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Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

The Value of People Power

This report includes an economic analysis of the value of people power and explores how public services can better value the contribution of citizens.

Whether we call it formal or informal volunteering, giving, social action, mutual aid, or simply people helping people, the power of connecting and helping each other makes a huge contribution to UK society.

Despite this, people power - activity that enables citizens to help one another, create social connections, and take collective action to shape change - is often undervalued by public services.

In this report, we make the case for 12 ways in which the benefits generated by people power can be articulated. We do this by mapping and estimating the economic value of people power, as well as looking beyond approaches derived from economics to explore different dimensions of benefit and value such as health improvements, increased trust, or a better functioning democracy.

The report includes a framework that can be used by public service officials and civil society organisations to help better understand and articulate the full range of value that people power can generate, and prompt different ways of evidencing this value.

Key findings

  1. The contributions of citizens are huge - we give at least 3.5 billion hours of time each year helping each other.
  2. But ‘people power’ is undervalued. From our work supporting over 100 people-powered innovations, we have increasingly seen that much of the value of these approaches can be missed when using current means of evaluation and measurement.
  3. We attempted to estimate the economic value of people power and found it creates between at least £103 billion and £122 billion a year in measurable economic benefit to the UK.
  4. People power also creates a lot of value that can’t be measured by economic means: from improving health and wellbeing to increasing social connection, and from increasing trust in public services to creating a better functioning democracy.

Policy recommendations

  1. Public service commissioners and funders should expand what they measure to capture the full value of people power, focusing on outcomes such as wellbeing, connection, and purpose.
  2. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports should establish a new evidence centre for people power to develop new methods of evidencing the value of people power.
  3. The UK Government should create new ways to include the full value of people power in decisions about public spending, through actions such as updating the Social Value Act and including the value of people power in official accounting measures of activity.


Rosalyn Old

Rosalyn Old

Rosalyn Old

Researcher, Government Innovation

Rosalyn was a researcher in Nesta's Government Innovation team.

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Will Bibby

Will Bibby

Will Bibby

Senior Programme Manager, Government Innovation

Will was a Senior Programme Manager working on Nesta's people-powered public services and education programmes.

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