The campaign’s story so far
Will Brett, Campaign Director
When, after Covid hit, all of those neighbourhood Whatsapps exploded into life, the national mood seemed to shift. At a time of great fear and uncertainty, many felt comforted – not so much by the authorities’ best efforts, but by a renewed connection with their friends and neighbours.
For many, the awesome power of community came as a pleasant surprise. But for those who had been doing the hard work of building community year after year, it was no surprise at all.
Their experience has taught that strong community is not just a ‘nice’ thing to have, or a good news story when there isn’t anything more important to talk about. No, community is essential. Without it our wellbeing suffers, our local economies suffer, our places suffer. And at times of crisis, community becomes even more vital. For those who do this work, that’s just common knowledge.
For many, the awesome power of community came as a pleasant surrpise. But for those who had been doing the hard work of building community year after year, it was no surprise at all.
A consensus is growing that powerful, connected communities are a big part of the answer to some of the most pressing problems facing us as a society. Problems like inequality, local decline, loneliness and mistrust. That consensus started with the work of local community activists. It has spread to national civil society organisations and big thinkers on social policy, who increasingly recognise that it’s only through weaving community ties that we’ll develop more of the mutual safety nets that prevent problems from getting worse. It’s an idea that has the potential to shape the future of the country.
Community power is already happening in places across the country. But it’s happening despite the system, not because of it. We live in the most centralised country of its size in the developed world. By all accounts, the work of building community constantly feels like pushing a rock up a hill. It should be easy. Instead, it is very hard. And that creates enormous frustration.
Our campaign was born out of that frustration. A group of national organisations (Power to Change, The Cares Family, New Local, Locality, the Young Foundation and People’s Health Trust) came together to explore whether there was appetite among community leaders for an effort to change the operating system of the country – to shift power away from Westminster and Whitehall and drive it downwards and outwards to where it belongs, among local people in the places they know and love.
There was weariness owing to the stresses of the pandemic… But there was also fire in the belly – a real sense that this was the moment to make the case for community power.
A series of events and workshops over the course of 2021 – involving over 100 community leaders representing every part of the country and every demographic – demonstrated that the appetite was there in abundance. There was weariness owing to the stresses of the pandemic, with community organisations stepping into the breach day after day. But there was also fire in the belly – a real sense that this was the moment to make the case for community power.
Two other things came out of this process. First, a shared commitment to seeking change at the level of national politics and of making a big, ambitious claim for community power (an idea which later crystallised into our proposal for a Community Power Act). Second, a team of seven community leaders to drive forward the campaign.
Our campaign begins and ends with local people making a difference in their areas. We are led by people with daily experience of how hard it is to do this work, and what a difference it would make if the political handbrake was released. Yes, we want to persuade politicians of every stripe that this is the moment for community power. But we know that the real energy for change is in every community in the country. So we are asking everyone who supports us to do three things:
- Sign our letter to Michael Gove
- Tell us your story of community power
- Stay up to date with our campaign
Please also let us know what you think of the campaign, and any ideas you have for amplifying our case (you can contact us at email@example.com). We look forward to pursuing this vital agenda with you all over the coming months.