The roots of our organisation go back to 2011 and the launch of the original programme that trained and hosted 500 full-time community organisers in neighbourhoods across England.
2011 – 2015: The original Community Organisers Programme
The Community Organisers Programme was a four-year national training programme that began in 2011, designed and run by Locality and funded by the Cabinet Office. The programme was run with several partners, including the key training partner, RE:generate.
The programme ended in summer 2015, but a legacy organisation – The Company of Community Organisers (COLtd) – was formed to support the ongoing training and development of community organisers.
2015 – 2016: Connecting with Community Rights
Between 2015 and 2016, COLtd supported 27 neighbourhood projects to connect with the Localism Act (including Neighbourhood Planning and the Community Right to Bid) helping thousands of residents to get involved in new ways in their communities.
Projects included community-led responses to housing, listing assets of community value and supporting local people to get involved for the first time in neighbourhood planning.
2017 – 2020: Delivering the Community Organisers Expansion Programme
In 2017, Community Organisers secured a major £4.2m contract from the Office for Civil Society – part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – to expand the network of people involved with community organising from 6,500 to 10,000 by 2020. This ambitious expansion increased the numbers of people engaged in community organising across England and enabled people to take greater control of their neighbourhoods and create strong, resilient communities that work for everyone.
2020-2021: Delivering through a pandemic funded by contracts and donations
400+ people were introduced to community organising online and record figures attended the National Event with 509 people joining an online 3 day learning event.
15 Social Action hubs became affiliated to us and delivered our training. Many of these hubs became frontline responders during the pandemic setting up food banks and issuing laptops and data due to people lacking devices and data during lockdown.
As a result of this we began the #OperationWiFi campaign which saw 100+ organisations signed up to the alliance calling for a national databank with this call reaching over 10k people a month.
2021 saw the Award in Community Organising move online with 32 enrolments and 75 hours of teaching online.
Across our network of Social Action Hubs we issued more than 350 certificates for the quality assured short courses in community organising. Each course is around 6 hours long, which equates to 2000 hours of learning.
Our membership recommitment saw 500 members recommit and a network of nearly 2000 people involved in the movement. We also held our second online annual event which saw over 140 people attend.
In July 2021, VirginMedia O2 launched the UK’s first National Databank following the ask of over 100 organisations that joined the #OperationWifi alliance campaign to end data poverty, the databank was launched with over £12.5m of mobile phone data to be gifted to those that need it in times of crisis.
We took part in the first ever Global Assembly helping to bring 100 people together from across the world to participate in COP26 in Glasgow.
At the end of the year we launched our Community Practitioner’s Network which brings together community practitioners from across the UK providing an informal space where people come together, reflect and listen to each other’s experiences as well as obtain expert input and guidance through guest lectures and webinars.
Reigniting the power of the movement
In 2022 we carried out a listening campaign across our network listening to 400 people. This was funded by Joseph Rowntree Foundation. In addition to this, from listening to our network it became clear that community workers and practitioners felt isolated and unsupported in their roles, which has further developed our Community Practitioner’s Network and adapted it around their needs and personal and professional development.
We now have 15 Social Action Hubs with 5 being NACO affiliated Training Providers. We are also supporting 10 more organisations to become Social Action Hubs.
We are delivering the Award in Community Organising to 46 Wildlife Trusts across the UK to help the Royal Society of Wildlife Trust in their strategy to get 1 in 4 people taking meaningful action for nature. We have also relaunched our Associate Network and have many new people coming on board with a wide breadth of experience who can help us deliver our objectives.
We were awarded funding in 2022 by the National Lottery to explore community organising across Europe and have hosted many webinars with our European partners and have visited 5 different countries. We have just launched an opportunity to host organisations from across Europe here in the UK so we can share what we do and learn from them and their depth of experience.
Due to the success of the #OperationWiFi campaign we have launched the #CostofLivingAlliance bringing together 50 organisations to tackle the cost of living crisis and are in the process of looking for a coordinator for this campaign.
We are also in the process of exploring the potential for a National Apprenticeship in Community Organising and a Graduate Scheme in Community Organising called Community First.