Communities in crisis (Connected Communities Scoping Studies and Reviews)

Co-Investigators: Rachael Unsworth (University of Leeds)

Our over-riding aim for the research review is to understand, from a variety of perspectives and contexts how, why and with what effects and impacts communities develop qualities of self-reliance, resilience and empowerment in times of crisis.

Contemporary communities must be understood within the dynamics of crisis. It is now well understood that the contemporary economic situation amounts to a global crisis where financial crisis, climate change and critical resource depletion are coming together in a “triple crunch”. A crisis can be defined as a crucial or decisive point or situation, a moment of “creative destruction” where the dismantling of old infrastructures creates a space for social innovation. The present moment in UK society, characterised by austerity cuts following a major crisis of capitalism, is in turn, generating intense crises for many communities, especially those already facing persistent problems of under-employment and a democratic deficit. However, many communities are seeking, out of necessity or intent, new coping mechanisms based on greater resilience, self-help and participation where new capacities to manage resources and assets are developed.

Our project focuses on three core ideas:

  • Resilience ‘the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic function and structure’ is of growing interest at a community level to respond to rapid climate change, oil dependency and social breakdown
  • Self-help, self-reliance and mutual aid: how people, households and social groups can tap into resources for survival and well-being within their own abilities, localities and networks, to improve their circumstances
  • Participation and empowerment the need for radically different, people-centred, direct form of ‘strong democracy’ which is more public, collective and deliberative