The places that matter

The places that matter

Find out what we’ve heard from people across England »

Ignoring the rain

18th November 2018

The Chief Executive of Local Trust on how overcoming challenges in delivering improvements to shared community resources happens better when the conversation begins at the local shop or the school gate.

Think people can’t have control over their neighbourhoods? Meet Community Land Trusts

14th November 2018

Community Land Trusts (CLTs) ensure local people can continue living in their communities and enable them to play a leading role in shaping the places they call home.

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Befriending in Mansfield – A new way to look at community

14th November 2018

Over the past four months, people from across the local community have been coming together to create a Befriending Service for Mansfield.

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Knife crime: do we have the power to cut it down?

10th November 2018

Local people came together to tackle rising levels of youth violence in Peckham – how did they do it? And what happened when young people themselves were excluded from the process?

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Saving a library… it’s all about community

8th November 2018

This library in Sunderland was slated for closure… till volunteers like this stepped in.

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Alone but not alone

4th November 2018

Alone and a very, very long way from home – how is this local community group in South Shields welcoming refugees and asylum seekers?

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From litter to better

1st November 2018

“Am I going to let the world go to rack and ruin or am I going to change things around me?” What is this residents association in Sunderland doing?

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From murky to making it happen: getting local power in the North East

17th October 2018

How to get to the world as it should be?  That was the question we vowed to tackle as we kicked off the third of three Civil Society Futures workshops on local decision making in the North East.

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Belfast is welcoming refugees with a radical new approach: speaking to them

11th October 2018

We’re having different conversations about immigration, race and community. They are successful, and fun, and they could change the world.

A more welcoming Mansfield?

8th August 2018

Do all divides and tensions reflect deeper social issues which affect everyone – like education, housing, employment and safety? Maybe if we could make these things better, attitudes and integration would follow.

Mansfield as it (actually) is

30th July 2018

Only by telling a new story will Mansfield put the Brexit narrative to bed — but that story is yet unwritten

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What we can all learn from the Bedouin (and Scots environmentalists)

30th July 2018

How do you tackle climate change in your backyard? How do you kickstart biodiversity in the deserts of Jordan? It turns out… it’s all about relationships.

The future of civil society is dependent on space

16th July 2018

We’re losing space; the spaces where we used to come together to talk, to dance, to debate, to play, to make love, to form new ideas about the world.

Chain by Liverpool docks

Marmite and millions

2nd July 2018

From being a Scouser to life after Brexit, what are young people in Liverpool’s hopes and fears?

Newcastle centre

Changing power and local decision making in Newcastle: part 1

13th June 2018

How can local communities have more control over the decisions currently made on their behalf? The first of three workshops.


CounterCoin… how we’re boosting community action and volunteering

23rd May 2018

In the Potteries (Stoke on Trent region) we are minting our own ceramic money! It’s a volunteer reward scheme that recognises and rewards community action and volunteering then campaigns for businesses to support this action.

Are fences our future? The Ulsterification of England… and what we can do

10th May 2018

People talk about a desire to break down the barriers they see springing up between them and their neighbours. But often, they don’t know how. For English civil society to flourish in our fast changing world, we must begin to answer that question.

Jew Street, Penzance

Anger and hope in Penzance

2nd May 2018

“There’s a huge amount of active, pissed off, determined people who are trying to deliver all sorts of change within Cornwall. So I think that’s where the hope is”

What’s Pointless about Epsom? Reclaiming heritage for a contemporary sense of place

1st May 2018

If you’ve seen the TV game show Pointless, you’ll know that – like in civil society – common assumptions are often a veneer. The most illuminating way to understand a community is to seek out the Pointless answers…

Epsom & Ewell: a battle between collaborative community and competitive loneliness on London’s fringe

1st May 2018

Epsom is a powerful analogy for much of the country: economic forces are sucking it towards the city of London, but it’s striving to develop its own identity. How that struggle plays out – between England as a hinterland for a once imperial capital, and England as a country in its own right – could … Read more

Division and unity in Sunderland

30th April 2018

As the British economy has moved away from manufacturing and toward financial services, growing numbers in the city are unemployed, underemployed or in precarious employment, and the use of food banks is on the rise. Inequality has increased, with life expectancy as much as 14 years lower for residents in areas of Sunderland like Hendon, … Read more

3 things charities should be doing to build stronger relationships with business

6th March 2018

A few years ago, YHLCOSA, a charity working to prevent sexual harm, made radical changes to the way it operates. It was a change which saw the charity develop much stronger relationships with its local business community, in order to support its work across Yorkshire, the Humber and Lincolnshire.

Britain, meet Bolivia: what can social movements learn from each other?

7th February 2018

Bolivia has a deep history of resistance. After over 500 years of colonisation, it continues to be home to the largest and most diverse indigenous population in the continent, with 36 different indigenous peoples officially recorded. At the turn of the millennium movements successfully took on both a multinational corporation and a President – paving … Read more

Funding the Cooperative City – lessons from across Europe

Funding the Cooperative City – lessons from across Europe

22nd January 2018

One of the constant themes we’ve heard during the first year of the inquiry is the need to create places and spaces for people to come together, create and meet others. What’s going on across Europe and what can we learn?

The power of little: 6 things you need to know about… small and micro community organisations

11th January 2018

Large and medium-sized organisations often dominate what we hear about the charity sector. But the world looks very different for small and micro-organisations – so different, in fact, that frequently it doesn’t even make sense to talk about them in the same breath.

A suited man on a Frontex boat looks through binoculars at people in a dinghy

Push-back and the violence of Frontex

5th December 2017

Behind the European system of border control known as “push-back” lies a racist and violent ideology that only civil society, working deliberately across borders to understand and undermine the status quo, can overcome. In November 2015, a video of a Greek coast guard was released. The video shows a rubber boat carrying irregular migrants floating … Read more

The Corra Foundation - Reflecting and looking forward

“We come out of change and challenge…” – Corra Foundation event

20th November 2017

…Those words from Julia Unwin powerfully capture the spirit of the Change Convention, hosted by Corra Foundation on 9 October in Edinburgh. The day brought together around 300 people, mainly from the voluntary sector, and offered a platform for conversations about how we can create positive change in times of uncertainty. Illustrator Amber Anderson spent … Read more

VIDEO: What became of the Big Society?

14th November 2017

Who remembers the Big Society? Launched to great fanfare at the start of 2010, the Big Society was David Cameron’s big idea to create more social action, empower communities and open up public services. Seven years on, what is the legacy of the Big Society agenda, and what impact has it had in communities? In Sunderland, … Read more

From soldiers to students, chapels to cinemas: lessons from England’s first capital

13th November 2017

“When I first started drinking here, the bottom half of town was out of bounds. That’s where the squaddie bars were.” My new friend pointed out the regimental cap-badges lined up behind the spirit bottles in the nearly empty pub. These days, those knocking back shots are not soldiers, but students. And Winchester’s undergraduates, it … Read more

Civil society and the Brexit opportunity

27th September 2017

The ancients defined ‘politics’ as the art of living in cities. How could large numbers of people, not related to each other, co-exist peacefully? The answer was to develop institutions, resembling the families or kinship groups of the countryside, combining economic with social functions: churches and guilds, businesses and trades unions, charities and community groups. … Read more

Using virtual reality to build solidarity across difference: the case of the Munduruku

19th September 2017

The only issue was that the tears made my glasses steam up. But otherwise, Munduruku: The Fight to Defend the Heart of the Amazon is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. The multisensory virtual reality installation from Greenpeace, AlchemyVR and The Feelies takes you into the Amazon, where you are invited on a tour of … Read more

Lessons from Shirebrook: Economic change is nothing new – civil society must shape it, or be shaped by it

18th September 2017

To say that society is shaped by the relations underpinning the way that economic activity is organized is not a new idea. It is most famously associated with Karl Marx, but you don’t have to be a Marxist to recognise that culture, customs and civic life are all to some degree influenced by economic forces. … Read more

“Over the last six years, we have become a more open, tolerant country”

30th August 2017

HOPE not hate’s Fear and HOPE report has charted attitudes towards race, faith, immigration and belonging in England since 2011. The most detailed survey of its kind asks over 4,000 people 140 questions pertinent to current events. Our fourth report looks at economic pessimism, the effects of the Brexit vote, the recent attacks on Manchester … Read more

Is it time for England to emulate the Nordic civil society model?

28th August 2017

Why civil society? In today’s complex and fast-changing societies, the state can neither be all-knowing nor all-powerful. There is thus a strong case for non-governmental organisations to provide grounded information and activist voices, and to act as critical partners in policy implementation. This is the idea of civil society as the ‘public sphere’, in which … Read more

Use the anger of leaderless youth to transform society: the case of Belfast Pride

18th August 2017

On the first Saturday of August, nearly a month after the near-inevitable controversy of Belfast’s Eleventh Night bonfires and Twelfth parades, over 5000 people marched in the city’s annual Pride Parade, a protest which is a response to Northern Ireland’s present and future, rather than its sectarian past. Why, in NI, where the largest party … Read more

Look for the helpers: how can we build a civil society that’s ready for the worst?

13th July 2017

As we reel from shock to shock – bombings in Manchester, attacks in London, the horrific fire in Kensington – one thing has become clear. Civil society in its widest sense is central to how we respond. Immediately after the blue light services heroically dealing with horror come the volunteers – the churches, the community … Read more

Civil society feels increasingly broken – but we can fix it

6th July 2017

Part of the purpose of this inquiry is to provide a space for conversation about difficult and controversial subjects which either ignite strong feelings, or get ignored through fear and embarrassment. This article is intended to stimulate an open and respectful conversation about some of these issues, and does not necessarily represent the views of … Read more

What’s so good about campaigning?

19th June 2017

It’s so hard to find a parking space in Dulwich Village. At one of Southwark’s community councils not so long ago, there was some vocal (and visceral) opposition to a modest council proposal to slightly improve cycling provision and safety in a tiny part of the borough. The residents’ campaign against the proposed change led … Read more

Now is the time to join a tenants’ union

16th June 2017

British housing is a dangerous mess. But people are organising to protect themselves – like they always have. In 1915 in Govan, just south of the river Clyde in Glasgow, bands of women torpedoed flour bombs at creeping eviction enforcers from the towering windows of their tenements. Exasperated by increasingly predacious landlords and the rising … Read more

Fear and anger in Birmingham: what people in Britain’s second biggest city think of civil society

16th May 2017

Chatting to people in the street isn’t scientific. But it does give you a sense of something. It does allow you to get a bit of a feel for how particular kinds of people in specific sorts of places talk about things. It permits a glimpse of the light from some of the fractures in … Read more

Small actions lead to large movements

5th May 2017

Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future role of civil society? I was recently invited to talk to the group responsible for the Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society on behalf of UnLtd and the social entrepreneurs with whom I work. Following some scene setting about what the group are looking to … Read more

Building a user-generated museum: a conversation with Alistair Hudson

5th May 2017

Can the museum be reimagined as a place that actually works for its constituents, rather than for the art market? Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima) director Alistair Hudson seeks to create a ‘useful museum’ that is the true manifestation of its community. What brought you to the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima)? I’ve … Read more

Finding a home: a conversation about community, live-art and Birmingham

5th May 2017

We talk to the founders of Home for Waifs and Strays, a Birmingham initiative that seeks to foster a community and home for live-artists in the city.  How did Home for Waifs and Strays begin? Kate Spence: In a nutshell, Aleks rang me one night. Aleks Wojtulewicz: At 2 in the morning – like all the best … Read more

26th April 2018