More than four in ten of the local groups that sprang up in the first days of the Covid pandemic have become permanent hubs of neighbourly support, new research shows.
The analysis – conducted by We’re Right Here: the campaign for community power, which is supported by The Young Foundation and other organisations – finds that 41% of the thousands of Facebook groups formed in March 2020 specifically to support neighbours through the first lockdown are still going strong 25 months on.
With far fewer people self-isolating or requiring Covid-specific support, the activity of these groups has moved to a range of other issues, including community kitchens, skills exchanges and even housebuilding.
A call for Community Power
This research comes as The Young Foundation joins community leaders and other community-focused organisations from around the country to descend on Parliament this afternoon, calling for a Community Power Act. This proposes laws giving local people the power they need to shape the places they live, with new community rights over spaces, services and spending decisions, Community Covenants to bring community organisations and local authorities together, and a Community Power Commissioner to ensure action is taken across government.
The Young Foundation’s CEO Helen Goulden, says:
“Today, the campaign for community power calls for a new Act, demanding legislative protection for communities to exercise greater self-determination and take a more powerful place in local decision-making.
“As an organisation that supports community and social action, greater investment in community leadership and spaces, and bringing more people into research, innovation and collaboration, The Young Foundation supports this campaign.
“This is a moment to be collaborative, to consider where previous policy went wrong, and to move together to find a better, impactful, empowering way to build community power.”
‘A spirit of togetherness’
Politicians from across the political spectrum are attending and speaking, including Shadow Levelling Up Minister, Alex Norris MP, and Doug Pullen, Conservative leader of Lichfield Council.
We’re Right Here is led by six people from around the country who have personal experience of building stronger communities. Each has done extraordinary things in their local places, from regenerating a disused church for the whole community, to offering a place to meet in one of the country’s most deprived neighbourhoods. But each is frustrated, calling for the Community Power Act to make a positive difference and support them to work with local people to meet local need.
As one of the campaign’s leaders, Sacha Bedding, from the Annexe community centre in Dyke House, Hartlepool, concludes:
“The pandemic showed us all how powerful community can be. And that spirit of togetherness is still strong. But it’s happening in a system that still fundamentally distrusts the idea of local people having real influence in their neighbourhoods.
Local people can be a big part of the answer to the problems facing us as a country. We just need the powers to get on with the job. That’s why we’re calling for a Community Power Act, to change where power lies in this country – so that local people can genuinely shape the areas where they live.”