Co-operatives UK responds to MP Danny Kruger’s report for government on ‘Levelling up our communities’.
Build back better
Community and mutualism are helping us weather Covid-19 and will be pivotal to building back fairer, stronger and greener. Danny Kruger seems to get this. His proposals for greater community power could change things for the better. But only if ministers across Whitehall run with them.
We are particularly delighted that Danny has picked up our proposal for supporting more match investment in Community Shares. When MHCLG is able to make a final decision on the Community Ownership Fund, we urge that support for match investment in Community Shares is part of the package. Our evidence suggests the economic and social returns would be significant. The Community Shares Unit is set to publish new evidence on the benefits of Community Shares shortly.
Community-led economic development
Danny has also backed proposals made by many, including Co-operatives UK, for communities to be given more power in local economic development.
Crucially, Danny is suggesting that government routes some of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (which will replace EU funding) through new partnerships of community organisations and local businesses. And he is calling for a more community-led distribution of the National Lottery Community Fund as well.
Danny also proposes a Community Power Act, which would require Whitehall to support community-led approaches to employment support, which would be better than the current setup, dominated by big contractors with no understanding of co-op options. The same Act would also drive support for community-led housing, energy and digital infrastructure, where co‑ops are already pioneers.
It’s also fantastic to see Danny agrees with us that, if properly supported, community organisers have a major role to play.
Done right, all this could harness the power of community and co‑operation to drive sustainable and inclusive economic development, where it’s needed most. It would also create more fertile conditions for co-ops, mutuals and social enterprise.
We are a little more wary of Danny’s proposals for getting big tech to create and gift digital platforms for social action. Yes, it would be great of government had the backbone to force these giants to deliver more social value. But corporate giving (forced or otherwise) is seldom empowering for the beneficiaries. Platform co-ops demonstrate a viable alternative in which beneficiary communities have more agency, ownership and control.
But this is not an ‘either or’ situation. Government could leverage the expertise and resources of big tech to help people develop their own platforms, using more co-operative approaches. So, with that qualification, we are definitely game.