England & Wales Communities and society, Economy and regeneration, Finance

Viewpoint: Join the Keep it Local movement

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Nick Plumb from Locality, explains what the Keep it Local Network is all about and how councils can become part of this movement.

A movement is gathering pace. Up and down the country councils and communities are coming together to transform their places.

More and more local authorities are moving away from bureaucratic commissioning and big outsourcing contracts. Instead they are unlocking the power of community: building strong local partnerships, sharing power and maximising local strengths.

We are seeing the shoots of this new way of working explored by lots of different organisations, in different settings. Whether it’s NLGN’s work on the Community Paradigm, Collaborate’s work on complexity emphasising the need for community-led approaches, or the work led by CLES and others on Community Wealth Building.

We are seeing it on the front line too, through initiatives like the Wigan Deal, the pioneering work Calderdale is doing to harness the power of it’s community anchor organisations and the way in which Leeds has embedded asset-based community development across its adults and health services.

Keep it Local: what does it mean for councils?

At Locality, we’ve been working – in partnership with Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales – to explore and investigate what this means in a local authority setting. We’ve travelled up and down the country and met with countless council officials and community actors on what ‘Keep it Local’ means in their place. Through this process, we co-designed a set of principles and a visual representation of what the approach entails.

Viewpoint: Join the Keep it Local movement
A ‘whole system’ Keep it Local approach

We’re now asking councils to join this growing movement. We’ve just published Join the Keep it Local Movement, which lays out how councils can do this and why they should want to.

In short, at a time of rising demand for services and local government continuing to shoulder the heaviest burden of austerity, we believe that councils need to forge a different path – that harnesses the power lying latent in their communities. There are three big reasons to keep it local:

For better services that transform lives. Local community organisations play a key role in the local service landscape – providing person-centred services where trusting relationships are required. They also help commissioned services add up to much more than the sum of their parts, by linking service users with other community development activities and encouraging social action and volunteering.

To reduce pressure on the public sector. This wholistic approach to service provision has also been shown to reduce pressure on the public sector, through its preventative and early intervention function. Locality’s research on ‘failure demand’ explores the inefficiencies of traditional, siloed services.

To invest in the local economy. Working with local community organisations creates local economic multipliers. They employ local staff and use local supply chains. With the future of local government finance looking more closely tied to the economic performance of individual authorities, it is important that councils consider how to build economically resilient local places.

You can read more on why councils should want to keep it local in this NLGN blog by my colleague Ed Wallis.

Join the Keep it Local Network

We want to move from ideas and theory to action.

So, we’re asking councils to join the Keep it Local Network. We’re in touch with a growing movement of local authorities in the process of joining. They are doing this by:

  • Signing-up to our Keep it Local principles (found on page 9 here)
  • Appointing a Keep it Local champion in the cabinet and senior management team
  • Committing to a process of working with Locality to assess and improve current practice
  • Convening a discussion with your local community on how to Keep it Local

We then support members of the Keep it Local Network by:

  • Convening two Network meetings per year to report on progress
  • Providing regular updates and sharing best practice learning that emerges across the Network
  • Offering free Locality membership for a year and providing specialist advice on how to Keep it Local in practice
  • Facilitating access to a sounding board of peers in other forward-thinking authorities to work through problems together
  • Providing a clear intellectual framework to articulate the work you’re already doing and help you go further
  • Creating the Keep it Local Award to showcase best practice

If your council is interested in becoming a Keep it Local council, or you have any questions about any of this, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch at: policy@locality.org.uk

We’re also putting on a free Keep it Local conference on 12 June for local government and community leaders and practitioners. See a full agenda and get your ticket here.

Nick Plumb is a Policy Officer at Locality