New research from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, shows that the pandemic has helped to reignite people’s interest in their local community and sparked a desire to be more involved in 2021.
Across the UK almost seven in ten people (69%) feel like they are part of their local community, with around a third acknowledging that COVID has increased their sense of belonging (35%) and also made it more important for them to feel part of it (33%).
The survey of over 7,000 UK adults across the UK is nationally and politically representative and asks how people are feeling about their community and their ambitions for their local area for the year ahead.
After a year which thrust community spirit into the spotlight, three in ten (30%) say that they plan to get more involved in their local community in 2021. But as well as enjoying a greater appreciation of their local community, people also have a firm sense of the challenges their community faces and what will be important in their local area this year.
Reducing loneliness and isolation (47%), helping the local economy (43%), supporting mental health (39%) and helping local people to live healthily and well (38%) are all seen as important for their community’s wellbeing this year.
Other 2021 priorities are access to natural green spaces (52%), providing young people with places to go and activities to do (48%) and community activities that bring people together (38%) – all of which could potentially help with another concern for communities, which is safety on the streets (54%).
Interestingly, many of the changes people most want to see for their community in the year ahead are behavioural. These include people caring and looking out for each other (50%), a focus on supporting each other and good neighbourliness (45%), and parents spending quality time with their children (42%).
2020 also appears to have opened people’s eyes to the great work being done by many within their communities with a majority (65%) saying that local community groups and projects, volunteers and charities deserve more recognition. And when thinking of what they most want for their local community in 2021, just over a third (34%) want to see support for community projects and charities.
Faiza Khan MBE, Director of Engagement and Insight at The National Lottery Community Fund, says: “Last year so many communities up and down the country demonstrated the amazing things people can do to support each other during challenging times. This research shows the power of that collective endeavour and the profound impact on how we feel about the areas we live in and the people around us – making more of us appreciate our community and want to get involved.
“At The National Lottery Community Fund, we believe that local communities know what they need and the research highlights some of the thousands of projects that people value as part of everyday life – these are exactly the kind of projects that regularly benefit from funding made possible thanks to National Lottery players.”
National Lottery players raise £30 million a week for good causes and the research findings chime with the thousands of grant requests The National Lottery Community Fund deals with and the conversations its regional funding teams have with grant holders across the UK.
During 2020 it distributed over £650 million to community projects across the UK*, funding thousands of projects bringing people together, tackling loneliness and isolation, supporting young people and benefitting the environment – all things that this research demonstrates are important to people and their communities.
One such project, which provides green spaces coupled with activities for young people is environmental charity, Tree for Cities. It works with local communities across the UK, including Racecourse Estate in Ealing, London, bringing people together to create high quality green spaces and cultivating lasting change in their neighbourhoods – whether it’s revitalising forgotten spaces, creating healthier environments or getting people excited about growing, foraging and eating healthy food.
David Elliott, Chief Executive at Trees for Cities, said: “As a tree-planting organisation with local communities and people at its heart, we have seen the direct benefits that urban green spaces bring to the people and communities we work in. These findings back up our own understanding of the multiple benefits that urban trees and green spaces have on our mental health and wellbeing, as well as the importance of bringing local communities together to help create and enjoy green spaces. Last year, thanks to National Lottery players, we were able to deliver more transformational greening projects and connect more young people with nature – enabling and inspiring them to act upon their great ideas and ambitions for their community.”