Published 11th January 2021

2021 – the power of people and place

At the beginning of 2020 we set out a vision for the year ahead. It was a vision that set out how we could bring together a nation that was seen as divided. However, we did not predict how a global pandemic could wreak havoc across our society causing unprecedented damage to the way we live our lives, the economy and our health system.

However, despite these challenges we saw how a divided nation could unite. For all a pandemic sought to keep us physically distant we saw how, in the face of a crisis, people came together. They united.

Across our network we saw how community organisers adapted, innovated and mobilised to ensure those most at risk from the pandemic were protected.  Building on the relationships that they have developed over time they became the frontline responders. They were the glue at a local level that held people together and were able to organise around existing activity to build the bridges between groups and networks.

Here is just a snapshot of some of the amazing stories:

  • In Tottenham, community organisers at Selby Trust mobilised to form a food bank supporting 1000s of people
  • In Stockport, community organiser Nicola Dean at Starting Point Community Learning Partnership was recognised nationally for her efforts in tackling the digital divide.
  • In Hartlepool, Social Action Hub, The Annexe, supported the development of a new initiative called Minds for Men to tackling the mental health issues facing men in Hartlepool, and,
  • In Staffordshire, Eileen Jordan and the team were recognised by Baroness Barran for their efforts in developing County Stories Social Supermarket ensuring surplus food went to 1000s of families across the County who needed it most.

However, as we enter into 2021 we need to learn the lessons from what the pandemic has shown us. We need to find a way to unleash the potential of our communities and to show that we have more in common than what sets us apart.

The storming of the Capitol building shows what happens when we have a divided nation and identity based politics. We need to guard against this as we set out a new pathway in our recovery from the pandemic. In 2020 we set out a vision for our communities which would enable us to foster a greater sense of belonging and connection between people and to ensure that people could act together in their common interest.

But as we start 2021, we need to reconsider our vision in light of the lessons we have learnt from pandemic. The pandemic has shown us the power of people and place.

Geographic communities of place were at the heart of the pandemic with neighbours connecting with one another in acts of kindness. People’s deep and innate need for connection and belonging was fulfilled through the new found connections they were forging with one another. We saw across the community organisers network that when people were able to contribute to their places the fragility of their divisions around identity were exposed. People showed what we are what we always were; kind, compassionate and caring.

As we look to 2021, we need to reassert our vision for a bold and ambitious communities’ strategy from Government but this time with the addition of PLACE. We need to see policy makers and politicians set out how we can foster belonging and connection and ensure that we can build on the core principles that drove the localised response to the pandemic of people, power and place.

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