Community life looks rosier in the hands of the young

27 April 2017

The future of community life in Britain is looking brighter today (27 April) as it emerged that the under 25s are more likely than both their parents and grandparents to get involved in their local communities.

Research published by the Co-op shows that over three-fifths (61 per cent) of 16-24 year olds would like to become more involved in local activities where they live, whilst the over 55’s (40 per cent) are the least likely to want greater engagement locally. Local activities cited in the research to enhance community include forming a lunch club for the elderly, parents running a Scout group or musicians forming a band.

The research also shows that people believe businesses should be doing more locally, with three-quarters (75 per cent) saying community is a corporate responsibility. In addition, three in four (75per cent) feel that there is not enough investment in community projects in their area.

Overall, the Co-op Community Report 2017 shows that communities are alive and well and that there is a great sense of pride in being part of them. 64 per cent of respondents said they feel proud to be part of the community, while 59 per cent of the population state that local involvement is a key factor in their quality of life. Local shops (58 per cent), local pubs (51 per cent) and community centres (50 per cent) are seen as the key establishments to creating this sense of community.

Only one in four people (26 per cent) have no interest in being part of a community. Over half of these (54 per cent) claim this is down to a lack of involvement in community groups, while a third (31 per cent) do not participate as they lack the confidence. Not knowing neighbours, not having friends and a lack of time have also been cited as factors for those who do not feel part of their community.

Half (46 per cent) of those who get involved claim that it makes them feel good about where they live with one in five (21 per cent) saying it opens up new friendships and 14 per cent stating it boosts their confidence.

The study’s release coincides with the first tranche of payouts from the Co-op’s new membership scheme, with more than £9m distributed to 4,000 grassroots charities across the UK.

As part of the scheme, every time a Co-op member purchases an own brand product or service they receive a five per cent reward for themselves, with a further one per cent going to local charities. The community one per cent rewards, in addition to the proceeds from the carrier bag charge in England, has contributed to a total payout of £9.12 million, with an average amount for each charity of £2,284.

Rufus Olins, the Co-op’s Chief Membership Officer, said:

“This is very welcome news for all those who believe that communities should be at the very heart of the UK. The death of communities and the disaffection of young people has been greatly exaggerated and the research underlines the very important role that business, and the Co-op in particular, can play.

“The Co-op has always been community focussed. The original Rochdale Pioneers were motivated by the need to improve the living conditions of those within their local community and they also understood that values were just as important as value. At a time when investment in communities is being cut back, we are proud to be able to increase our activity through our members shopping with us. Our way of doing business can make a critical difference.

“It is particularly pleasing to see there is clearly a desire amongst young people to play an active role in supporting their local community. In the digital age, they are arguably better equipped with the ideas and motivation to make this happen and we should do everything possible to help them build the communities of tomorrow and see their online activities translate into co-operation in the flesh.”

Actor and community campaigner Tony Robinson said:

“As someone who believes passionately in the power of people working together for the common good, it is most heartening to see that the under 25s are so willing to become engaged with their communities. It is not surprising that the research was conducted by the Co-op as its new membership scheme is doing so much to support local groups, clubs and neighbourhoods.”

A fifth (22 per cent) of the charities to benefit from the first round of the Co-op’s membership scheme support young people with 886 charities sharing just over £2m.

These include the Greater Manchester Youth Network which will put the £5,603 it has received towards a new studio where youngsters can record their own music and the Highgate and Holloway Woodcraft Folk, a movement for young people, that will be using its more than £3,000 to help with outreach activities in the Archway area of North London and to subsidise camping trips, making them accessible to everyone."

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Dave Smith
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