Frontier’s rapid evidence review of community initiatives to support the 'levelling up' agenda has been published.
This study, jointly commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), explores the current evidence on what works to deliver successful community initiatives that improve local community infrastructure and social capital. Gaps and limitations in the evidence base are highlighted alongside some suggestions for how to address them.
Levelling up is a core priority for the current UK government, and our review finds that ‘what works’ with community initiatives is highly context dependent, considering what a community already has and what it needs. We find, for example, that community infrastructure is likely to deliver better local outcomes where it is well-utilised for purposes that facilitate community networks and interactions, often led by activity organisers or community-based institutions; where local empowerment is engendered through effective partnerships involving local partners and local authorities; and where there is a long-term vision to consider future funding, income and operation. Outcomes could include enhanced economic opportunities; improvements in health and wellbeing; increased community resilience; and a sense of belonging in the community.
We find the most notable gap in the evidence relates to robust evaluation of the outcomes of community initiatives, including how they were selected, what local need they were meeting, how financially sustainable they were and, importantly, what would have happened without them. To address this, robust evidence which considers what would be expected without the community infrastructure intervention would help with understanding the extent to which outcomes can be attributed to the community initiative, and the particular conditions under which this is more likely.
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