• New survey shows a majority of UK adults are interested in getting involved in at least one activity in their community.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic is reported to have shifted people’s attitudes towards helping out in their local communities.
  • Nesta is calling for the establishment of a £2 billion National Social Infrastructure Commission to support community participation at a local level.

Thursday 1st October: New survey results published today show a majority of the British public are interested in getting involved in at least one activity within their community, with the pandemic having shifted attitudes towards community participation.

The polling, conducted last week by Britain Thinks on behalf of Nesta, the innovation foundation, found that 83% of the public want to get involved with their communities in the future through at least one activity, with informal help, giving and formal volunteering being voted the most popular ways to do so. The results also reveal that people have observed a rise in informal volunteering (helping out a neighbour, caring for others) as a result of the pandemic (31% in 2019 to 34% today).

Other significant findings show:

  • Informal help is seen as being the most beneficial for people’s families, local communities and the UK as a whole;
  • Having flexibility over when people help out is seen as the biggest factor in encouraging more people to get involved in their communities (43%).

These results show the willingness of communities across the UK to help each other and matches the shift we are seeing towards more people-powered approaches in community participation. Over the last ten years, Nesta, alongside many others, has supported innovations drawing on the collective power of citizens and communities to imagine new ways of working for public services and communities. From the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund to the Upstream Collaborative, we have seen how changing who is involved and how public services can work more effectively with citizens can better address the complex challenges we face.

Danny Kruger MP’s report, Levelling Up Our Communities, published last week goes a long way in detailing the shift required to more seriously value increased power and connection in communities. In order to create conditions for strong community participation, Nesta is calling for:

  • The establishment of a £2 billion National Social Infrastructure Commission to invest as heavily in the underlying community and social welfare infrastructure as we are in physical infrastructure like train lines and motorways.
  • A £1billion civil society and local authority local support package to support the immediate next wave of responses to COVID-19, alongside £50 million local voluntary response ‘booster fund’ to increase the capacity of local areas to support immediate voluntary responses to the pandemic;
  • A National Citizens’ Assembly to bring citizens from all walks of life together to debate and shape the COVID-19 recovery, including what we value in the UK and want to preserve and what we want to leave behind.

Carrie Deacon, Director of Government and Community Innovation at Nesta, said:

“For over ten years, Nesta has seen a shift towards more people-powered public services. COVID-19 has shown the necessity for bringing these approaches from the margins to the mainstream.

Now is the time to fundamentally reshape the way we organise our communities, public services and democratic processes. To tackle the big challenges we face, from loneliness and isolation to social care, the Government needs to get serious about investing in people-powered approaches to public services. We urge the Government to act on last week's Kruger review and our recommendations today including a £2bn National Infrastructure Commission to invest as much in our community and social infrastructure as we are in building physical infrastructure like train lines and motorways.”

Reports published this week by Nesta, including People Power Shift and New Operating Models, give examples of organisations across the UK working towards more people-powered services and give further recommendations on how to achieve this in the future.


Press contact - Wallis Grant, 07921927454 - [email protected]

Full survey results available on request

Nesta spokespeople available for interview.

About the research

This note presents headline findings from a quantitative survey of UK adults, undertaken between 18th September 2020 – 20th September 2020.

This survey was undertaken to supplement Nesta’s wider work on public participation and the relationship between communities and local government in the UK.

The survey was run with a nationally representative sample of 2236 UK adults, and additional boosters so that the survey included 212 respondents in Scotland, 202 respondents in Wales, and 228 respondents in Red Wall constituencies. Data was weighted by age, gender, region and SEG.

For more information see www.britainthinks.com