Published 30th July 2020

The Community Organisers Expansion Programme 2017-2020

The Community Organisers Expansion Programme (COEP) ran from 2017 to 2020 and was the second Government funded Programme. The programme was run by Community Organisers Limited, the legacy body established at the end of the first Programme.

Download the full report here: The Community Organisers Expansion Programme

The aim of the Programme was to train 3500 people in community organising. This would in turn enable residents to take action together in and across England’s most deprived neighbourhoods for social change – focused on the issues that matter most to them.

This new programme was different to the previous one. The previous model employed Community Organisers centrally through the prime contractor and then invited locally rooted organisations to host them. People gained their experience of community organising through paid work experience in the community. The approach of the COEP sought to embed community organising at a local level working with and alongside locally rooted organisations; building their capacity to train and support local people to get involved with community organising. People were recruited and trained through one-day courses and longer qualification courses. In addition, to build on the growing interest and demand for community organising people were trained within different settings – community, public sector, youth services and voluntary organisations.

One of the main reasons the COEP took a different approach to the original CO programme was to focus on ‘scaling deeper’ rather than ‘scaling wider’. By concentrating the work in a smaller number of areas and over a 3 year period (rather than one year like the original programme) the ambition was to embed community organising locally and build the capacity and skills of local people and local organisations so that community organising could be sustained after the programme had ended. The previous programme, whilst effective in training individuals in community organising skills, did not seek to embed the work at a local level.


The Community Organisers Expansion Programme has enabled us to do two key things. Firstly, to work with thousands of people in their communities to enable them to develop the skills and practice of community organising so they can build their collective power to act on the issues that affect them locally, and, secondly to build a strong national infrastructure for local organising so that people feel connected, supported and part of something bigger.
Nick Gardham, Chief Executive

The Programme attracted a wide range of individuals from a diversity of backgrounds. Those who participated in the programme were not generally people looking to become professional community organisers, although some were. More often they were people who wanted to support or take part in community action within their work or home lives as citizens, volunteers, tenants, activists, councillors, professionals and workers.

Programme Headline Achievements:

  • 3,966 people were trained in community organising – exceeding the target of 3,500 people.
  • 1,346 people attended follow on courses in Listening, Action for Change or Building Power
  • 78 people enrolled on Community Organising Qualification courses.
  • 341 young people were trained in community organising
  • Over 400 organisations were introduced to community organising
  • The National Academy of Community Organising was established and grew to a network of Social Action Hubs in 22 places and 43 quality assured trainers.
  • Five new one-day quality assured courses, two Qualification courses and a certificated youth programme were developed
  • An active peer network of over 1500 community organisers developed
  • 20 new Local Organising Groups formed to take local action
  • 30,000 people were engaged in one-to-one conversations and 3000 people were activated
  • £1.25 million was leveraged to support community organising work locally

Community organisers across the country supported social action on health, food security, transport, youth, social care, decent housing, street safety, loneliness, community cohesion, the environment and stronger communities.

See our Stories of Action report which highlights some of the grassroots action that was inspired by the programme. We also commissioned a Learning Report which captures the lessons learned.

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