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Dialogues Series: an introduction

Plans for our Empowered Communities research project

February 2017

By Leila Baker, head of research, IVAR

‘Empowered Communities in the 2020s’ is Local Trust’s ambitious new project made possible by a major legacy donation from the Community Development Foundation, which would have celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. The project is about scoping and supporting the future of community development with a critical eye for what it needs to look like and who it needs to involve in order to be fit for the purpose of empowering communities in the 2020s. ​

Local Trust and their partners at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have chosen to ‘tee up’ the project with research. We at IVAR are delighted to have been asked to take responsibility for that part of the project. The research will ask, 'What needs to happen to bring about empowered communities?' 

In December 2017, we will begin to hand back our findings to those people who are already are and will continue to be instrumental in shaping the future of community development. We’re excited to be making a small contribution to support their long term efforts.

Three guiding principles

At IVAR we spend a lot of time demystifying research for people. One of the things we are forever saying is, ‘Research? it’s just talking to people really.’ And in fact the Empowered Communities in the 2020s research will be one long conversation. We have called it the Dialogues Series and have designed it with three principles in mind:

  • Collaboration: A highly collaborative process that recruits not only people who ‘do’ community development but also activists and people who act as community glue because they work there.
  • Imagination: An engaging, enjoyable process that keeps on asking, ‘Who’s talking where about this and how can we get them involved?’ — designed to stimulate new ideas.
  • Using the past to move freely into the future: A solid base from which to understand what has gone before and think ahead to what might be required in the future.

Three sets of Dialogues

We want to involve people, groups and organisations in the public, voluntary (including faith and community groups) and business sectors that support individuals and communities, build movements, and operate online and offline.

We will do this through three sets of Dialogues:

  • Dialogue: Issues  – Exploring issues that intersect with community development and empowered communities, such as income inequality, local ageing populations, housing, immigration or climate change.
  • Dialogue: Nations  – Visiting four nations in the UK to hear from people who work with communities regardless of whether or not they have a community development remit as such.
  • Dialogue: Places – Conversations in four communities of place, to hear from people who work with, or in some way support communities — regardless of whether or not they have a community development remit.

Across the Dialogues we will be growing involvement among a range of communities of interest and diverse identities including, but not limited to, class, age, sexuality, physical and mental health and disability, ethnicity, faith, and nationality. We will also involve a range of schools of thought including international development, development education and citizenship.

We’ll be posting parts of each Dialogue online as we go along so that they are freely available to anyone else working around empowered communities and community development. From time to time we’ll stop and take stock of what we have heard and again share these analyses online.  How will we report at the very end? We’re keeping an open mind about that for now. Watch this space!

The IVAR team includes myself, Leila Baker, along with Helen Garforth (Associate), Marilyn Taylor (Visiting Fellow) and our colleagues Katie Turner, Houda Davis and Rosa Powloski. We’re looking forward to working with you.


Get involved: To keep up to date with the Dialogues and be the first to hear about opportunities to contribute, sign up to the Empowered Communities mailing list. 

Read more: Visit the Empowered Communities section of our website.

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