In recent years, the debate around how to tackle critical issues such as youth unemployment, homelessness or poverty, has often ignored the role that community can play. Whether due to the rise of social media or fragmented work and home life, community spirit was seen to be in decline and engagement on the wane.
In my experience this is patently not the case and we now have the facts to back this up. The UK Community Foundations Shine A Light report shows that half of people in the UK say that it is important to be an active part of their local community.
While people may feel they belong to more than one community, for example, where they live and where they work, they both matter. Community provides friendship, support and a sense of belonging but people also see community as a chance to help others.
They do this in various ways - raising funds, taking action or giving money. Finding solutions or funding solutions for major issues affecting our communities. Many are volunteers, and what they do is extraordinary: supporting the isolated and vulnerable; helping people rediscover skills and confidence; creating opportunities; making it possible for people to build a more positive life free from abuse and violence. The tens of thousands of small charities and voluntary organisations across the UK are very often the social glue that holds our communities together. They need our support to continue this work!
Shine A Light is designed to raise awareness of those who, at a local level, are already making a fundamental difference to so many in need across the UK and connect people's desire to give with the groups and organisations in their area that so desperately need the support.
However, while it is encouraging that almost half of adults give money to their local community, we have found that more than half say that they would give more if only it were easier and they could see the direct impact of their donation. To me, that makes it vital that the process of giving be made easier, more efficient and gives people the opportunity to witness the tangible effect their money has.
We have set ourselves a challenging target of raising £1 billion in new local giving by 2020. If we all contribute a little then collectively we could transform our communities and society generally.
As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: "Do your little bit of good wherever you are. It's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world".