Empowered Communities: Looking back – to move forward (UK)

The IVAR team are preparing to facilitate a diverse dialogue that will explore the past, present and future of support to communities in the UK.

By Leila Baker, Head of Research, IVAR

The Institute for Voluntary Action Research has been appointed by Local Trust to be responsible for a research project that will ask, ‘What needs to happen to empower communities?’ and ‘Does community development still have a contribution to make?’

We’re excited and not a little humbled to have the chance to work with people across the UK who have important insights and opinions to contribute to this research. What we discover will matter to Local Trust, to IVAR and to the hundreds of people who have already signed up to updates on the project.

A research approach for our times

The withdrawal of the state is leaving communities to do more for themselves, widening the gap between rich and poor, and damaging the infrastructure that supports community action. Cuts and austerity have become powerful drivers for finding different ways of doing a huge range of things – from how we involve people in their own care and wellbeing; to how we finance community building and empowerment. Brexit has sharpened our awareness of division and tensions in communities and subsequent incidents of racism or other prejudice have mobilised and alarmed people across the generations.

So what kind of research is needed? This isn’t a big project. The budget of £40,000 sounds like a lot until you start to break it down across work in all four nations of the UK and with everyone who has something to say. But the money that is available for Local Trust to act on the research is sizeable – a £500,000 legacy from the Community Development Foundation.

Our approach is simple. We want to ask great questions and stimulate dialogue between diverse groups of people. How we do that will vary – we’ll use whatever language, style or approach that will elicit the ‘best’ response. And by ‘best’ I mean one that allows participants to get across their perspective, experience and opinions and that challenges them to think widely and critically. And, yes, we want people to have conversations that they find enjoyable, stimulating and useful for themselves too.

Learning from the past

The dialogues we facilitate will need to connect people with different perspectives, experiences and opinions. That includes creating opportunities for conversations across the generations. Over the past few weeks, I have been struck by the number of conversations and chance encounters that I have observed between people of different generations. These conversations hearten and strengthen, but also inform.

Lessons from the past matter. Being ambitious for the future matters too and sometimes that means doing things in new ways. But let’s not forget that if you are poor, hungry, lonely or isolated, good doesn’t necessarily equate to new. We need the past as much as the present to help us do good.

Join the debate:

Share your views on Twitter using #Empowered2020s

Keep up to date: Sign up to the Empowered Communities project mailing list.

IVAR is an independent charity that works closely with people and organisations striving for social change. We use research to develop practical responses to the challenges faced and create opportunities for people to learn from our findings.

Local Trust’s mission is to enable residents to make their communities and their areas even better places in which to live. We do this by helping residents develop and use their skills and confidence to identify what matters most to them, and to take action to change things for the better, now and in the future. We provide a mix of funding and finance to support people to make sustainable change, maximise impact and make the best use of scarce resources. Our major programme in England is Big Local.

CDJ 50th Anniversary Virtual Issue

CDJ logoThe CDJ 50th Anniversary Virtual Issue is now freely available online for anyone to read.

The Virtual Issue includes 11 articles from the Community Development Journal archives –  selected for their ongoing significance and contribution to thinking – plus an editorial introduction from Keith Popple.

Links to individual articles can be found below. The Virtual Issue can also be found in full on the Oxford University Press website, accompanied by short contributions from the individuals who has made each selection explaining why they chose the paper.

Keith Popple

Popple, K. (2008) ‘The first forty years: the history of the Community Development Journal
Selected by Mick Carpenter and Keith Popple

Batten, T. R. (1974) ‘The Major Issues and Future Direction of Community Development’
Selected by Sue Kenny
International Advisory Board member

Waddington, P. (1979) ‘Looking ahead: community work in the 1980s’
Selected by Marilyn Taylor
Editorial Board member

Smiley, C. W. (1982) ‘Managing agreement: the Albilene Paradox’
Selected by Gary Craig
Editor 1981-1997

Botes, L. and van Rensburg, D. (2000) ‘Community participation in development: nine plagues and twelve commandments’
Selected by Mick Carpenter

Cannan, C. (2000) ‘The environmental crisis, greens and community development’
Selected by Keith Popple
Editor 1998-2003

Shaw, M. and Martin, I. (2000) ‘Community work, citizenship and democracy: remaking the connections’
Selected by Marjorie Mayo
Former Editorial Board member

Berner, E. and Phillips, B. (2005) ‘Left to their own devices? Community self-help between alternative development and neo liberalism’
Selected by Kwok-Ki Fung
International Advisory Board member

Cornwall, A. (2008) ‘Unpacking “Participation”: models, meaning and practices’
Selected by Mae Shaw
Editorial Board member

Andharia, J. (2009) ‘Editorial: Critical Explorations of Community Organization in India’
Selected by Chris Miller
Editor 2003-2009

Ennis, G. and West, D. (2013) ‘Using social network analysis in community development practice and research: a case study’
Selected by Nino Vasadze
International Advisory Board member



EVENT: Community Development Society Conference

19-22 July 2015

Lexington, Kentucky, USA

The theme of the 2015 CDS Conference is Creativity and Culture: Community Development Approaches for Strengthening Health, Environment, Economic Vibrancy, Social Justice and Democracy.

The deadline for submissions is the 31st January 2015.

For more information, and to submit an abstract online, go to the CDS website.

International task force to map community development training programmes and national networks

At its October 2014 meeting, the international Board of the IACD agreed to set up a task group, chaired by Vice President, Stewart Murdoch, to map, country by country community development training programmes and national networks that support development practitioners.

This will be funded as a legacy from the Community is the answer conference, held in Glasgow in June 2014.

Research interns will be appointed in December, to undertake the research mapping, which we hope to complete by July 2015. 

Read more on the IACD website.

News Archive

This post contains an archive of news updates posted on the site between April 2012 and May 2013.


2nd May 2013

Henry Tam is giving two talks in Cambridge, UK on the rise of plutocracy and its implications for progressive politics. Both events are free and all are welcome to attend.

Left with a Hard Choice: the contest of democracy v plutocracy
Tuesday 7th May (7.30 pm – 9.15 pm)
Cambridge Fabians & Anglia Ruskin GradSoc
Room 006, Ashcroft Building, Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge

“In recent decades, plutocracy has become hegemonic in its dominance. Supporters of the left are repeatedly told that no one can win power without deferring to the deregulatory, small state, low tax, privatising agenda of the corporate advocates. Must democracy concede to plutocracy? Or can progressive changes be achieved through the development of a more radical, communitarian democracy? The key, as Henry Tam will explain, is to draw from the evidence of successful participatory engagement and build a reform movement with citizens to secure better outcomes for everyone, and not just the wealthy few.”

Will this be the Plutocratic Century?

Monday 13th May (1.30 pm – 3.30 pm)
Cambridge CRASSH (Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities)
Alison Richard Building, Cambridge University, West Road, Cambridge

“The 20th century was meant to have witnessed the triumph of democracy against all odds. But the early 21st century is exhibiting many symptoms that citizens no longer have an equal say in how they are to be governed. As the plutocratic form of politics spreads its influence, all those concerned with this development may wish to join in the exploration of three questions. First, what historical lessons can be drawn from shifts in power distribution in the past? Secondly, on what theoretical and empirical basis can we argue for an alternative to current trends? And finally, what new means should we experiment with to connect with disengaged citizens in any attempt to revive democracy?”

11th March 2013

Conference announcement –
Meeting Emerging Global Policy Challenges:
What can Social Policy and International Development Studies Learn from Each Other?

Bath, UK
26th – 27th April 2013

The UK Social Policy Association and the Development Studies Association are pleased to convene a joint conference to be held at the University of Bath. In an era of global change and increasing uncertainty, both Social Policy and Development Studies are aware of the need to generate new ideas and responses.

In organising a joint conference, we recognise that researchers and practitioners from both associations and beyond, can learn much more from each other and that collaboration will put us in a stronger position to respond to future challenges.

The essential point of departure is a steady collapsing of the intellectual distinction between social policy and development. This is mainly driven by the entry of poor countries into middle income status while retaining large scale poverty and inequality, such as India and China, where the largest proportion of the world’s poor are located. What is the nature of this middle income status in terms of revenues, access to social security and correlative duties? What impact does this have upon ideas in welfare and policy development and arguments for international aid?

Confirmed speakers include Sarah Cook, Director of UNRISD, Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, Professor of Social Policy & International Development, University of East Anglia, and Naila Kabeer, Professor of Development Studies, SOAS University of London.

More information is available here. For bookings and communication please contact dsaspa2013@gmail.com.

25th February 2013

Conference announcement –
Citizen-Led Sustainable Change:
Innovations in North American Community Development

Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
23rd-25th June 2013

What are the most recent innovations in citizen-led community development across North America? How do citizens engage government and the private sector to support their initiatives? What types of partnerships and investments are most effective? These questions are critical as local communities re-examine their roles in creating and sustaining their assets and determining their own futures.

It’s time we talked. Development practitioners and researchers, as well as policymakers and funding agencies that support local initiatives, all have an interest and a say in the conversation about how citizens can best lead community development. We need to learn from one another’s experiences and build a collective platform to continue the conversation and increase its impact on the ground.

To register, click here.

12th February 2013

Conference announcement –
Resilience Conference

London, UK
11th April 2013

The first British Red Cross conference on resilience is an exciting opportunity to:

    • share experiences and lessons on how resilience building works in practice in various settings and from a variety of perspectives – in other words, what works well and why?
    • understand how we all can effectively contribute to building resilience with individuals through to society as a whole.

The conference focus is to discuss the principles and practices which build resilience in the UK but we also welcome international comparative perspectives.

Registration for the conference is now open for external delegates and presenters.

Deadline for abstract submissions: 22 February 2013

11th February 2013

Conference announcement –
CDAS ‘Building Stronger Communities’ Conference

Edinburgh, UK
19th April 2013

There is wide agreement that Scotland’s communities have the potential to make a bigger contribution to improving the quality of life. Legislation is planned to give them new power, and the importance of their active involvement is recognised in many aspects of public policy. But powers alone will not be enough, we must ensure that all communities have the strengths and skills to make best use of them.

This conference hopes to help to stimulate a national debate on how to build stronger communities. How can they be strengthened and who has a role in helping? What capacities are most needed? Do public services themselves have the capacity to allow effective empowerment to take place?

For more information and booking form, click here.

8th November 2012

Report –
Gaining Power: Challenges Facing Activists

The National Coalition For Independent Action (NCIA) and National Community Activists Network (NatCAN) shared a platform in giving people a knowledge and the ability to challenge local and national decisions and raise awareness to the changes locally and nationally. An audience of voluntary sector, public sector and community volunteers came together to share their passions, skills and views. This report reflects upon those discussions.

22nd October 2012

Conference announcement –
FCDL AGM and Conference:
Celebrating and Reclaiming Community Development Learning and Practice (in an age of ‘austerity for some’ and increasing inequality for all)

Swanwick, UK
21st – 22nd November 2012

The conference will celebrate the achievements of the Federation for Community Development Learning (FCDL) Creating Changes project and will include input from demonstration projects. It will also explore domestic and international perspectives on poverty and asset-based development.The International Association for Community Development (IACD), is a partner in this conference.

Directions and a booking form are available here.

18th October 2012

Conference announcement –
Asia Pacific Regional Conference:
People’s Collective Actions towards Rights, Freedoms, Securities

Quezon City, Philippines
22nd-24th October 2012

The Department of Community Development, College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD), in coordination with Community Development Society of the Philippines Inc. (CDSP) and Center for Asian Mission for the Poor (CAMP), will sponsor the 3rd Asia Pacific Regional Conference on Community Development with the theme “People’s Collective Actions towards Rights, Freedoms, Securities” to be held October 22-24, 2012 at the CSWCD, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.

The conference organizers will invite various speakers including from the marginalized sectors to reflect on the following themes: Economic rights, specifically right to farm lands and other productive assets, ancestral domain rights and related frames for accessing resources by indigenous peoples; social enterprise and sustainable livelihoods as strategies and programs connected to rights, freedoms and securities; Political rights, such as right to participation and right to peace; and, Identity and cultural rights, such as rights of LGBTs, people with disabilities and elderly.

Application form available online here.

15th October 2012

Call for papers –
Racism and Anti-Racism through Education and Community Practice: An International Exchange

Edinburgh, UK
26th – 27th June 2013

This international conference aims to put race back on the agenda in education and community theory and practice. Over recent years, practitioners and academics interested in the operations of race, racism and anti-racism have had to negotiate various disabling discourses in policy, politics and practice. From the backlash against ‘failed’ multiculturalism in Europe, to the marginalisation of race in inclusive education to a shift in preference for discussing culture and ethnicity rather than racism, it seems that race and challenging racism has been silenced from broader discussions about educational inclusion and social justice. This conference aims to bring together academics, policy makers and practitioners from around the globe to critically debate and share practice experiences about race, racism and anti-racism in different national contexts.

Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be emailed to CERESConference2013@ed.ac.uk by Monday 3rd December 2012.

28th August 2012

Event announcement –
Equalities Below the Radar:
TSRC research slam

Birmingham, UK
Thursday 27th September 2012

This year the Third Sector Research Centre’s Below the Radar Reference Group will be holding an open workshop and conference on 27th September in Birmingham, UK (10.30am to 3.30pm).

This is a free event and will cover a range of equalities issues in the morning including sessions on Gypsy and Traveller Community Groups, community responses to destitute migrants and the voice and influence of the Black and Minority Ethnic voluntary and community sector. The afternoon session will be a “research slam” sharing findings from across the Centre’s current work and exploring the implications of these for policy and practice in a rapidly changing world.

The event is free but places are limited so please do share the above information with colleagues and/or circulate the attached event details through your newsletters etc.

Please register by Friday 31st August.

16th July 2012

There are two upcoming events in London this month that may interest readers.

Gaining Power:
Challenges Facing Activists

London, UK
Thursday 19th July 2012

An event jointly hosted by the National Coalition for Independent Action and the National Community Activist Network.


If you’re taking action on issues affecting local people in your area, want to share tactics with others or find out how to get help to keep you going, then this event is for you.

Email Maxine@grantmoarcommunities.com to book a free place.

Shared Values, Collective Action:
How can the experience of the community sector help us set an agenda for the future?

London, UK
Thursday 26th July 2012

An event jointly hosted by the Community Sector Coalition and the Third Sector Research Centre.
Objectives for the day:

  • To explore trends and issues faced by the community sector
  • To identity solutions and ways of working that can inform practice
  • To suggest future actions individuals, organisations and coalitions can take forward

To book a place, email Matt: so204ms@gold.ac.uk.

11th July 2012

Conference announcement –
African Studies Association Annual Meeting:
Research Frontiers in the Study of Africa

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA
29th November – 1st December 2012

The ASA Annual Meeting is the largest gathering of Africanist scholars in the world. With an attendance of almost 2,000 scholars and professionals, the conference offers more than 200 panels and roundtables, scholarly and professional plenary and institutional events, awards and prizes, as well as discussion groups, an international exhibit hall, and an on-demand film to appreciate the teaching, research, and professional results of Africanist scholars and that of their colleagues.

This year, the Annual Meeting recognizes that the study of Africa has become immensely rich and varied. All achievements and challenges considered, the study of Africa has matured.

Maturity, however, is not a destination but a point of departure. It is that most consequential moment at which a truly (re)defining quest begins. Let us boldly engage this task and therefore think big and beyond—beyond the attractions of the scholarship of immediacy and near-vision, the comfort of easy oppositions, the satisfaction with basic-level breakthroughs, and the cultivated fear of optimism or of pessimism. It is with this mindset that we task you, our colleagues, to set out to explore what are and should be Research Frontiers in the Study of Africa.

Registration is open until Sunday 30th September, 2012.

2nd July 2012

Conference announcement –
Council on Social Work Education:
Annual Program Meeting

Washington DC, USA
9th – 12th November 2012

The CSWE Annual Program Meeting (APM) is the premier national meeting in the social work education field.

More than 3,000 social work educators, administrators, practitioners, students, and other key decision makers from across the country and around the world attend APM each year, making it the largest gathering of its kind.

The 2012 conference theme, Social Work: A Capital Venture, aims to foster greater understanding among a range of constituents on the value of social work in addressing complex social concerns. The purpose is to promote the importance of investing resources to advance social work as a profession and as a science. It invites an examination of challenges and opportunities in growing high-quality social work education in its role as professional steward and the genesis of social work science.

Early-bird registration is available until Wednesday 5th September, 2012.

20th June 2012

Conference announcement –
Real Utopias:
American Sociological Association 2012 Annual Meeting

Denver, Colorado USA
17th – 20th August 2012

Exploring real utopias implies developing a sociology of the possible, not just of the actual. This is a tricky research problem, for while we can directly observe variation in what exists in the world, discussions of possibilities and limits of possibility always involve more speculative and contentious claims about what could be, not just what is. The task of a sociology of real utopias, then, is to develop strategies that enable us to make empirically and theoretically sound arguments about emancipatory possibilities.

The 2012 meeting of the ASA will explore this agenda in the context of the many subfields of sociology.

ASA members can register for the annual meeting here.

Plenary sessions will be streamed live on the meeting website.

7th  June 2012

Conference announcement –
Social Work and Social Development:
Action and Impact

Stockholm, Sweden
8th-12th July 2012

Stockholm will be the meeting point for policymakers, social workers, scholars and students to exchange experience and development in social work practice, social research and education and social policy to develop a sustainable welfare system for the future.

You can register for the conference here.

1st June 2012

Call for papers –
The Second Leveraging Potential:
Social Inclusion at Work and Play Conference 2012

Monash University Prato Centre, Italy
15th – 16th November 2012

Keynote speaker:
Professor Mick Carpenter (University of Warwick, UK)

The Australian Government’s vision of a socially inclusive society is shared by many national governments. A socially inclusive society is one which all members feel valued and have the opportunity to participate fully in the life of their society. Programmes addressing social inclusion can be aimed at the level of the individual, the organisation, or more broadly at the community or society in which we live.

This conference will cover areas including, but not limited to:

  • Sport and social inclusion
  • Work and social inclusion
  • Tourism and social inclusion
  • Festivals and events and social inclusion
  • Regional development and social inclusion
  • Technology and social inclusion

Abstracts/Posters deadline: Friday 27 July 2012
Full papers deadline: Monday 10 September 2012

Abstract submission should be by email to: Pieter.VanDijk@monash.edu

31st May 2012

Event announcement –
Community Development: A Radical Response to Our Difficult Times?

Leeds Metropolitan University, UK
Tuesday 12th June 2012, 5-7pm

A Yorkshire and Humber Community Development Network event in conjunction with Leeds Metropolitan University.

David Beck from Glasgow University will be talking and leading a discussion.

Community Development has been sidelined for some time now as it was co-opted into delivering government agendas and services. Now that the impact of this government’s policies upon poor communities is becoming crystal clear is it time for community development to reclaim its more radical roots and what would that mean for practitioners?

Come along and join the discussion. It’s free and all are welcome but it would be good if you could let us know you intend to come so we can make sure we have enough refreshments and a good sized room.

E-mail us at yhcdn@yhcdn.net

30th May 2012

Conference announcement –
2012 International BISA-ISA conference

20th – 22nd June 2012

British International Studies Association and the International Studies Association joint International Conference, Edinburgh, UK.

Theme: Diversity in the Discipline: Tension or Opportunity in Responding to Global Challenges

The global financial crisis, continued concerns over terrorism, the projection of Western power into Iraq and Afghanistan, the growing significance of China and the emergence of the G20 states as major players, and political revolution in the Middle East, are amongst the challenges shaping contemporary international relations. Power is changing. Alliances are being reconfigured, and institutions are evolving. Security challenges are being articulated in a variety of areas including through technological change, health, natural disasters, and food scarcity.

In addressing these issues, International Studies is characterised by diversity. This includes differences in how global challenges are understood. Divergent methodological approaches shape the ways in which the substance of these global challenges is analysed. In turn, competing understandings lead to academics offering distinct responses to pressing issues in contemporary global politics.

Registration deadline: 8th June 2012

7th April 2012

Conference announcement –
Democratization, Marketization, and the Third Sector:
10th International Conference of the ISTR

Siena, Italy
10-13 July 2012

ISTR International Conferences provide a dynamic forum for the exchange of cutting edge research findings in the field of Third Sector Studies. The conferences bring together over 600 scholars from more than 68 countries round the globe, both north and south, to share their comparative approaches and multidisciplinary knowledge about civil society, philanthropy, and the nongovernmental sector. ISTR conferences are noted for their diversity of topics, themes, research methods and enormous engagement of the delegates.

For more information, see the conference web page.