Community businesses emerged stronger from pandemic, Locality research reveals

‘There is even more potential sitting at the heart of our communities. If the government is ready to trust these organisations, this potential is ready to be released’

The UK’s community businesses say the innovations they were forced to adopt during the Covid-19 pandemic have left them in a stronger position, says reasearch out today from Locality, the charity which represents the sector.

Despite being hit hard by the pandemic, 78% of community organisations surveyed are optimistic about the future – while only 68% of small businesses feel confident. Nearly all – 95% – of Locality members changed how they operate during the pandemic, responding to local needs, diversifying income streams, and repurposing buildings, often supported by flexible funding.    

Today’s report from Locality, Navigating the Storm, finds that organisations innovated by:

  • Finding new, more efficient, ways to deliver services  
  • Investing in their buildings during lockdowns to make them more efficient in the long-term 
  • Providing completely new types of services in response to community needs. 

The report, based on interviews and surveys from over 120 community organisations, funders and experts, explains how the determination and expertise of community leaders, combined with the substantial emergency support and flexibility of funding bodies and policy-makers, helped organisations make these changes.  

Trinity, a community arts centre in Bristol (Photo: Alex Brenner)

It also highlights significant challenges for community organisations, such as uncertainty over footfall, the cost of living crisis, staff burnout and loss of volunteers.

To ensure they can continue to meet the needs of their communities, Locality says funders should provide flexible, unrestricted funding to help build resilience.

And it repeated its call for government to put communities in charge of its levelling up funding, including its Community Ownership Fund and UK Shared Prosperity Fund.  

CEO Tony Armstrong said: “The last two years have been traumatic and difficult for many people. Amid the loss and uncertainty, we saw people coming together across the country to support their local communities. The role of local community organisations – those set up in the crisis or those already established – was critical in keeping people connected, safe and well, and in channeling this upsurge in community spirit. 

“These locally rooted organisations understand the strengths and strains in their communities – so with the vital support of government and other funders during the pandemic, they were able to make things happen fast.  They achieved this amid incredibly challenging circumstances, and we should recognise their commitment and determination to support local people. 

“Every day at Locality we continue to hear about community organisations adapting services, building relationships and repurposing their assets quickly and effectively to meet local needs. And this report shows there is even more potential sitting at the heart of our communities. If the government is ready to trust these organisations, this potential is ready to be released.”