Co-op Group’s community report finds a caring young generation

More than three fifths of 16-24 year olds would like to become more involved in local activities, according to Group research

Young people are more likely than older generations to get involved in their local communities, a new report from the Co-op Group reveals – and there is still an overall sense of community pride across the UK.

The Co-op Community Report 2017, carried out to study the extent of community spirit in the UK,  found that more than three fifths (61%) of 16-24 year olds would like to become more involved in local activities where they live, while only two fifths (40%) of the over 55’s likely to want greater engagement locally.

It says the findings bely the “bad press young people often get regarding social inclusion”.

Overall, 61% of Brits do feel part of a community and some 12 million people play an active, participating role in their local community. And 64% of respondents said they feel proud to be part of the community, while 59% of the population state that local involvement is a key factor in their quality of life.

Local activities cited in the research to enhance community include forming a lunch club for the elderly, parents running a Scouts group or musicians forming a band.

Related: Co-op Group to redistribute 20 million meals to good causes

The research also shows that people believe businesses should be doing more locally, with three-quarters (75%) saying community is a corporate responsibility. In addition, three in four people (75%) feel that there is not enough investment in community projects in their area.

The main marker that determines having a feeling of community spirt is knowing our neighbours, with nearly two-thirds (65%) of Brits citing it as the single biggest reason for feeling included, the study found.

A food festival in Plymouth, which has a high level of community engagement

People living in Plymouth and Edinburgh are heralded as the most connected to their community, with 71% of residents in both cities feeling a part of their local community. But in Newcastle, only 42% of residents say they feel a part of the community, the lowest community connection figure in the UK.

Rufus Olins, the Group’s chief membership officer, said: “This is very welcome news for all those who believe that communities should be at the very heart of the UK. The death of communities and the disaffection of young people has been greatly exaggerated and the research underlines the very important role that business, and the Co-op in particular, can play.

“The Co-op has always been community focused. The original Rochdale Pioneers were motivated by the need to improve the living conditions of those within their local community and they also understood that values were just as important as value. At a time when investment in communities is being cut back, we are proud to be able to increase our activity through our members shopping with us. Our way of doing business can make a critical difference.”

The study’s release coincides with the first payouts from the Co-op’s new membership scheme, with more than £9m distributed to 4,000 grassroots charities across the UK. A fifth (22%) of the charities to benefit from the first round of the Group’s membership scheme support young people with 886 charities sharing just over £2m.

“It is particularly pleasing to see there is clearly a desire amongst young people to play an active role in supporting their local community,” adds Mr Olins. “In the digital age, they are arguably better equipped with the ideas and motivation to make this happen and we should do everything possible to help them build the communities of tomorrow and see their online activities translate into co-operation in the flesh.”

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