A report, authored by The Young Foundation’s Chief Executive, Helen Goulden, and published by Local Trust yesterday, examines the case for supporting community leaders as a critical part of our social and civic infrastructure. Afforded no salary, status, institutional backing or power, community leaders are rarely supported in their work – or in their leadership practice.
‘We increasingly feel the regenerative power of community. There is a source of power within communities which, if invested in and supported, can be a fundamental part of levelling up’.
This is especially pressing given the publication of the Levelling Up White Paper just last week, in which the government lays out a blueprint for spreading opportunity more equally across the country.
Targeted and considered
Investment must be targeted and considered, Goulden’s report stresses. It references 2020 research from the Institute for Community Studies, which shows that, despite billions ploughing into alleviating geographical inequalities, between 2004 and 2019, there was 0% average change in the relative economic deprivation of the most deprived local authority areas.
This new report states that strong, empowered communities are critical to long-term recovery in a post-lockdown, post-Brexit UK. Focusing on support for community leaders, particularly in neighbourhoods experiencing extreme forms of disadvantage and inequality, the report proposes an agenda that incorporates features which include:
- A national programme, providing intensive, structured support for building leadership teams
- A network for alumni and affiliate members of the Local Trust’s Community Leadership Academy, which supports established and emerging leaders in local areas
- Free, open access to regularly updated resources, tools, techniques, and approaches to building community leadership capacity
- Interventions to build the next generation of community leaders
To navigate complex social, health, economic and environmental challenges, Goulden says we need strong communities capable of responding to further challenges. ‘Investment in human capital and community leadership, as much as investment in bricks and mortar, must now be a prerequisite for any policymaker affecting real change’.