Poverty, isolation and democracy are among the five main barriers against communities being powerful, a report out today from Institute for Voluntary Action Research and Local Trust has shown.
Following an 18-month research project involving conversations with members of communities about what needs to happen for communities to feel and be powerful, there were five main issues that kept emerging, and have been put at the centre of the report. They are:
The research takes a snapshot of the experiences, ideas and opinions of people “living, working or active in disadvantaged communities in the UK’. They were invited to reflect on what is happening in communities today, what’s coming down the line and what that means for the kind of support they need in order to become connected and powerful in the future.
The research project The Future for Communities: Perspectives on power highlights the need for sustained investment in supporting community-level infrastructure, including on places to meet, for organisations to bring people together and for people to facilitate engagement.
Matt Leach, chief executive of Local Trust, said that the report “paints a picture of strong, resourceful communities struggling to cope with the challenges of poverty, transience and isolation; but also people and places where resilience and hope offer the prospect of positive transformation and change.”
He said: “In particular, it highlights the need for sustained investment in supporting community-level infrastructure – places to meet, organisations to bring people together and people to facilitate engagement. These issues were at the heart of CDF’s mission, and remain central to the vision of Local Trust and Big Local.”
On the issue of poverty, the report concluded that it makes it difficult for communities to become powerful. It said that the pressure of poverty, including in-work poverty, “affect people’s capacity to engage with their communities let alone collaborate, plan and deliver change – their energies are consumed in the struggle to survive.”
It said: “Communities are doing interesting and positive things to sustain their communities. But without a viable economy and access to jobs, it is difficult to achieve lasting change.”
The research was commissioned by Local Trust, carried out by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR), and funded by the Community Development Foundation (CDF) and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).
It involved three main “dialogues” taking place between March 2017 and March 2018. The first of these was scoping the issues, which involved over 170 individuals engaged through interviews and online surveys.
The second was “testing and developing findings so far in far in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, asking people to look ahead” which involved over 550 individuals engaged through interviews and workshops.
The third was on localities, which involved over 100 individuals engaged through interviews, meetings and in conversation at events, where researchers heard from people in “East Cleveland Villages, Mertjur Tydil, Milton Keynes and Rotherham”.
The themes that emerged as the dialogues progressed were then tested at successive stages as well as being tested in workshops that were held throughout the research and at conferences and events.