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Civil society weaker in Levelling Up priority areas, finds think tank

Melanie May | 18 May 2023 | News

Two men work in front of their laptops. By Scott Graham on Unsplash

The poorest areas of the country see a third less local charitable activity than the lowest priority areas for Levelling Up according to think tank New Philanthropy Capital (NPC).

The think tank’s data also suggests the gap has widened, with local charitable activity falling between 5% and 6% since 2018. This compares to a less than 1% drop in wealthier places during this time.

It puts forward the solution as being to develop civil society to promote local economic growth, arguing for: “greater support for civil society as an engine of growth if we are to truly tackle regional inequalities across the UK – such as through new targeted social investment zones, a social investment fund and better evaluation of what programmes work.”

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NPC’s analysis is presented in a new paper, Building Blocks of Growth. Civil society’s role in tackling regional inequalities, authored by Jasmine Birmingham, Theo Clay, Leah Davis, Ben Kili and Robbie Sinclair.

In more detail, its recommendations include a minimum of one targeted ‘social investment zone’ in each of the nine ITL 1 regions in England, and equivalent in devolved nations. These, it says, should be informed by the indices of multiple deprivation and calculations of charity density, and be in parallel with the 12 investment zones announced for the East Midlands, North East, Greater Manchester and elsewhere.

The zones should contain co-developed ten-year plans to transform their area alongside the local authority, civil society and community; partnerships with existing local philanthropic bodies, including Community Foundations; funding for locally designed, long-term civil society interventions to tackle local priorities, social issues, and improve the health and educational assets of the community; new processes to involve civil society organisations with decision-making to target support to needs; and more. 

It also recommends a broader national approach to investing in disadvantaged areas across the country, and a new national framework for tackling inequalities. This would help to identify priority areas for support, with NPC recommending that central government funding then be weighted to reflect these. Other recommendations here include setting up a new ‘Social Investment Fund’, devolving decision making, and trialling civil society interventions.

The full report is accessible on the NPC site.

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