James Turner

/ James Turner

"I like to think I’m an unusual blend of being good with numbers and good with words, too.  What I’m really interested in is making sure information – whether it’s words or numbers – is set out in a way that’s easy to understand.

I am Rocket Science’s newest member of staff, having joined on 17 November 2014.  My background has been developing and designing £100m+ funding programmes for the Big Lottery Fund (BLF).  These programmes focused on issues such as community regeneration, reaching the hardest to reach and tackling disadvantage.

The areas that I’m most interested in are policy analysis; data analysis; working in partnership; design of / consultation on strategic level funding programmes; and making sure these funding programmes work in practice.

Outside of work, I’m a Trustee at the Toby Henderson Trust, a Northumberland charity for children with autism.

Before James was at Rocket Science, he was the Big Lottery Fund’s Head of Policy and Learning from 2013-2014.  During this time, he led on the policy development of the Fund’s A Better Start programme, to improve the life chances of babies and very young children in the most deprived parts of the country.  He also led an internal review of the Fund’s approach to partnership working.

Before this, James was Head of Region – North East at BLF from 2005-2013.  In this role, he was responsible for oversight of BLF’s approximate investment of £20million each year in the North East region.  A key achievement during his time as Head of Region was my lead policy role in the development of £200m Big Local programme.  This has created a network of 150 local endowments in deprived communities across England and is a key part of BLF’s approach to community regeneration.  In particular, James designed the funding allocation model to decide the national geographic spread of Big Local areas.  He also designed the approach to work with local partners to identify relevant communities of approximately 5,000-10,000 people to benefit from the endowments. Going further back, James was a Senior Policy Adviser at what was then called the New Opportunities Fund (before it merged into BLF) from 1999-2004.  And before that, he was Policy and Research Manager at London Boroughs Grants Committee from 1997-99.

Recent projects include

  • Project lead for the evaluation framework development and research mapping for Groundwork NE and Cumbria-led ROAD BBO Stage 2 bid.
  • Project lead for the needs analysis and research mapping for the Northern Inclusion Consortium’s Step Forward Tees Valley BBO Stage 2 bid.
  • Currently leading the development of Northumberland County Council’s CLLD stage 2 bid for ESIF funding in south east Northumberland and the north of North Tyneside.
  • Led a review of Barnsley’s VCSE sector, including working with Barnsley MBC to develop the review framework and identifying information requirements to analyse the state of the sector.
  • Led an evaluation of Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums Culture Track programme, which aims to help young people facing barriers to employment into work through cultural volunteering.
  • Led on the development of a Local Sustainability Fund business change plan for The Junction, a young people’s organisation in Redcar.
  • Led an evaluation of Newcastle City Council’s European-funded Go Digital business support programme
  • Project lead on Rocket Science’s feasibility study for East Durham College Rural Enterprise Hub
  • Led on Rocket Science research and information analysis and report editing for North East Combined Authority Work Programme Commissioning project
  • BLF policy and learning lead on £215m A Better Start initiative
  • BLF regional lead on £112m Complex Needs initiative
  • BLF regional lead on £200m Big Local initiative


BA(Hons) in Mathematics from St Peter’s College, Oxford

James' little weaknesses

  • A tendency in recent years to say, ‘Ooh me back,’ when picking something up off the floor
  • The film ‘The Wedding Planner’ – proof, if it is needed, that Jennifer Lopez is as fine a comic actress as she is a singer
  • Babybel cheese – a ridiculous nursery food for a grown man with a slightly dodgy back and a J-Lo fixation, but the heart wants what the heart wants


Associate Director

  • 0191 230 8078
  • james.turner@rocketsciencelab.co.uk
  • Newcastle

Areas of Expertise

  • Third Sector/Civil Society policy and practice
  • Partnership development and working
  • Economic regeneration
  • Employability and skills
  • Early intervention
  • Design / consultation on funding programmes