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The Future for Communities: Perspectives on power

Final report from the Empowered Communities in the 2020s

July 2018

The Future for Communities: Perspectives on power shares findings from an 18 month research project asking ‘What needs to happen for communities to feel and be more powerful in the future?'. The report is part of Empowered Communities in the 2020s research project launched in March 2017 to gather a wide range of views about the future for communities.

How are people living in our most disadvantaged communities going to change their lives for the better as we go into the 2020s? Many have tremendous assets but they have been at the sharp end of change. Who and what needs to happen for them to feel and be more powerful?

The research team from the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) hosted conversations with more than 800 people to hear from people in the nations and regions of the UK and to talk with people living and working locally in four places. The issues that kept coming up in their conversations were:

  • Poverty. Poverty including in-work poverty is affecting people’s capacity to get involved. How will the changing job market of insecure work affect people’s engagement in the future?
  • Transience. Changes in the housing market are reshaping more and more communities. Population change can bring new life and dynamism. But it can also bring insecurity. What does community mean for people who may not be able to put down any roots?
  • Fragmentation. Divisions and distrust within diverse communities make them less powerful. In a changing world, can place still be a source of strength to everyone who lives there? And how do we maximise the benefits of our diverse society?
  • Isolation.Public spaces are shrinking. Where are the spaces where people can meet, talk and learn about each other? Will people increasingly retreat into their own homes and into virtual spaces?
  • Democracy. Much has been written about alienation from politics, especially in the poorest places. Can we find new ways of doing politics that will reenergise our democracy?

The report explores each of these issues, and concludes that communities and those who work with them have responded with commitment and energy to the challenges they face. They now need policies and investment that recognise the disadvantages that these communities bear and that confront lazy and discriminatory assumptions about the people who live there. Society – government, business and wider civil society – needs to get behind them.

Find out more about the Empowered Communities project, which initiated the report.

Summary report
Full report

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