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Empowered Communities

News about Empowered Communities

Find out what the research team are learning and read the latest opinion and announcements.

Get project updates and news straight into your inbox by signing up to our Empowered Communities mailing list.

15 June 2017

Take part: Host a conversation

From the project research team at IVAR

We are interested in hearing from anyone that works with communities. Whether you’re a local group with half an hour at a coffee morning, a youth group with a passion for making a difference or an organisation delivering health checks in a community centre. Whoever you are, whatever group or organisation you are part of, we would like to hear your ideas about how communities can become empowered.

We’ve created some resources to help you host a conversation about the research in existing meetings, from your upcoming AGM to lunch with a few friends. All contributions will form an important part of our research, so please do get involved.

The research team would be happy to talk about your event and answer any questions you might have. Please email

In the resource pack you’ll find some things to help shape your conversations, and to help feed back to us what you’ve been talking about:

  • Three different ideas for activities to get the conversation started... and keep it going!
  • A set of questions to help with discussions
  • Some advice on photo consent – in case you want to send us pictures or post some on social media
  • A print-able ‘conversation catcher’ sheet for capturing what people are saying (we’ve provided it in colour and in black and white)
  • A ‘Key Points’ template for you to fill in online and email back to us – or print out and stick in the post.

Resource pack

Conversation catcher template in black and white (suitable for printing at A4 or A3, also you can type straight into it if you want)

Conversation catcher template in colour (suitable for printing at A4 or A3, also you can type straight into it if you want)

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30 May 2017

Opinion: We need people with more gumption, less fear in our communities

From the project research team at IVAR

That's what one person said to our researchers when we dropped into Big Local's fabulous annual Spring Events. So, what is 'gumption'? The dictionary says it's about courage, confidence, spirit and determination. 

And how do you build 'gumption'? Some of the things people said can help were: having the chance to do new things; getting out of your patch so that you can bring in new ideas; being allowed to get on with things and not being told what to do; feeling like you are part of something; and feeling secure about voicing opinions. Those things take time.

As part of this research, we’re asking people about how communities can take control and what may be standing in their way. Join the conversation on twitter #Empowered2020s or click here for more ways to get involved. 

24 May 2017

Update: You spoke, we've listened

From the project research team at IVAR

We've completed the 'scoping' stage of the Empowered Communities research. That's led us to make some positive changes to what we'll do next in the research.

We found that people have strong views, profound experiences and passionate ideas that they want to share. We are using what we hear to continuously adjust what we ask as we go along. And we're working hard at figuring out where we 'fit' alongside other research and inquiries. 

Read the blog by Leila Baker, head of research at IVAR.

22 May 2017

Update: First look at the literature

From the project research team at IVAR

We wanted to get the Empowered Communities conversation started as quickly as possible. We knew that other people were carrying out bigger studies than ours with weighty literature reviews attached to them that would cover the same ground as us and more comprehensively too. But we still wanted to use what has already been learned and written. So we have chosen to review a very small number of books and reports that draw together learning from across the field and that we think are important for our research. 

​We are midway through this initial review process but wanted to highlight some of the themes that are emerging as we go along and the implications for our research. In our intial literature report we highlight two themes that struck us as important for our research:

  1. What motivates people to take part?
  2. Community development and poverty alleviation

As our research progresses, we will continue our review and use it to inform some of the key topics that are emerging from the research. 

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19 May 2017

Update: Four themes from early workshops and interviews

From the project research team at IVAR

Like most research projects, this one began with a 'scoping' stage to make sure that we were asking the right questions and to get more ideas about who might want to contribute to the research. In this short summary, we are sharing a few messages that came out of the scoping interviews we carried out and workshops we attended to help us shape the research. Here’s a quick overview of four main themes we found:

  1. ‘A local base for a national conversation’ — People we spoke to want assurances that the research will be rooted in local communities and driven by what those communities need and want. 
  2. ‘What motivates people to engage?’ — We need to understand what motivates people to get involved with communities, and what puts them off. By understanding this we can begin to look at how to broaden the range of people getting involved in communities.
  3. ‘If you can't create jobs and enterprise, you won't regenerate your community’ — People identified a range of issues where they thought community development can and needs to continue to make contribution. Some said people's economic prosperity and economic regeneration is critical.
  4. ‘It may not be important to start with, but real change requires funds’ — We picked up a variety of views about funding for work with communities.

Find out more in our summary document. There are other themes that we plan to explore through the questions that we are asking in the next stage and the people, groups and organisations that we are inviting to respond, but we would really like to hear your reactions. Tweet using #Empowered2020s or email

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18 May 2017

Update: Initial survey reveals your top five ways to create empowered communities

Initial results are in from the project survey that asks — among other things — what you feel is most important to help communities become more empowered and vibrant. From these first 50 responses, the top things that people think could help communities to become more empowered and vibrant in the future are:

  1. Devolution, power, agency to make decisions locally
  2. Active participation in policy decision-making
  3. Resources for work with communities
  4. Support including education, training, capacity building, peer support
  5. Self-efficacy or confidence and self-belief

You can find out more in this short report which summarises all the survey responses received from 20 March – 11 April 2017. 

In addition to using this data to help develop the research, the research team at IVAR are also able to use the replies so far to see where to target to get further survey responses that will achieve a good geographic spread of voices and perspectives.

The survey will be open until the end of June 2017, so it’s not too late to add your response. The survey asks how you would like to be involved in the Empowered Communities project, what you feel is most important to help communities become more empowered and vibrant, and for examples of where the researchers might look for empowered communities.

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17 May 2017

Press release: Have your say about the future of communities

We’re going public with Empowered Communities in the 2020s, our research and public engagement project. We’re inviting organisations, public services, community groups, organisers and individual citizens to share their visions of how communities can become more empowered and vibrant. We’re offering a whole range of ways to participate: in person, online on this website and on social media using #Empowered2020s. Read the press release.

3 May 2017

Take part: Plant a 'vision tree' at your next event

How can communities become more empowered and vibrant in the next ten years? This is the question at the heart of Empowered Communities and although it’s a biggie, it’s something we’re inviting everyone – from expert to neighbour – to share their own response to.

It’s also a question that opens new and unexpected conversations – conversations which explore what people value in their community, what could be better, who holds power and what vision of the future people are inspired by.

Add your response

We’re inviting as many people as possible to share their answers and we’re collecting them in one place — the Empowered Communities ‘vision tree’. Taking part is simple – write your answer onto one of our tags (or tweet it) and we’ll tie it onto the tree so that people at following events can see it and add their own ideas too.

Where to find it

We’re sending our ‘vision tree’ on tour to events, meetings, public spaces and gatherings to reach as wide a range of people as we can. The tour started in March and the tree will be at all of the Big Local Spring Events, gathering fresh ideas in Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham, Newcastle and London.

Artificial tree decorated with hand written tags

Book the tree

If you are part of a community, or support a community or network you can also use the Empowered Communities vision tree to start your own conversation.

The tree is available to groups, organisations and venues who want to start their own conversation about the future of communities. We can talk to you about how you might want to hold that conversation or you can use it in whatever way works for your group.

Answers on a postcard

If you can’t get to the tree yourself, you can still add your answer to the question by phoning or writing to Local Trust, or tweeting us @LocalTrust. We’ll add your comment to the tree so everyone can see it.

What are people saying

Among the responses we’ve already had are ‘Put young people in the driving seat’, ‘Focus on fun’ and ‘Tolerance and collaboration’. Do you share these views or have something different to say? If you want to have your say, you know what to do.

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1 March 2017

Opinion: Why are empowered communities important?

At the very first workshop of the Dialogues series, we met the Empowered Communities project steering group and asked them why they think empowered communities matter. The group mentioned everything from Brexit to personal experiences of knowing neighbours — it really got us thinking! 

We’ve put our favourite answers into the video above, or you can see all the vox pops in full in this playlist

The steering group members come from a mix of national and local organisations and all have knowledge and expertise in working with communities. They are: Alice Casey, Angus McCabe, Daniel Goodwin, Debbie Burton, Fabian French, Fozia Irfan, Lorna Prescott, Paul Bragman, Dr Rachel Shanks, Richard Wilson, Sue Gill and Tony Armstrong.

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14 February 2017

Opinion: Looking back to move forward

Leila Baker, head of research at IVAR argues that the Empowered Communities ‘Dialogues Series’ is a research approach for our times, and explores why it is so important that envisioning the future should not be done without reference to lessons of the past. Read the blog.

14 February 2017

Update: Introduction to the Dialogues Series

Leila Baker, head of research at IVAR, explains that the Empowered Communities in the 2020s research will be structured through a series 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.

Read the research description. 

14 February 2017

Opinion: Filling the void

If the past of community and place-based funding can teach us anything, it is that we must create space to explore, share and understand new ideas and practice. Local Trust’s Empowered Communities project will do just that, says Matt Leach. Read the blog.

13 February 2017

Opinion: Why did the Big Society fail?

As our Empowered Communities project prepares to look at the future of support to communities, Matt Leach reflects on what we can learn by looking at the past. Read the blog.

3 January 2017

Opinion: Do you chat to your neighbours online? What about in 15 years’ time?

Just five years ago I wouldn't really have imagined I would be chatting to groups of my neighbours about things that really matter to my everyday life, says Alice Casey, Local Trust trustee.

Just before Christmas we had some work done on the kitchen, and found damp plaster and lead piping which needed to be removed. Having a young baby in the house and with winter setting in, we weren't best pleased to have to have the heating and hot water turned off for chunks of time at late notice over the holidays. I sent an email out and within a couple of hours had offers of three fan heaters and a spare kettle to borrow plus invitations to get out of the cold and use neighbours' hot water.

Just five years ago I wouldn't really have imagined I would be chatting to groups of my neighbours about things that really matter to my everyday life. Now, I do this regularly. Whether it is finding emergency childcare, improving the local park, finding the best doctor to go to or many other local tips and issues, my first port of call is no longer a local newspaper; it is the email group on our street, the second place I turn is to a what's app group of neighbours with kids of a similar age, and the third is a local news website and Twitter/Facebook feed run by volunteers.

This is just one example of how community life has been evolving over the past 5 years for one group of people; what change can you imagine in your communities over the next 10 or 15 years?

The Community Development Foundation worked with communities for fifty years, closing its doors in 2016. As part of its closure, Local Trust has taken on legacy funding from CDF that will spark new thinking about the issues that matter to community development over the next 10 to 15 years, imagining impact of some of the bigger trends, as well as the community led changes in behaviour and interaction. 

Whether it is the resounding impact of Brexit, the apparent upward trend in community well-being or apparent decline in trust of ‘experts’; Local Trust is interested in hearing from creative researchers with ideas to help understand and imagine community change in the future. 

Thanks to additional support from JRF, we are able to look particularly into how those living in poverty may be empowered or affected. This research is an exciting opportunity to think and inspire others to think about how we can shape our communities into the places we most want them to be, for everyone to enjoy; a subject very close to the heart of Local Trust and all the 150 community partnerships we work with.

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21 November 2016

Press release: New project launches to explore a radically different future for communities, as report suggests collaboration with residents is key

Local Trust today announces the names of steering group members who will direct a major new independent research project scoping the future of work with communities. The announcement comes as Local Trust also publishes a new report characterising the perceptions of 26 leaders in the community sector who gave confidential interviews to insight consultancy, BritainThinks. Read the press release.

7 September 2016

Update: Empowered Communities outline plans announced

We’re delighted to announce outline plans for a major new research project that will capture the contemporary value of community development and scope its future. View the announcement.

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