What is a strong community?
London, with a population of over 9million, is often seen by outsiders as one vast city. However, those of us who live and/or work here know that in reality it can often feel like hundreds of small towns and villages. But, how do we define communities and what makes them strong, and how do we strengthen the ones that aren’t?
Hertfordshire Community Foundation states that “the strength of our communities affects all aspects of our life from our health and wellbeing to our local economy and environment. Whether based on geography or brought together by a shared cause they provide us with a sense of connection, an ability to influence (and be influenced) and a channel through which to contribute. Strong communities possess the local knowledge, passion and perspective to create community cohesion and resilience as well real and lasting change.”
What does this mean for London and its future view on communities?
As London looks at recovering from the pandemic, how do we strengthen our communities? Many organisations have been asking themselves, their stakeholders, and Londoners what the future looks like, and how it can better serve the capital’s communities.
London Futures, the project from Centre for London, has been looking at long-term strategic approaches to the city. Their report found that Londoners are highly concerned about personal safety, health, and protection from future epidemics. Londoners also prioritise housing and homelessness, as well as a recovery that delivers jobs and economic growth after the pandemic. There was also a strong consensus that more needs to be done to make London fairer.
“a geographic community who come together to think about how to make their area better.”
But they are also about place in other ways – about ensuring all sectors and all people have a place at the table where decisions are made, about challenging what values are deemed worthy to bring to that table and creating welcoming places that celebrate our diversity. The report makes clear, when we view the idea of ‘place’ through this lense we can truly create a sense of belonging for everyone in our community and therefore build its strength.
The London Recovery Board has named one of their missions ‘Building Strong Communities’ with challenge that ‘All Londoners to be able to play an active role in their communities; making London a more equal and inclusive city post covid-19”. The ‘asks’ that have been produced are:
- All communities - particularly the most disadvantaged with the greatest health inequalities - can get the support and services they need. They should also have more control and choice over those services
- Londoners can build and maintain relationships and be active citizens
- London’s civil society is strong and resilient. It reflects and champions London's communities and can meet future shocks. Organisations can access resources and support to meet new/changed demand and provide essential services
- Sustainable and strong partnerships between funders and voluntary and community sector organisations
- Continuing risks that arose during the crisis are addressed
- Public service partnerships proactively include the voice of older Londoners in future planning
trong communities possess the local knowledge, passion and perspective to create community cohesion and resilience as well real and lasting change
What are our members doing to build strong communities and what data is out there?
The Civic Strength Index co-designed and co-created with Londoners, was developed by The Young Foundation and funded by the GLA. It’s designed to help London boroughs and organisations support discussions about the strengths of their communities and consider how build on them. Through this report, they define civic strength as:
“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.”
Helen Goulden, CEO at The Young Foundation, says: “The new Civic Strength Index gives Londoners a deeper understanding of the unique strengths in their communities. I hope this valuable tool will be used to support and inform action to improve the lives of all Londoners.
This picture is made of data around three key areas; ‘relationships and social capital’, ‘democratic engagement’ and ‘public and social infrastructure’ and collated data from various platforms such as the Charity Commission, 360Giving and the Community Life survey.
In wave 5 of the London Community Response (LCR) funding for large grants was focused on three renewal missions: Building strong communities, New deal for young people and Robust safety net.
136 grants worth £4.96m went to the Building Strong Communities mission, 44% of the total Wave 5 grants. Below you can see this by organisational theme and turnover. On average the most grants went or organisations with turnovers between £75k and £200k as the priorities were to fund smaller organisations, equity led organisations and those that had strong established connections with those at high risk of negative impacts from covid-19