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A timeline of community development

Our modern era has seen hundreds of experiments by communities taking action to meet their own needs. Some have worked, some have failed, and some hint at a radically different future. This thread of history is barely known yet offers context for an urgent conversation about the role of communities now.  

Essay links communities past and present

In a unique project, Local Trust invited the pioneering thinker David Boyle to trace this history and the forces that have affected its course. His short essay, A history of community development, and the timeline that accompanies it, do not provide a definitive or complete set of events. Instead, David has handpicked moments of community inspiration which have surfaced alongside cultural shifts, political dramas and large-scale government initiatives. His 300+ events span 80 years and are bookended by World War 2 and COVID-19 – enough time for some communities to thrive while others have been ‘left behind’.

From Beveridge to The Bevy

The timeline below is browsable and fun. It is designed for newcomers and experts alike, and is intended to spark ideas, connections and the urge to suggest further examples.

  • Read David’s essay and explore the timeline. Our Timeline FAQs explain more about the timeline and offer tips on how to get the most from it.
  • Share your memories, photos and suggestions on Twitter #TrustLocalPeople.
  • Discover our growing series of brilliant blogs that offer different perspectives on this history from writers with first-hand knowledge such as leading community thinker Gabriel Chanan, Stonewall co-founder Simon Fanshawe, social art practitioner Chrissie Tiller and political writer Henry Tam.
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Timeline FAQs

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