Does community business really make places better? A baseline study to measure impact

We’ve created a set of data to help us judge whether Empowering Places is a useful programme and whether Community Business really does make places better.

Power to Change’s latest report tries to set a starting line from which the social impact of community businesses on their local communities can be measured. It is based on the government’s annual Community Life Survey (CLS), which is why we asked Kantar Public who undertake the CLS for the government also to conduct our research. The Community Life Survey has been carried out annually in England since 2012 to provide Official Statistics on issues that are key to encouraging social action and empowering communities.

Rather than survey the whole nation, we asked Kantar to look at seven areas with populations of just 1,500 that Power to Change has targeted in its Empowering Places programme. Empowering Places channels funding and resources towards areas that look ripe for community business with the aim of boosting their local economies but also improving the social fabric of their communities.

To discover whether community business really does make places better, though, we need to know what they were like before. Hence this baseline survey to find out what community life is like in Abram Ward (Wigan), Manningham (Bradford), Braunstone (Leicester), Nunsthorpe and Bradley Park (Grimsby), Marsh Farm (Luton), Devonport and Stonehouse (Plymouth) and Dyke House (Hartlepool).

In each area we asked Kantar to gather data on eight key areas of local life: social isolation, health and wellbeing, employability, local environment, community cohesion, community pride and empowerment, social action and volunteering. These were than compared with a Matched Comparison Sample; a comparable area taken from the CLS.

For all you data nerds who want to get into the detail, the hyperlocal dataset created by Kantar and the 2017-18 CLS dataset will be available soon to those with access to the UK data archive. For now, you can check out the summary statistical bulletin from the 2017-18 Community Life Survey and our hyperlocal survey Technical Appendix.

In terms of findings, Kantar saw no patterns between the areas and very few differences between them and their matched samples. And of course as this was just the first, baseline study, we have no previous data to measure impact against – that will come in future surveys. But this is an essential first step in measuring the impact of our work and gathering evidence against which to test our beliefs. Watch this space!


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