Belong welcomes the ambitious vision laid out in the Levelling Up White Paper to reverse decades of entrenched inequality between different areas of the country. We are particularly pleased to see the emphasis on the essential role of ‘social capital’ and ‘institutional capital’ as two of the six capitals identified as necessary to levelling up. This highlights the important role of trust, strong relationships between and within local communities, and the capacity and capability of local leadership in developing cohesive and thriving local places.
Our own research into the impact of the pandemic on community connections and trust demonstrates that areas that have focused on social cohesion by putting communities in charge, building social infrastructure, developing pride in place, and establishing place-based partnerships between public, private and civil society organisations (including with arts, culture and sport) proved more resilient in the face of crisis.
We already know how to do this, and our members (including businesses, local government and civil society organisations) are leading the way to build thriving, inclusive and empowered local communities and places. For example in the last year working together with our partners in the sports sector Belong developed the Power of Sport digital toolkit, enabling sports organisations to maximise the positive impact they have on community cohesion. And working with business and local authorities we are developing guidance on the role business can play in strengthening local community connections.
This is a lesson we can learn and should seek to apply throughout the levelling-up programme, because civic strength provides the best foundation for economic renewal. We look forward to hearing more details on The Government’s plans to implement and resource this vision, and we will work with them to highlight, measure and evaluate the vital role that social cohesion can play in it.
The Belong Network will be providing a more detailed response in due course.