Building community capacity: making an economic case
KNAPP Martin, et al
Personal Social Services Research Unit
The Coalition Government’s vision, the Big Society, includes ideas for increasing local involvement, moving the provision of services and decision-making closer to local communities. Volunteering is strongly encouraged, as is the creation of social enterprises and other organisations with charitable status which may be able to take over local services currently run by the state. Independent community organisers are also proposed as part of these new developments. This small research project aimed to investigate the economic consequences which follow from initiatives of this type. The approach taken was to use the findings from previous studies, combined with the expertise of people delivering services and shaping initiatives, to produce simple simulations. Each simulation sought to mimic the pathways that people might follow, whether through services or through ‘life events’ such as getting a job, or in terms of changes in their wellbeing. The aim was to investigate the economic impact of the community capacity-building initiative compared to what would happen in the absence of such an initiative. The study covers 3 examples of ways in which community capacity can be built: time banks; befriending; and debt and benefits advice from community navigators. It focuses on the costs of these projects and on the monetary value of some of their consequences. These calculations demonstrate that each of these community initiatives generate net economic benefits in quite a short time period.