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Local Trust has commissioned in-depth research to look how 25 different communities across England respond to COVID-19, and how they recover.

The 25 areas* are located across all regions of England with diverse characteristics, from rural villages to urban estates. They are places where:

  • residents have been supported over the long term to build civic capacity, and make decisions about resource allocation through the Big Local programme
  • residents have received other funding and support (through the Creative Civic Change programme administered by Local Trust)
  • areas categorised as ‘left behind’ because communities have fewer places to meet, lack digital and physical connectivity, and there is a less active and engaged community.

The research, which will be undertaken by a coalition of organisations led by the Third Sector Research Centre, will look at how these different communities fare during and after the coronavirus crisis.

The findings will provide insight into the impact of unexpected demands or crisis on local communities, and the factors that shape their resilience, response and recovery.

Based on regular, in-depth interviews with residents from April 2020 to March 2021, the research will also include literature reviews, analysis of social media and other material relevant to community responses, and assessments of varying local authority responses to Covid-19. Importantly, the areas have been selected because of pre-existing, trusted relationships between community members and researchers and established research programmes, ensuring the research programme can start to provide immediate outputs, and avoid placing additional burdens on the communities that will be part of the research.

Communities across the country have made rapid efforts to respond to emerging Covid-19 needs in their areas; some examples include:

  • coordinating food packages for the most vulnerable
  • providing community phones to alleviate loneliness
  • door-knocking to safely check on those who are isolated
  • setting up online neighbourhood groups to stay in touch
  • providing gardening tips to keep people active during lockdown
  • coordinating volunteers in their local areas
  • dropping off creative activities to keep children and adults occupied while at home.

Big Local areas and those supported by the Creative Civic Change programme have been amongst those active in seeking to support their local communities.  On 20 March 2020, Local Trust announced an additional allocation of £50,000 to every Big Local area, on top of the £1.1m each area has been spending to make their area a better place to live since the programme’s launch in 2012.

Chief executive of Local Trust Matt Leach said:

“The coronavirus pandemic is profoundly disrupting how communities function.  At the same time, across the country, we have seen brilliant examples of voluntary action as local people step up to the mark and help their neighbours at a time of need. The resilience of residents – their ability to respond, mobilise and organise themselves in a time of crisis – will change outcomes for people and places. Learning about the range of factors that affect how communities fare, and the sorts of help that can make a difference is vital information to inform how our response to COVID-19 now, and how we support local communities in the future.”

Local Trust was set up by the National Lottery Community Fund to deliver the Big Local programme, Big Local provides more than £1.15m in funding to each of 150 communities in England, alongside extensive support and mentoring, as a radical experiment in promoting long-term, resident-led change. Local Trust also delivers the Creative Civic Change programme in partnership with Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

*An additional area joined this research project after commencement, making the total number involved 26.

Find out more and read the latest outputs from this research