Community power is the belief that people should have a say over the places in which they live and the services they use.
It is a growing movement – with communities across the country, and the world, working together to improve places, public services and each other’s lives.
At New Local, we believe community power has the potential to answer some of the deepest and most persistent challenges in our society today. Our work is driven by deepening the case for change, and helping people and institutions to put this transformational approach into practice.
Case studies: What does Community Power look like?
Mark Pepper: Transforming a Bristol estate
“We wanted to see a shift in power from the decision-makers, to put us back in the driving seat: to become the dog [instead of] the wagging tail.“
Katie Kelly: Spreading power in East Ayrshire
“As public servants we can work alongside people to realise hopes and dreams, and really help them to love the place. You know, we get one shot at this and for me our job is to help people to have a really really good life.”
Dr Mark Spencer: The GP doing things differently
“We have seen folks lose half their body weight by singing. We’ve seen folks move from being completely socially isolated to starting their own groups, we’ve seen folks come off their mental health medication.”
Ruth Ibegbuna: Youth-powered education
“There’s been a real power shift in the young people actually being at the front of this, and the adult stepping behind and saying: ‘Ok we will try and facilitate what you think is necessary, because you, the young people, can see where the problems and the faultlines lie.’
What people think of community power
We asked people across the country about how to solve our biggest problems, through polling and focus groups.
We found that community power was something that people want.
“You can make the changes because you know what you want changing. Other people who don’t live in the area are making the changes and they don’t know.” – Focus group participant
75% agreed with giving communities a bigger say.
What’s more, its something people will vote for. 72% said they would support politicians committing to community power.
Why we need a Community Power Act
To unlock community power in more places, we need a new legislation that gives communities new rights:
- A right to buy important local buildings and spaces
- A right to shape public services
- A right to control investment in the local area
At the moment, too many people trying to make a difference in their community are held back by unnecessary rules. It’s time to let local leaders take charge.
Our research on community power
The Community Paradigm is our landmark report on community power. It sets out the case for a fundamental shift in how public services work – by sharing power with people rather than hoarding it at the centre.
In March 2021 we published a new updated preface to the Paradigm, reflecting on new context created by the Covid pandemic, and the increased urgency to create sustainable, fairer services.
Listen to our podcast discussion, ft Adam Lent, Jessica Studdert and community-builder Mark Pepper.
Community Power: The Evidence builds on the Paradigm’s work by collecting and analysing existing evidence of the impact of community power.
It finds six benefits from community power:
- 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, the in the welfare system and the skills sector.
Work with us
Local authorities and other institutions are increasingly recognising the potential of community power to transform their own work. And we’d love to help them to achieve this.
We work incredibly closely with our network of 70 councils to achieve change, and our practice work connects one-on-one with councils and others to help them become community-powered organisations. We’d love to chat more about your aspirations.