The inequalities in investment across England and the rest of the UK has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years – especially when considered through the lens of multiple deprivation. Since the EU referendum in 2016, more political and media attention, if not necessarily action, has been given to ‘forgotten’ or ‘left behind’ places than ever before.
Our new report Flipping the coin: The two sides of community wealth in England builds on our previous work which was published last year. In the 2018 Patchwork Philanthropy report, we looked at patterns of philanthropic and charitable spending across local authorities in England, and compared these to patterns of deprivation, public spending and the UK EU Referendum result. We identified several funding deserts across the country – areas that have particularly high levels of deprivation, whilst receiving low levels of philanthropic funding and public expenditure. It was often these areas that were likely to have voted Leave in the EU referendum.
Flipping the coin analyses other types of wealth generated by communities in England. The Index of Community Strength is a metric we have developed to understand differences in community activity across the country.
Over recent months – and thanks to the helpful input of numerous organisations – our research team has been able to build an expansive dataset (which has room to grow further!) that gauges the prevalence of various forms of community life. Each local authority district is scored on the prevalence of a wide range of measures which make up the Index, and these fall into either community resources or community ties.
A few of the compelling indicators that we have been exploring are:
- Crowdfunding – are communities more likely to independently support initiatives via crowdfunding in the absence of external funding and expenditure?
- Assets of Community Value – how does the number public buildings and spaces that serve to promote the wellbeing or social interests of a local community contribute to community strength? Think pubs, libraries, green spaces…!
- Community Asset Transfers – these occur when the ownership and/or management of public land or buildings is transferred from local councils to the community. For example, the site of a community centre might be transferred to the group running the space. This often happens at a ‘peppercorn’ rent (a symbolic rent, sometimes as low as £1). In what communities are such transfers made more frequently?
- Community-led initiatives – sharing libraries, community-kitchens, community-orchards, co-operatives, park runs, community-owned energy… the list goes on!