Measuring the impact of community businesses at a neighbourhood level

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We are continuing to build the evidence base about how community businesses impact on health and wellbeing, employability, social isolation, their local environment, and much more.

At Power to Change, we know that community businesses have a strong impact on their local area, and the people who live there. Using unique research methods, we are continuing to build the evidence base about how community businesses impact on health and wellbeing, employability, social isolation, their local environment, and much more.

Every year, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport produces the Community Life Survey. This survey provides official statistics on issues key to encouraging social action and empowering communities. This survey provides a perfect starting point for our own analysis on the impact of community businesses.

In 2020, Power to Change commissioned Kantar to conduct a ‘hyperlocal’ version of the Community Life Survey which focused on six operational areas in England centred around ‘catalyst organisations’ that nurture community businesses through Power to Change’s Empowering Places programme.

The programme aims to demonstrate the role that concentrated clusters of community businesses can play in improving local areas and reducing inequality. It has funded the ‘catalyst organisations’ in these six local areas, to conduct development work on the ground that grows community businesses in their local areas.

Each area contains an average of just over 5,000 households. Within each area, researchers chose a random sample of addresses. All adults, aged sixteen plus, living at those addresses are invited to complete a questionnaire, either online or on paper, to help us understand the impact of community businesses close to them.

In each of these areas, similar baseline surveys were conducted in 2018. Data was compared over time between 2018 and 2020 using a ‘difference-in-difference’ approach, a statistical technique which estimates the change over time in these areas, compared to changes seen in other similar areas that do not have the community businesses. This provides an indication of the relative impact of the Empowering Places programme in each area.

The six areas and ‘catalyst organisations’ are:

The results from the surveys highlighted many positive impacts of the Empowering Places programme. Often these positive impacts were specific to locations, but overall ratings of life satisfaction improved across Nunsthorpe and Bradley Park, Dyke House, and Manningham.

Manningham saw other positive impacts on areas such as employability, social action, and informal volunteering. The other positive impacts in Nunsthorpe and Bradley Park included improvements in wellbeing and the local environment and Dyke House also benefited from positive impacts related to wellbeing. Devonport and Stonehouse’s positive impacts ranged from improvements in civic pride to better neighbourhood trust. Wigan and Braunstone saw indications of indication of a widening of diversity of friendship groups in the community.

But not all the impacts were positive. The study showed negative impacts had also occurred in some of the areas studied. These included negative effects on community cohesion and anxiety in some areas.

Knowledge of these negative impacts is vital for improving the services provided by community businesses in the future and the new report helps to shape future action for communities and places.

The full results from these surveys can be found in our new report Empowering Places? Measuring the impact of community businesses at neighbourhood level.’ 

A blog describing the research methods, by Richard Harries, Associate Director of the Institute for Community Studies, is available here.