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Briefing 12: Rapid research COVID-19

27 May 2021

Community responses to COVID-19: Potential and limits of community power in a pandemic

New concepts of community power have risen up the policy agenda during COVID-19. Communities have widely been seen as integral to meeting local needs and as having the capacity to respond rapidly to the pandemic. The idea of community power is often assumed, in policy terms, to be a universally beneficial force. However, this fails to address issues of inequality in balances of power within and between communities. This briefing draws on primary research findings to offer a critical and reflective approach to understanding issues of power, and asks: what has community power looked like during the pandemic, and what are its limits? The paper highlights key concepts of power, as observed and experienced in communities during the pandemic, and concludes with some reflections on the implications of the findings.