A research report is calling for ‘a new social contract’ supported by greater public and private sector collaboration, and targeted funding to support communities facing disruptive events such as the coronavirus crisis.
The Resilient Communities report, published by charitable foundation Cumberland Lodge in partnership with The Young Foundation, examines opportunities for fostering social cohesion, to help communities react more effectively in the wake of challenging circumstances.
The report looks at recent events such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Grenfell Tower fire, the Windrush scandal, and the global climate and refugee crises.
“In some cases, these events have brought communities closer together and illustrated solidarity and camaraderie,” the report says.
“However, in other cases, these events have emphasised and intensified inequalities, community tension and systemic injustices.”
The report calls for a ‘new social contract’ that promotes greater equality, increased opportunities and wider collective action, to create a more secure and sustainable future across society.
It makes 24 recommendations for UK policymakers and practitioners, centred around five core themes.
These include fostering stronger community leadership and decision-making, ensuring more voices are heard and included, looking at the meaningful impact of community resilience and building on shared wisdom.
The report also calls for greater support for small-scale charities and social-purpose organisations to help them survive and transition during the period of financial hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and for leadership training to be available in every locality.
The report’s author, Dr Sinéad Fitzsimons, a research officer in Education and Development at the University of Cambridge, said funding alone would not lead to long-lasting community development.
“Increasing funding will make a difference, but more importantly, that funding needs to be used effectively,” she said.
“Both the private and public sector must work together to ensure that community-focused and community-driven approaches are at the core of any development initiative.”
Proactive measures must be put in place to raise the status of black, Asian, and minority ethnic voices within UK communities, the report recommends. Public institutions and publicly funded third sector organisations should also be required to undergo an ‘anti-racism inspection’ of their daily practices, work structures, services, policies, hiring and promotions, with the results made publicly available.
It also says the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy should mandate large businesses to make Corporate Social Responsibility contributions that reflect the financial size of the company.
Fitzsimons said the pandemic has highlighted additional challenges for communities, but also provides an opportunity to create a more secure and sustainable future for all communities across the UK, including community members that have previously been forgotten or disenfranchised.
Helen Goulden, chief executive officer of The Young Foundation, said the report made “strong and clear recommendations for supporting stronger communities as we emerge into a long period of uncertainty and recovery”.
She said: “Like never before, we are seeing the potential of a society and economy with community and well-being at its heart.
“This report presents another clarion call for action to which we should all be paying attention.”