436 words, approx 2 mins to read.
Across the UK, our community centres are hotbeds of organising, socialising, and education. They are vital spaces that bring together the communities where our members live.
Co-op members joined in to tell us all about the venues that are at the heart of their communities, as we at the Co-op Foundation, the Co-op’s own charity, set out to learn how we might support spaces like this in the future.
The Foundation helps disadvantaged communities work together to make things better. Right now we’re looking at how we can achieve this by investing in enterprising community organisations. Co-op members were happy to help us in our research.
Here’s what we heard:
- Members overwhelmingly think of community centres as a vital part of local life, important both for themselves and others
- There’s so much going on in our community centres. Classes, groups, brigades and organisations bring communities together, and play an important role in tackling loneliness
- 75% thought their community would benefit from more community centres, with many reporting concerns over cuts in funding and services
- More positively, there was lots of support for local people stepping in to get more involved in the running of centres. But people were also keen to caution about volunteer burnout and financial instability when things were entirely volunteer run
- A small number of members voiced concerns about community centres being seen as ‘old fashioned’ and that the ones where they live are falling into disrepair or not offering activities that appeal to all groups.
In sum, members really care about their community centres, use them, recognise the value they bring to their local areas and are keen to ensure that everything possible is done to keep them thriving.
So what’s next?
Co-op members have helped us to understand just how important community centres are for people, and how community ownership can be one viable way to help these spaces thrive.
We’ll now start to develop a new funding offer targeted at community centres in the most deprived areas of the UK. As well as funding some of their work with disadvantaged groups, we’ll support them to become more financially resilient for the future – so that these vital venues can keep on bringing people together to do what matters most.
And finally – some members highlighted that poor transport links made the activities provided by their local community centre all the more important. Which is why the next topic we’re asking members to tell us about is transport. So whether you struggle with patchy bus services or love your local car-share scheme, head over to Join In to get involved.