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Where we go from here – next steps for ‘The Future for Communities’

Leila Baker, Research Fellow at IVAR and joint author of ‘The Future for Communities’ final research paper, reflects on what we’ve learned so far and what needs to happen next for communities to feel more powerful in the future

It's been a number of months since we published The Future for Communities: Perspectives on Power. We asked over 800 contributors across the UK 'What needs to happen for communities to feel and be more powerful in the future?' and our summary and report sets out their responses.

This closing blog on behalf of the research team marks the end of 18 months' research and the beginning of what we hope will be a much longer period of action to address the five themes that emerged:

While we acknowledge that none of these are new or undiscovered issues, we feel confident that they are present and pressing in the disadvantaged communities that we talked to; and that there is considerable consensus about them.

Why does that matter? It matters because we can now, with a degree of confidence, challenge ourselves and others to get behind these themes, form alliances, find new ways to work together to address them.

In our research we tried to find a balance between calling out the structural inequalities (such as the housing market) that exist and that are wholly or partly beyond the reach of any community; and the opportunities that nonetheless exist and are being used to crack on and address some of these locally (such as community led housing).

Many of the things that communities can do to tackle these issues cannot necessarily be scaled - they only work within what some of our contributors called 'walkable neighbourhoods'. That verdict might lead some funders or policy decision makers to turn away from them, but we see communities embracing them. And why not?

We followed the important work of parallel inquiries like the Commission on Economic Justice, the National Conversation on Immigration and the Social Change Project as well as the broader Civil Society Futures inquiry.

No one holds all the cards. At this point there are no clear answers about either the structural inequalities affecting communities or the things that communities can do to tackle them. What we as a research team would like to see next is for the key evidence and arguments from all the recent inquiries being marshalled for the benefit of communities, and for people to share what can and is being done within communities to address the issues of poverty, transience, fragmentation, isolation and democracy.

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