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Local economies

Capacity building, community leadership and the success of local areas

A new report from Frontier Economics sheds light on the importance of capacity building and local leadership when investing in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods. Thomas Badger, a consultant at Frontier Economics, highlights the key findings from this research and the implications for a Community Wealth Fund.

In March 2023, the UK government announced that Community Wealth Funds (CWFs) will receive funding from what are called ‘dormant assets’ – financial products such as bank accounts that have not been used in a long time.  

These CWFs aim to empower local residents in deprived communities facing a lack of social infrastructure – also known as ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods – to invest this money in their local communities and rebuild their social institutions. But what is the best way to do this? 

There are many different ways a CWF could be designed. For example, should communities be free to decide how money should be invested, or should they choose from a pre-selected list of interventions? Should funding be targeted at areas which already have some social infrastructure, or should those without any be eligible too? These are key questions the UK government asked in a recent technical consultation about the creation of a CWF. 

Local Trust, through its Big Local programme, has gained significant insights over the past decade into what can make programmes that invest in communities successful. In particular, they found the following to be crucial: 

  1. Investing time and funds in building the capacity of local areas – that is, developing and strengthening the skills and confidence of people within these communities.  
  2. Placing the decision-making authority about which projects and activities to run into the hands of local communities – not local authorities or central government. 

To further build the evidence base beyond its experience with Big Local, Local Trust commissioned Frontier Economics to review the literature in these two areas and assess whether and under what circumstances this may or may not hold true more widely. So, what did we find?

What evidence exists?
How effective are soft skills development programmes?
What is the impact of community leadership?
What does this all mean for a CWF?
What next?

Read the full report from Frontier Economics

About the author
Thomas Badger

Thomas Badger is a consultant at Frontier Economics.