At the moment we're riding a wave of UK optimism regarding the active role communities and community organisations can play.
Very few initiatives, funded or otherwise, do not involve a community dimension. Steering groups, fundraising, advocacy, co-design - these have become part of the common language of project delivery. All of which rely heavily upon the often voluntary contribution made by individuals and groups, improving the daily life of people.
Across sectors, academic, public and charitable organisations are often unable to access and attract funding without a community partner. Private businesses are also increasingly focused on developing close connections with communities, not purely as a corporate responsibility, but also in order to understand new and untapped markets. From our experience this is never truer than in the fields of social and digital inclusion.
So working in partnership with communities is critical.
From collaborative planning to participative practice to user research and service design, without the inclusion of people who will ultimately benefit or fall foul of new developments, we can only design to meet people's needs as far as our professional understanding allows us.
But a community needs to be strong to give of itself, just as individuals do.
At Good Things Foundation, we've learned from the Online Centres Network that inclusive communities, and the networks of organisations within them, create the foundation from which community movements and social change can grow organically.
They create the opportunity to enrich the lives of even the most vulnerable, and create strength from the ground up.
Nurturing people is something many in the charitable sector would recognise as a calling, yet we need to see it as a critical building block in community and societal sustainability.
People can be vulnerable for a variety of reasons. Poor health or disability, lack of social connections, lack of financial security, cultural barriers, gender inequalities and lack of access to basic life needs. The inequality gap in the UK is huge, with 14 million people living in poverty, 9 million people lonely or isolated and 11.3 million lacking basic digital skills.
However, our as part of our Social Inclusion Programme, working with communities through our English Language programme, English My Way, we've shown that vulnerability and inequality does not have to be a constant state.
Alongside development of skills, this programme revealed four key dimensions that move people from a state of social isolation to a point where they are better equipped, more resilient and open to being part of an active community, and able to reap the personal benefits but also to share the rewards with others.