As we emerge – finally – from the pandemic, we need to not just revive a flatlining economy, we need to take steps to empower and recapitalise communities, to give people back a sense of belonging and rekindle the social networks and institutions upon which we all rely.
Successive governments have tried to turn around declining places and stimulate ailing communities. Their record is not particularly impressive. Many of the places that received funding and support through Harold Wilson’s Community Development Projects, John Major’s Single Regeneration Budget or Tony Blair’s New Deal for Communities remain “left behind” today.
These programmes have tended to rely almost exclusively on economic regeneration as a tool for placemaking. Policies like
grant funding, job creation schemes and physical infrastructure investment dominate.
In this report, we explore the case for building up local places’ social institutions and networks, as a foundation for future prosperity. We find that it is through the interaction between social and economic policies, giving people the means to social action as well as the financial security to make use of it, that places can be revived.
We developed a framework that speaks directly to the important traditions of community life: people, place, institution and capital and is intended to sustain, inspire and ‘level-up’ community strength across the UK.
We propose a series of policies to build on this framework, bringing power to individuals and communities to give back locally, and greater resources to ensure that the most fraying communities have strong reciprocal networks and institutions:
We believe the conceptual framework we are presenting – a broad understanding of what needs to change, together with the powers and resources to achieve change – is the only way in which to meaningfully level up communities across the UK.
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