcomes.
We want project proposals that go beyond their specific objectives, to make connections that allow them to deliver a wider range of benefits for people and nature.
We want all our grant funding to demonstrate ways of working that:
- Support communities across Wales to make the step change in the use and management of natural resources
- See evidence of collaboration between different organisations and interests
- Explore and test new ways of doing things, bringing new and innovative skills and technologies to bear and sharing the learning
- Draw on quantitative and qualitative evidence to support outcomes over the short, medium and long term
All projects should evidence these ways of working.
We expect all projects in receipt of our grant funding to contribute to outcomes that:
- Build in measures to enable nature and people to adapt to climate change
- Build ecosystem resilience at the appropriate scale – in catchments or at a landscape scale
- Make a difference to people and communities at the same time as building ecosystem resilience
- Connect people with nature and environmental issues
Small proposals of less than £10,000 may contribute to one or two of these outcomes. Larger, more complex proposals seeking larger amounts of funding will be expected to contribute to more outcomes.
We want our grant funding to drive change in the use and management of natural resources. Some projects will have unintended consequences, others will fail. We have a higher risk appetite as we are committed to innovation.
Working with other funding bodies
With continuing uncertainty about the direction of the UK’s exit from the European Union, we recognise the importance of building stronger strategic relationships with other parts of the public and private sector to maximise opportunities for investment in Wales’ natural resources.
NRW and its predecessor organisations secured over 24 million Euros directly through successful bids to LIFE, were involved in over 15 million Euros of LIFE projects as a partner and currently have a project circa 5 million Euros at concept note stage.
These projects have secured improvements in protected areas across Wales, particularly peat bogs, sand dunes and fens, protected species such as the freshwater pearl, developed collaborative programmes for restoration of Natura 2000 sites in Wales and worked with partners across Europe to address waste crime by testing innovative technologies and intelligence sharing.
Strategic, regional investment funds also play an important role. Ensuring that regeneration activities support natural resource management through any replacement funding programme is also crucial. Developing alternatives for these funding sources is a key priority for all of us in Wales. We will be working across sectors to build an understanding of the shared outcomes we are all seeking, to strengthen the programmes of funding for the environment in Wales.
In parallel, we are stepping up our strategic engagement with other funding bodies in Wales, promoting opportunities to combine resources to co-fund grant programmes. UK based funding bodies recognise the different legislative and policy context in Wales resulting from the Well-being of Future Generations Act and Environment (Wales) Act. We will act on this opportunity to explore the mechanisms for co-funding grant programmes that support the sustainable management of natural resources.
We will explore with other Welsh public and private sector organisations the opportunities to co-fund grant programmes to support specific shared outcomes.
Alternative funding mechanisms such as the UK Woodland Carbon Code and Peatland Code also have an important role to play and we will explore how they can be used to lever in additional monies for grant holders, to provide a longer-term business model once grant funding has ended.
Simplifying our approach
We have worked with staff and partners to simplify grant processes to optimise the impact of grant funding. We are committed to making the process as simple and effective as possible, only asking for information that we need to reach a decision. Continuous improvement is central to our way of working in NRW and our grant funding processes will continue to be enhanced as we receive feedback from all.
Our Grant Policy and Procedure sets out the guiding principles which inform all our grant decision making:
- Proportionate processes in terms of the scale, value and risk
- Consistent, transparent and fair processes with procedures and guidance for staff and applicants. There must be sufficient flexibility to make changes in response to identified risks, issues or poor performance
- Risk assessment and management throughout the lifespan of a grant scheme particularly at the appraisal and monitoring stages where appropriate
- Proportionate due diligence to ensure that grants are awarded to financially viable bodies that are able to deliver activities in line with the defined purpose of the grant scheme
Our grant funding mechanisms
We will run three grant funding mechanisms:
- Competitive grant funding
- Strategic allocated funding
- Shared outcomes request funding
In developing these funding mechanisms we have drawn on the principles set out in the Welsh Government’s Grant Centre of Excellence Minimum Standards. We have also built in the Welsh Government’s requirements set out in the Code of Practice for Funding the Third Sector.
Individuals, charities, universities, SMEs, public and private sector organisations can apply to us for grant funding. We are moving towards longer term funding and being more flexible and responsive.
Competitive grant funding
A competitive grant is one where applications are received during a defined time period with specific opening and closing dates. The grant is run on a competitive basis as the budget is predefined.
Once the application period closes, all applications are judged against the openly stated and pre-determined criteria for the scheme, attributed a score and ranked.
Any applications received outside the application period are not considered.
Applications are judged on the information submitted during the application period alone. It is not appropriate to request further information from applicants either during or after the application period. The only circumstance where it is acceptable to request or provide further information is where all applicants are given or asked to provide the same additional information, and all are given the same deadline by which to submit it. This is to ensure fairness and consistency towards all applicants.
Read more about when competitive grants will become available.
Strategic allocated funding
This mechanism underpins our work to deliver priorities identified in the corporate plan, Area Statements and functional plans and strategies.
Funding is allocated using a prescribed formula. The formula must be supported by relevant data and evidence.
Strategic allocated funding grants will be awarded for a minimum of 3-5 years to demonstrate a longer-term commitment to deliver priority outcomes with partners.
Shared outcomes request funding
Shared outcomes requests are ad hoc, external proposals to NRW for funding to deliver projects/initiatives which we may have an interest in.
The individual or organisation initiates the preparation of a proposal that they “own”. The format of the submission is within their gift.
There is no NRW template, but a checklist will be provided setting out the criteria that should be included in any proposal for funding.
NRW staff can discuss the strategic objectives and outcomes that the proposal will address. Staff need to be clear in any exchanges that these do not prejudge the assessment or decision to award funding, or give any such impression. Once the proposal is formally submitted those involved in earlier discussions can play no role in the assessment or final decision to award funding.
Read more about making a shared outcomes request.
We currently allocate £4million per year to funding grants and partnerships (excluding funding via EU programmes and LIFE projects). This is mostly funded from grant-in-aid. We use £1.2 million to fund the Wales Coast Path, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Trails. The remainder is allocated to priorities aligned to our corporate plan.
We expect to increase the size of the NRW grant funding budget in 2020/21 and thereafter, as grants will play an important role enabling delivery of the priorities and opportunities identified in Area Statements.
We expect the total level of investment in grant funding to grow as we lever in additional monies from other funding bodies and the private sector. We are committed to playing our part in shifting the economy in Wales by pump priming new and innovative technologies and driving wider networking to drive investment in the green economy.
Our commitment to partners
At the start of each financial year we will confirm in our business plan:
- The size of the budget allocated to grant funding
- How we propose to allocate the money between the three funding mechanisms
- Any competitive grant programmes we will run
Ahead of these decisions we will talk to organisations and charities across the public and private sector to seek their input and gauge their appetite for competitive funding programmes.