We at the Institute for Community Studies are an ambitious bunch. In the summer of 2021, we embarked on a project to collect in one place everything we know about what’s working in communities across the UK and beyond. Six months later, we’ve built a repository that hosts more than 300 publications produced by more than 30 universities, research organisations, trusts and foundations. It covers everything from a 2003 ‘portrait of the Polish community in London’ to the latest evidence on levelling up and left-behind areas.
With so much material in one place, it is easy to miss the wood for the trees – and so every month I plan to write a short summary of the latest additions. I’ve pushed the boat out for this first overview, with details of the 11 publications added over the last quarter of 2021. Most are linked in some way to the pandemic, and all are worth reading on their own merits.
In The Community Business Market in 2021, Power to Change and CFE Research claim that community businesses are bouncing back from Covid-19 more financially confident and economically stronger than before. They’re more diverse, too; the authors note that community businesses are four times more likely to be led by people from minoritised ethnicities compared with the UK’s small and medium enterprises, and that 58% had employed at least one person who had never been in paid employment before.
This good news is reinforced by two further reports that look at the state of community shops and pubs. Both are part of a series of annual updates by the Plunkett Foundation that stretches back ten years. The authors report that there are now nearly 400 community shops across UK, with an impressive 92.5% survival rate, and that while there are only 133 community pubs, they have collectively raised over £2.5m from more than 2,600 community shareholders, with a 99% survival rate. An impressive 84% are ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ about their future.