New research: Community action is becoming more important but harder to sustain

A recent survey of community groups across the UK, carried out by Groundwork, has found that grassroots volunteer groups are increasingly at the forefront of tackling social and environmental challenges but are lacking support and finding it harder to sustain their activities.

Report headlines
  • Close to 90% of groups feel there is more need for community-led action compared to five years ago.
  • Nearly 50% of groups say they are finding it harder to deliver their activities than five years ago.
  • Lack of funding is the main challenge for community groups – with 77% saying they need more support to access grant funding.

Respondents felt that community groups were being expected and encouraged to do more as a result of cuts to local authority and other public services, but without the necessary support.

Groundwork launched the survey earlier this year to gain a deeper understanding of the current landscape for community action across the UK, including the work of community gardens, youth clubs, Friends of Park Groups and other volunteer groups and organisations that give up their time to improve the quality of life for local people in their area. The report’s main aims were to find out what motivated local community action, the benefits of this and what support and resource was needed for this to happen.

Close to 90% of respondents felt that community-led social action is needed more than it was ten years previous, but lack of funding and other non-financial support were cited as reasons why community groups could not reach their full potential, including the need for wider community engagement (61%), support with recruiting volunteers (58%) and lack of public relations guidance (57%).

Bringing the community together and the importance of community cohesion were the main motivators behind people getting involved in community projects, with other local factors such as improving the local environment and a concern about social issues affecting their community also included.

Through supporting grassroots community groups for more than thirty-five years, Groundwork has seen first hand the positive impacts that can be brought about when people have access to the skills, networks and resources to lead change in their local area.

If we’re going to tackle some of the big issues of the day – mending relations in divided local areas, taking action to prevent and prepare for climate change – then we need a ‘civic infrastructure’ of strong and resilient community groups.

We should celebrate the fact that many thousands of groups are active in communities across the UK – adding value to public services, looking after the most vulnerable and protecting cherished community facilities – but we mustn’t take that for granted. Providing support is vital.

Graham Duxbury, Groundwork national CEO

Click here to read the full report