The Civic Strength Index – What is it, and how can funders use it?

The Young Foundation, commissioned by the Greater London Authority, has published a Civic Strength Index. In this blog, Hannah Goulding explains what the report’s purpose is, what is ‘civic strength’ and how funders can use the Index to support their work.

Commissioned by the GLA, developed by the Young Foundation and supported by London Funders, the Civic Strength Index is a report and tool that aims to begin to measure what makes a strong community, to ensure it is understood and valued. The Index and its accompanying report are a key pillar of the Building Strong Communities mission of the cross-sectoral London Recovery Programme. 

Civic strength exists when communities are supported by robust public and social infrastructure to build strong relationships and feel able to meaningfully engage in the issues that matter to them.

The Young Foundation worked with communities, civil society organisations and a steering group of experts to co-develop a shared definition of civic strength and a set of factors that contribute to this definition. The report explains: “Civic strength exists when communities are supported by robust public and social infrastructure to build strong relationships and feel able to meaningfully engage in the issues that matter to them”. Where possible, datasets have then been identified which contribute to measuring each of these factors (which include social cohesion, community spaces and safety), beginning to build a picture of where factors of civic strength exist and thrive across the capital.

The Civic Strength Index can and should be the springboard for conversations about how we work together and learn from each other, across community boundaries, to build on our experiences and assets to strengthen our city.

You can explore the first iteration of the index and the report here.

How can funders use the Civic Strength Index?

The index is a resource which can be used by communities, civil society, policymakers, funders and commissioners to:

  • Provide a new lens for local authorities and community organisations to understand the strengths of their communities and how best to build on them
  • Understand how levels of civic strength interact with other key indicators set out in existing datasets (such as the Index of Multiple Deprivation, Living Costs and Food Survey)
  • Support local and pan-London organisations to identify areas of opportunity to share good practice, fill gaps in provision, and respond to the needs of communities

Not a complete picture yet...

The first iteration of the Civic Strength Index is by no means complete. We are confident in the definition of Civic Strength and the factors which contribute to civic strength which have been agreed through this process. However, The Young Foundation have also highlighted gaps in available data, which are currently preventing us from having a complete and robust picture of the distribution of civic strength across the capital.

As we move into the next phase of developing and building out the Civic Strength Index, we will respond to the calls to action set out in the report and work to:

  • Fill the data gaps identified to make the evidence base sitting under the index more robust.  
  • Explore and work with different audiences to get people using and engaging with the index as it grows.
  • Develop methods for maintaining the index

What can funders do?

As funders the index provides a framework for better understanding the factors that build strong communities. It starts the journey of pulling together data in a new way, to help us better understand the communities we work with. It also provides the opportunity for thinking about how we as funders support our grantees to collect data that demonstrates their impact in building civic strength. The domains have been co-produced with Londoners, so demonstrate what is truly important to communities.

As funders we have the opportunity to support our grantees to capture their impact on these domains and build out the robustness and underlying evidence of the index. We would love for you to take a look at the ‘Calls to Action’ in the report and seek opportunities to think differently about the data you collect from grantees and how you can align it with the current data gaps that are highlighted in the report and contribute to building out the Index.