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Empowered Communities

About the research

The research phase of Empowered Communities is happening throughout 2017 and is led by IVAR, on behalf of Local Trust. 

This exciting research looks at the contemporary and future value of community development in the UK. Funded by the Community Development Foundation (CDF) and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), the findings will inform future work to bring about more empowered communities.   

Below is an introduction to the research phase of Empowered Communities. To find out more, you can access the project resources or contact the research team.

What questions will the research answer? 

The research theme is ‘Empowered Communities in the 2020s: shaping the future of community development’, and after launching a call for tenders for the research in December 2016, Local Trust selected the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) as our research partners in February 2017. IVAR’s research will look to answer the following big questions: 

  • How can communities become more empowered and vibrant in the next ten years?
  • How can communities identify and articulate issues and take collective action to address them over the next decade?
  • What might help people imagine what the future will look like, especially given the uncertainty ahead, and give them the tools to shape that future?
  • What needs to happen for communities to become more empowered in the future? 

Empowered Communities is an interactive research project and we want to gather a wide range of views about the future of communities.

Find out how to Have your say 

Who will carry out the research? 

IVAR (Institute for Voluntary Action Research) is an independent research charity that works closely with organisations that are striving for social change. They work with all sizes of organisations across the voluntary, public and funding sectors — from the very small, who directly support the most vulnerable in their communities, to those that work nationally.

IVAR uses research insights to develop practical responses to the challenges faced and creates opportunities for shared learning, idea generation and action planning.

Head of Research, Leila Baker will lead the research alongside Helen Garforth (Associate), Marilyn Taylor (Visiting Fellow), Katie Turner (Senior Research Officer), Houda Davis (Research Officer) and Rosa Powloski (Head of Communications).  

They bring to the project over 16 years worth of research experience, a network of cross-sector, multi-disciplinary relationships and direct practical experience of community development and citizen engagement.

Visit for research insights and resources that can help organisations adapt to change and make informed and confident decisions.

What is IVAR’s approach? 

IVAR is facilitating a series of dialogues exploring the past, present and future of support to communities. The dialogues have been designed with the following principles in mind: Collaboration; imagination; and using the past to move freely into the future.  

The Dialogues Series will involve people, groups and organisations in the public, voluntary (including faith and community groups) and business sectors that support individuals and communities, build movements, and operate online and offline.  

There will be three sets of dialogues: 

IVAR will post parts of each Dialogue online as they go so that they are freely available to anyone else working around empowered communities and community development.  

Blog: Dialogues series: an introduction   

The steering group 

The research is led by the Empowered communities steering group, which was created after a call for expressions of interest in October 2016. The steering group has 12 members with a broad range of skills, experiences and interests in working with and supporting communities. The steering group will meet five times between November 2016 and February 2018. 

The current members are: Alice Casey, Angus McCabe, Daniel Goodwin, Debbie Burton, Fabian French, Fozia Irfan, Lorna Prescott, Paul Bragman, Dr Rachel Shanks, Richard Wilson, Sue Gill and Tony Armstrong.

Press release: New project launches to explore radically different future for communities

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