The Community Paradigm sets out the case for a fundamental shift in how public services work – to share power with people rather than hoard it.
The approach guides our work as a think tank and network, and is building a movement of practitioners and policymakers who see this shift as increasingly urgent.
What’s it about?
The Community Paradigm makes the case for a fundamental shift in how public services work. We argue that more power and resources should be given to communities, instead of being held by central government or public services. We believe people themselves should decide how their services run and what their local area looks like.
Currently, public services are trapped in previous paradigms:
- The State Paradigm is from an age where hierarchy and paternalism dominated institutions. Under this paradigm, which casts a shadow to this day, there is an expectation that services ‘do to’ people, who are passive recipients of services.
- The Market Paradigm has influenced the evolution of public service models over the last 40 years. A focus on driving down costs has created a transactional relationship with the individual as ‘customer’. It is increasingly clear that this way of working is incapable of addressing complex circumstances or enabling individual agency.
Why is it needed?
The Community Paradigm is not a “nice to have” – it is a fundamental challenge for the way our society works.
- Public services today face a threat of rising demand. They are struggling to cope with a rapidly aging population, combined with reducing resources.
- Faith in democratic legitimacy and central Government is declining.
- People expect to exercise more control over their day-to-day lives – and can do so using technology.
We believe people and communities themselves have the best insight into their own situation, and public services need to work with and recognise this if they are to be fit for purpose and sustainable into the future.
What change will it bring?
There are many places in the UK and across the world where community power is beginning to flourish. Here, people are taking matters into their own hands – often working in partnership with public services and local government to build better services and places to live.
A full paradigm shift will create a fairer society for everyone, where people have a say over the decisions that affect their lives. By empowering communities to support each other and come up with long-term solutions, we can shift our public service system away from crisis reaction to problems and towards prevention and early intervention. This is essential if public services are to be sustainable in the future.
What’s next & further reading
Local government are key partners in making this vision a reality. Many are already making a huge impact by collaborating with community members to create healthier, happier places to live. Through our network, we work with more and more councils to do the same by sharing insights and good practice.
Meanwhile, our research team are working on projects to build the case for community power, and to help people and organisations to cultivate it. This includes:
- An exploration of the groundbreaking work of Elinor Ostrom – the Nobel-prize winning intellectual hero of community power
- Guides for how to commission with communities and how to mobilise communities.
- An evidence base exploring real-world examples of community power and its impact
- How the community paradigm could apply to childrens’ services – and in relation to the welfare system